Ask Amma

Gestational Diabetes – what to eat?

In What on 9 May 2012 at 3:52 am

Dear Amma:  My doctor has put me on medication for gestational diabetes.  I have tried to keep my glucose levels down but it is very difficult – the other day I ate just a couple of spoons of potato and the level shot way up.  I get hungry all the time and I am running out of ideas for things to eat that will keep me full.

 – Eating for 2

Dear Eating for 2,
You know the drill:  Eat a variety of foods that are high in fiber, have a low glycemic index and are nutritious.  National Institutes of Health offers these diet recommendations.

To start, consider that whole foods tend to have a lower glycemic index than their refined counterparts.  Or in the words of The World’s Healthiest Foods,  “Foods that are white tend to have a higher glycemic index.”  So make sure whatever you are already eating is whole.  Your rice is brown, your bread is whole-grain or sprouted grain, and your fruits and vegetables, mung dal, urad dal, etc are unpeeled.  Want even more fiber?  Stir some wheat bran or oat bran into the batter you use for dosa or pesarottu.

Next, try to diversify your grain basket, with barley, ragi and other varieties of millets, oats, and quinoa.  Kamut and amaranth (राजगिरा or चौलाई) are available puffed, for easy snacking.

Let’s not forget omega-3 fatty acids, found in a variety of vegetables and notably in flax seeds, walnuts and their oils.  Your entire family will benefit from these improvements, and baby will be used to a healthy, diverse, whole foods diet from the start!  Note that flax seeds are so small that you have to take care to chew them. If you don’t they may pass through undigested.  If you grind your flax seed, you should eat it the same day – or within a few days if you refrigerate it.  Ground flax seed makes a decent dip for idli, dosa, etc.

Though I did not have GD, I too remember hungering for new and different foods in the third trimester.  After eating one dosa I would still be ravenous, but not want another dosa.  Repeat with one hummous sandwich, one plate of vegetables, and so on.

One trick that helped me stay full longer was adding wheat germ to whatever I was eating.  I would add a spoon or two to my rice and sambar, or sprinkle it on bread along with a spread.  Stir some into a bowl of oatmeal or upma.  A tablespoon of wheatgerm contains 2 grams of protein, so a little goes a long way.

Are your idli and dosa whole grain?   You can increase their protein content by using 1 cup dal per 1 cup rice.  A treasure trove of recipes using several varieties of millets includes simple preparations like కొర్ర పెసరోట్టు – see korra pesarottu on the site of Earth360.

Looking for ways to eat oats?  Try Oatmeal Sabzi or steel-cut oats.  How about quinoa?  Here is a simple recipe for delicious quinoa upma.

  1. Hello Amma,

    Thanks for this post and pointing me to it. You have a great blog here :-). I had GD and it was quite difficult and stressful to go through it. My days were long — controlling my foods and watching what I eat, taking a long walk after every meal, checking my glucose levels, finding out that they were higher than normal, feeling miserable that I was doing a lot of harm to my baby and being quite helpless about it. However, once I got the hang of it, I felt so much better. I tried new foods such as greek yogurt & string cheese (I used to avoid cheese most of the time since I was overweight but learnt that it was okay in moderate terms). I learnt that Quinoa and Barley are low glycemic index foods and dont increase blood sugars as much. I replaced rice with Quinoa and that helped me a whole lot because I could pretty much eat what I used to eat before. I tried new recipes with Barley such as Barley vegetable soup, Barley Dosa etc. It was only the carbs that I had to control. I could eat as much of the vegetables as I like and that totally filled me up. I would have 2 – 3 snacks everyday and that would include some crackers, vegetables, cheese, fruits, garbanzo beans etc. My dietitian was really good to give me an Indian list of things to eat and how much calories/carbs/protein they were. Overall, I felt that I was diagnosed with GD for the good. I realized that I did not really need as much food as I craved for. And ofcourse, the importance (and the lack!) of protein in our diet. It gave me a whole new perspective on what foods I should be eating, how much and why. I planned ahead as to what I should be eating and when. I totally avoided eating out because it was just so difficult to get foods that dont increase your blood sugars outside of your home!

