Gestational Diabetes


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By the end of this lesson:

  • Participants will know the definition of gestational diabetes.
  • Participants will learn the basic guidelines of eating healthy with gestational diabetes.
  • Participants will demonstrate knowledge of serving sizes.
  • Participants will plan a healthy meal.

Activity 1

 1. Has your doctor told you that you have gestational diabetes?

Activity 2


The American Diabetes Association defines gestational diabetes as high blood sugar or high blood glucose during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes begins during pregnancy and disappears following delivery.

Has your doctor told you that you have high blood glucose or sugar?  Glucose is sugar that our body uses as our main ENERGY source. Glucose comes from the breakdown of carbohydrate like sugar, bread, fruits, and oatmeal.  When we eat carbohydrates, glucose enters our bloodstream.  Our body uses insulin to get glucose from the blood to muscles and tissues, so that it can be used for energy.  If you have gestational diabetes, not all the glucose gets to your muscles and tissues. It begins building up in your bloodstream. This is why you have high blood glucose (or high blood sugar). The cause of gestational diabetes is not yet known.  Your doctor should check your blood glucose level between your 24th and 28th week of pregnancy.

About 3% - 5% of all pregnant women in the United States are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. During this lesson, we will discuss some tips to help keep your blood sugar level normal and we will also explain why it is important to do so! All of the information we have gathered for you was adapted from the American Diabetes.

Activity 3

1. Check off each risk you have for developing gestational diabetes:

If you checked off one or more of these questions, you are at risk for developing gestational diabetes.

What are the risks to your baby if you have gestational diabetes?

  • Your baby could be larger than normal.
  • Your baby could be at risk for having low blood sugar at delivery.
  • Your baby may be at risk for developing non insulin-dependant diabetes later in life.
  • You may have a baby that is born early.
  • Your baby's lungs may not be fully developed.

If you follow a healthy diet to control your blood sugar levels, your chances of delivering a healthy baby are much greater!
So, what is a healthy diet during pregnancy and how can you make sure your blood sugar levels are within normal range?
Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Eat three meals per day with 1 - 2 snacks. Try to eat meals and snacks at the same time every day; this will help keep your blood sugar level normal. Make sure one snack is before bed so your blood sugar level will remain normal throughout the night.
  • When you have a snack, you want to include a protein source from meats, eggs, or cheese along with carbohydrates like milk, crackers, cereal, breads, tortillas, and fruit.
  • When you prepare a meal, make sure you have a variety of food from different food groups. We will discuss the food groups later in the lesson. Eat meals every 4 - 5 hours and NEVER skip meals.
  • To keep your blood sugar level within normal range avoid concentrated sweets. This means avoid candy, soda, sweet drinks like Kool Aide and Sunny Delight, ice cream, cake, honey, high fructose corn syrup (look for in the ingredients), and table sugar. Fruit juice is also high in sugar so limit to about 6 ounces or less per day and drink it with your meals.
  • Ask your doctor about a safe exercise regimen. Exercise can help your stabilize you blood sugar levels.
  • Consume a nutritionally balanced diet. This means eat a variety of food and try to follow the following guidelines:

Let's take a closer look at the different food groups:

Grains are the largest section of the pyramid. You should have the highest number of servings from this group. Grain foods provide carbohydrates, the primary energy supply for your body. They are also high in fiber, low in fat, and a good source of many vitamins, especially Vitamin B that is needed for energy metabolism and tissue development during pregnancy. Grains should serve as the foundation of your meals. Grain foods include pasta, bread, rice, cereal, and oatmeal. Try to focus on whole grain products, like bread that is made from 100% whole wheat flour or cracked oats.

Here are examples of one serving from the grain group:

1 slice of bread (1 ounce)

1 small tortilla

1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal

½ cup of cooked cereal

½ cup cooked rice or pasta

½ of an English muffin

3 graham cracker squares

4 – 6 crackers

Activity 4

 * 1. Select the food that equals 2 servings of grain.

fruitFruits and Vegetables
Both fruits and vegetables are considered nutrient dense foods because they contain many vitamins and minerals with few calories and little fat. Vegetables are a good source of folate and zinc needed for new cell growth and development, and iron for a greater blood supply. Fruits are rich in Vitamins A and C and potassium. These vitamins support cell growth of a developing fetus. Both fruits and vegetables also contain fiber, which helps reduce constipation.

Here are examples of one serving from the fruit and vegetable group:

1 medium fruit 

½ cup of small or cut-up fruit

½ cup of 100% fruit juice

¼ cup dried fruit

½ cup of raw or cooked vegetables

1 cup of raw leafy vegetables (such as lettuce, spinach)

Activity 5

 * 1. Select the food that equals 2 servings of a vegetable.

milkMilk and Milk Products
Milk and other dairy products supply your developing baby with important sources of calcium, phosphorous, Vitamin D, magnesium, and protein. Your baby needs calcium for proper bone and tooth development. Phosphorous is vital for building muscle tissue, while magnesium helps aid cell development. Milk products are a good source of protein, which is needed for the overall growth of the fetus. Milk and milk products include any kind of milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Here are examples of one serving from the milk group:

1 cup of milk or fortified soy beverage

1 cup of yogurt

1 ½ to 2 ounces of cheese

2 cups of cottage cheese

meat & beansMeat and Meat Alternatives
Meat and meat alternatives such as eggs, seafood, nuts, peanut butter, tofu, dried beans, and legumes are great sources of protein. Protein is needed during pregnancy to support tissue growth and development of the unborn baby. Iron and zinc are important minerals found in meat.

Here are examples of one serving from the meat and meat alternatives group:

2 – 3 ounces of cooked meat, poultry, or fish (about the size of the palm of your hand)

½ cup of cooked dried beans, peas, and lentils

4 tablespoons of peanut butter

1 egg

Fats and Sweets
Fats and sweets provide additional calories but do not contain significant amounts of vitamins and nutrients. Fats and sweets include candy, cakes, potato chips, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and soda pop.

Pregnant women with gestational diabetes should avoid SWEETS altogether because the sugar in these foods will significantly increase their blood glucose levels.

Be proactive! Check your blood sugar levels often with your obstetrician.

Activity 6

Let's review:

 * 1. Choose the bedtime snack that will help stabilize blood sugar levels:

2. Choose the whole grain:




Thank you for completing the Gestational Diabetes Education Component.

 * Where are you taking today's lesson?

You have completed the lesson on “Gestational Diabetes”.  If you have any questions or comments, please contact your LWP nutritionist who will be glad to answer any of your questions. 

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