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Eating for Two

Posted on August 17, 2021 | No Comments on Eating for Two

Pregnancy is generally perceived as the consummation of womanhood, an experience wherein the “RESULT” is excitedly anticipated despite morning sickness, altered food preferences and tolerance, the modification of daily routine and so many more. A few, even have to contend with balancing their blood sugars as well! In the US, approximately 7 percent of all pregnancies are complicated by gestational diabetes (GDM). Unfortunately, there are no figures locally.

A pregnant woman with elevated glucose levels has to check her blood sugar several times a day. Along with the daily testing is the dietary modification in order to sufficiently control the blood sugar. If she needs medication, insulin is the safest choice. Whether or not the woman is on insulin, regularity of food intake is of utmost importance. Contrary to the belief of many, dieting is not equated with hunger. How can you allow a pregnant woman starve? There is just the additional care in terms of food selection and choices until the baby is delivered. Weight gain should be similar to an “ordinary” pregnancy.

The diet for the pregnant woman has the usual everyday food except that foods with significant sugar content and excessive fat are omitted. Some basic dietary guidelines follow:

  • Mealtimes must be regular, that is, taken at about the same time daily whether the woman is on insulin or not.
  • The amount of food must be consistent, hence the reason for prescribing a calorie-computed diet. Both the average/usual pregestational weight and the actual weight are important in calculating the calorie target. Other factors also have to be considered (blood sugar level, food preferences, other medical concerns, etc.) in order to come up with the individual requirement. Hence, professional dietary consultation is necessary.
  • Meals are divided into three major meals and snacks of which the most important is the bed time. It is recommended that the distance between the last meal and the next one must not be too far (longer than six to eight hours). Hence, the bed time snack is prescribed to shorten the distance between supper of the night before and breakfast the next morning.
  • Fruits, which are simple carbohydrates, are more rapidly digested to form glucose compared to rice. When taken, they are best eaten WITH a major meal and are NOT suitable snacks. Moreover, the higher the fiber content, the better. This further means that juices, even if they are unsweetened or freshly squeezed are poor choices. Besides, one will need to extract from at least two or three pieces of fruit to get around ‘1/4 to 1/2 standard cup undiluted juice. This number is already equivalent to the total maximum amount recommended in one day.
  • Complex carbohydrates such as (whole grain) cereals, steamed (unpolished or brown/red) rice, noodles and pasta, root crops, whole kernel corn and others must be served in all meals, including snacks. However, since energy requirements are individual, no “recommended” amount may be mentioned. Meals must always contain a complex carbohydrate in order to prevent hypoglycemia or less than normal blood sugar level.
  • Aside from plain water, fresh calamansi or lemon juice in dilute form may be served as tolerated. Definitely these beverages must be served unsweetened or sugar-free.
  • Aspartame, a protein form of an artificial sweetener, is safe for pregnant women. However, it is best that one asks her attending physician for guidance.
  • Vegetables may be taken as “fillers”, especially if they are green and leafy. Not only will these provide vitamins and minerals, they will also contribute fiber. Fiber helps significantly in keeping the after-meal blood sugar within normal limits.
  • Meals may be made varied and appetizing by using spices and herbs as tolerated. Add them to anything to come up with exciting dishes: soups, salads, main courses, and side dishes. Mold the allowed fruit in unsweetened agaragar/gelatin and use food colors to make a visually attractive dessert with good fiber content.
  • If the after-meal blood sugar is to be tested, please consume the food completely within 15 minutes. This is to “standardize” the distance between the start of the meal and the time the blood sample is to be drawn. Time starts when the first morsel of food is taken.
  • “Visible” fat has to be removed: chicken skin, fatty portions of beef and pork, aligue and others. The portions of added fat in the form of cooking oil, mayonnaise, margarine/butter depend on the calorie allowance.

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