    What worked for me:
    — Quinoa
    — String Cheese
    — Paneer
    — Tofu
    — Lots of vegetables
    — Having limited amounts of dal (since dal has a good amount of carbs as well)

    What didnt:
    — Raagi (surprisingly… since I have heard raagi does wonders for ppl who do have diabetes)
    — Starchy vegetables like potato, peas, yam etc
    — I avoided Roti as well since I could have only 1 or 2 and it didnt fill me up
    — Brown Rice didnt work for me and increased my blood sugars (even 1/2 cup cooked).

    Each person is different. So, I’d suggest trying out different foods and testing for a week and then just sticking on to it.

    I would also suggest to use an app like myfitnesspal (found out later) which has a good database of foods and where you can keep a daily track of your food log and how much carbs/protein you are taking in as part of your diet.

    Hope this helps.


  2. Thanks Amma and Sripriya for your inputs.
    I would like to share some of my experiences…
    What is working for me:
    – Ragi – Thankfully Ragi has worked for me. Yes, Ragi has some Carbs and lots of protein. The trick with using Ragi is that, you cannot have Ragi as the main ingredient in you recipe.
    For example: I make Ragi dosa now and then for breakfast. I add 1 portion of Ragi and equal portion of Urad dal dough. I also add some chopped onions, chilis, clinatro and grated carrot which definitely makes it a filler. I could easily have 3 of these dosas.
    Similarily, I make Ragi soup, this is an instant filler. You just need to add 2 spoons of Ragi to the boiling water.
    – Broken Wheat – Apart from Quinoa, this has been another filler and has become a staple food in our home now. We just cook it like white rice and accompany it with regular dal/sabjis. My Husband is ready to substitute broken wheat/quinoa/brown rice in place of regular rice for the rest of his life 🙂
    – Roti – Again Rotis have some amount of carbs in them. I eat 2 rotis with lots of vegetables.Usually, one eats roti with Sabji, I eat subji with roti 🙂
    – Lentils/Dal – They have been working great for me. All lentils are working good for me. Especially, urad dal, Moong Dal, Green Gram. I make Moong dal and Green Gram salad for snacks now and then. I had a craving for Medu vada and udupi sambar. I was surprised to see that my values were very low, when i had around 4-5 vadas for my lunch one day ( I know its a lot of oil, but I was ready to do anything to keep my glucose values low and keep my stomach filled ).
    – Peanut butter sandwich has worked great as a snack. I also eat a handful of peanuts for snacks now and then.
    – Whole wheat pasta. I made whole wheat pasta ( not the enriched Wheat pasta) the last week end. Even this worked fine. I was on the border line though.

    What is not working for me:
    – A big no no to anything that is made of Maida/All purpose flour like Naans,Samiya,pasta, rava etc
    – Brown rice: Brown rice has not worked that great for me either.
    – No frozen rotis: Try to make rotis at home and do not use the frozen one that you find in the Indian grocery.
    – And off course potatoes/yams never worked for me 😦

    It took almost 2 weeks to follow a stick diet plan. Some times I feel I would not have had to struggle so much had been a non-vegetarian. One grilled chicken sandwich would act as a filler as opposed to eating rotis and subjis. But I am glad I did not have to choose that route with some may other healthier options.
    Now, I am in 36weeks of my pregnancy and have not gained more than 1 pound of weight from past 6 weeks. And my doctors are happy about it.
    This whole thing of dealing with GD was a roller coaster ride initially. From being so disillusioned to getting worried if my baby is doing fine inside or not. But in a way, this experience has allowed me to explore and practice eating healthier food.

    Sripriya, would you mind sharing Barley dosa recipe.


  3. […] Gestational Diabetes – what to eat? | Ask Amma – May 09, 2012 · Dear Amma: My doctor has put me on medication for gestational diabetes. I have tried to keep my glucose levels down but it is very difficult – the other …… […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: