By Emily Wade Adams, CNC for Natal-Nutrition.com
Nearly 10 percent of infants in the U.S. are overweight. As they get older, this percentage grows along with them: almost 70 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. But weight gain is largely preventable – and prevention begins in the womb.
Mama-to-be? Keeping your blood sugar steady can prevent your baby from having an excessive birth weight. It can also help your baby stay lean throughout his life. High maternal blood sugar prompts the fetus to develop more fat cells, which can make it easier to become fat later in life.
Not only can your blood sugar levels affect your baby’s development, but they can also affect your comfort levels during pregnancy. Low blood sugar is associated with morning sickness, and high blood sugar may lead to pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes (Hudson, 2008). Gestational diabetes, in turn, predisposes your baby to obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes later in life.
Keeping your blood sugar stable is easier than it sounds – but it requires a little advance planning. Here are some tips to help you maintain a steady blood sugar level in order to protect you and your baby:
Replace refined carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates. Processed foods and flour-based foods (like breads, pasta, cookies and cakes) are packed with simple sugars and starches that can spike your blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates like vegetables and fruits contain fiber, which slows the release of glucose into your bloodstream.
Plan healthy snacks. If you keep your blood sugar levels stable, you’re less likely to binge on refined carbohydrates. Always have a healthy snack on hand, like a hard-boiled egg, trail mix or some carrots and hummus. Snacks that contain protein and fat will keep you satisfied longer. Aim to munch on a snack between each meal.
Think before you drink. Juice and soda are high in sugar and don’t contain much fiber, if any. Even drinks with artificial sweeteners may affect blood glucose levels. Try to avoid adding sugar or honey to your herbal tea (and you know that you shouldn’t be drinking caffeine, right?).
Make sure you get enough protein and healthy fats. Protein is the building block for the fetus’ muscles and tissues, and healthy fats feed its brain. Healthy fats like omega-3s are found in walnuts, chia seed, flaxseed, and seafood (but be sure to check mercury content before eating seafood).
Enjoy natural sweets. Got a sweet tooth? Fruits are a much safer choice than sweets because they contain fiber. Take advantage of late summer figs or fall’s apple harvest to satisfy your craving without compromising your blood sugar.
It’s not always easy to eat a healthy diet, but the benefits to your baby – and yourself – are undeniable. By eating healthy foods, you’re supporting your baby’s optimal development – and you’re one step closer to ensuring a complication-free pregnancy for yourself. Bon appetit!
Source: Hudson, T. (2008). Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Pregnancy. McGraw Hill: New York.