By: Sally-Anne Livock, APD, Director, Sunshine Coast Dietetics

Do you know about the risk of gestational diabetes? If not treated, this condition can result in large babies, early delivery – and possible distress for your baby.

If you’re a mum-to-be, it’s important to take the time to educate yourself. The key steps to avoid this condition are to modify your carbs, manage your weight and keep active.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, due to changes in hormone levels. In Australia, the incidence of gestational diabetes is greater than 13%, with this figure rising annually. That’s more than one in ten pregnant women.

How gestational diabetes occurs

Insulin is a hormone that transports glucose out of the blood and into the body’s cells, where it is used for energy. During pregnancy, hormonal changes often result in insulin being ineffective. This means glucose remains in the blood. High blood glucose levels, if not treated, can result in large babies, early delivery – and possible distress for the baby.

How to manage gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes can often be managed with dietary modification, weight management and activity. In some cases — if blood glucose levels remain high — medication may be required. Follow these three key steps:

Step one: modify your carbohydrate intake
  • Carbohydrates are the foods that break down to release sugar, once digested. Refined carbohydrates – high sugar foods such as sugars, soft drinks, confectionary, sweets, cakes and desserts – are broken down to release sugar quickly and should be limited.
  • Unrefined carbohydrates include breads, cereals, fruits, starchy vegetables, dairy foods and grains, including rice and pasta. These foods break down more slowly, to release a steady stream of glucose.
  • Low-GI versions are healthy and should be included in moderation in your diet, as large quantities of even low-GI carbohydrates can result in higher blood glucose levels.
  • Aim to include a moderate quantity (1-2 slices of bread or 2/3 cup of starch veg or grains at each meal.
Step two: manage your weight
  • In terms of pregnancy weight gain, the ideal is between 9-12 kg. However, weight gain does depend upon your pre-pregnancy BMI. Less weight gain is recommended if you were overweight pre-pregnancy, and more if you were underweight pre-pregnancy. Be sure to partner with your doctor on the ideal weight gain during pregnancy.
  • To manage weight during pregnancy, choose fresh, unprocessed foods as the base of your diet. Then, limit intake of high sugar/high fat foods.
  • Are you a snacker? Choose healthy snacks, such as fruits, fat-reduced dairy and nuts. Watch out for sip-able sugars – limit your sweet drinks, juices and full-cream milk drinks.
  • Above all, monitor your portion sizes, and plan out your meals to avoid last-minute hunger that can lead to poor eating choices.
Step three: keep active
  • Get moving! Daily exercise not only helps manage weight, but also helps keep your blood glucose level under control. Aim for 30-45 minutes of activity every day; this may be divided into smaller sessions, if this is best for you.
  • Do what you love! Walking, swimming, exercise in water and supervised light gym work are all ideal. It is best to check with your GP if you have any queries.

Parting thought

As you can see, normal, healthy eating and daily exercise are the keys to gestational diabetes management. These practices should form the basis of your diet even post-pregnancy, as having the condition does increase your risk of developing diabetes later in life.

Have questions?

Submit your query to Sally-Anne below for more information and to formulate a meal plan, or head to the Sunshine Coast Dietetics facebook page.To learn more about Sunshine Coast Dietetics visit

Ask a dietician

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