When you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it can be easy to want to start with the 10th principle of intuitive eating: gentle nutrition. This principle is about learning how to balance what your body needs (and what makes it feel good) with what you desire or enjoy. It makes sense that a gestational diabetes diagnosis would cause a desire to better understand your blood sugars and how to support the health of your baby, so I am here to help!
It can be tricky to start incorporating this principle if you have no foundation or don’t know anything about principles 1-9 (which I encourage you to read more about here) but essentially we want to start thinking about how you can incorporate some of the tips and guidance I will share below in a gentle (or kind) way. So drop the judgment and self criticism and let’s dive into gentle nutrition and pregnancy.
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Gentle nutrition: the basics
This principle is all about making food choices that honor your health and your taste buds while also making you feel good physically. So often people hear “intuitive eating” and think “oh I can’t do that, I would just eat cookies all the time since that’s what I crave” and while there may be what is called a “honeymoon period” with these foods (learn more about that HERE), you will eventually reach a place where you feel more equipped and ready to start taking other factors into account rather than just your taste buds. This will typically occur after you have made peace with all foods (learn how to do that HERE).
Once you make peace with all foods and see them as morally neutral, you are able to start focusing more on how food makes you feel physically. You may notice how food…
- Affects your mood
- Impacts your sleep
- Impacts your blood sugars
- Does or doesn’t give you a stomach ache
- Changes your energy levels
As you learn to take note of the impacts of different foods and food pairings, we will start combining the internal awareness of what our body needs with our taste buds and cravings. This is an especially important skill for those with gestational diabetes, as food can impact not only how you feel, but also your blood sugars!
Deciding if it’s worth it
As you start to notice the impacts of certain foods on your overall well being, mood, comfort, etc. I also want you to take into account how satisfied you are feeling after these meals.
Did it hit the spot and satisfy a craving? Are you left feeling hungry after an hour or two? If you had negative effects from the food or meal does it feel worth it for you to repeat that? Sometimes the answer may be yes and that’s okay! But other times, you may opt to make a different choice or try something else.
The beautiful thing is that we get so many opportunities to pay attention to our bodies and we can work on “collecting” that information in our heads for a later date. This can be especially helpful if you have gestational diabetes! You may choose to take a mental note or even write down how certain meals impact your blood sugar or make you feel. These notes can help determine later choices and even help take the overwhelm out of feeding yourself.
Adding in nutrient dense foods
Something else we can start to consider as we work on gentle nutrition is the actual nutrient content of food! Nutritious foods help both feed and fuel our body and give it what it needs to thrive (these are the foods you would typically see recommended by the USDA).
On the other hand, we also have foods that you can call “fun” or “taste-based” foods. These are the foods that may or may not be as nutrient dense but are still foods you really like and enjoy! It’s important to note that just because a food is considered nutrient dense or recommended by the USDA doesn’t mean it can’t also be a “taste-based” food for you. It’s GREAT if you have foods that fit into both categories!
It’s important to not reject or cut out these “taste-based” foods, and remember that all foods are morally neutral (a skill you can learn more about HERE), even if they aren’t all nutritionally neutral. Even if these foods don’t have as many nutrients they are still adding to your life by bringing you pleasure and enjoyment, so finding a way to enjoy them even if you have gestational diabetes is crucial!
This is where it can be so helpful to create a meal that gives you the nutrients you need (learn more about that below), while also taking into account what your taste buds are craving. For example, maybe the meal you are craving is really nutrient dense. Great! You’ve hit both the marks. Maybe you’re craving something that isn’t as nutritious but you can ADD nutrients to it for blood sugar balance!
What should you eat if you have gestational diabetes
The big question! You may not like this but the truth is there is no simple list of “eat this not that” or “eat this way and your blood sugar will be perfect” since everyone is different. The top things I can recommend:
- Eat lots of vegetables
- Include protein at every meal and snack (if possible)
- Don’t be afraid of fat, include it at every meal and snack too
- Include fruits and whole grains that you enjoy
- Look for these foods from a variety of sources (switch it up and try new things!)
- Don’t forget the dairy! Yes, it’s okay to eat dairy!
Instead of focusing on cutting our food groups or trying to eat “perfect” (which doesn’t exist), zoom out and think about the basics. Things like eating a wide variety of foods, eating foods you enjoy in moderation and making sure you are getting nutritious foods at most meals. Know that not every meal has to be perfect. In the same way that we want your numbers to be in range MOST of the time, we want nutrients at MOST of your meals, but that just won’t always happen and that’s okay.
If you have gestational diabetes (and even if you don’t ) try to include protein, fat, and fiber at most meals and snacks. Some great sources to add to your grocery list: whole grains, beans, and vegetables. When you have gestational diabetes it may get a little trickier to add in your “taste-based” foods or learn how to enjoy them in a way that supports your blood sugar, but it’s not impossible, and it likely doesn’t even have to be as stressful as it feels right now for you!
Other factors that influence your blood sugar
The truth is, SO many things impact your blood sugar, even beyond food (sleep, stress, genetics, disease, autoimmune responses, movement, etc.). This is why it’s so important to not worry so much about being “perfect”, because even if you could be, your blood sugar may still not be where you want it to be. Blood sugar and health is complicated and no one except for you knows how you feel emotionally and physically in your body. So work on taking this information, applying it where you can, but above all trusting yourself and listening to your internal cues. You deserve to make the choices that feel best for you based on what you need, not based on guilt or shame.
If you are still feeling a little overwhelmed by gentle nutrition and pregnancy and want to learn how to support your body and baby, I would love to help you. I work 1:1 with clients to educate and empower them to make the best choices for themselves. We’ll talk more about an individualized plan for managing your gestational diabetes and give you the tools and support you need to thrive during this time. Click HERE to book a free discovery call to learn more about my services.