Having a baby is one of the most exciting, life-changing events of your life. But it can be a tad bit frightening as well. No matter what age, carrying a child is quite the experience. When you’re over 40, though, there may be additional health concerns you need to manage, such as gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is when blood-sugar levels rise and remain high while pregnant, and it is a bigger concern for pregnant women over age 40. This is due to elevated hormonal changes; your body may start struggling to produce insulin, which is a hormone you need to lower blood-sugar levels.
In order to manage blood-sugar levels and keep them in a controlled, balanced state, starting pre-pregnancy is key. If you enter a pregnancy with elevated blood-sugar levels from eating a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates without a healthy balance of proteins, fats, and fibre, you have a greater chance of developing gestational diabetes. There are seven important factors that help to control your blood sugar levels that I make sure all of my clients follow, not only for preparing for a healthy pregnancy but also for good health and better body composition.
1. EAT HEALTHY FATS DAILY
Don’t be afraid to add fats to every meal. Choose a variety of fat sources so you get a balanced profile of your essential fats (omegas 3, 6, and 9). Some great healthy examples are: flaxseed, avocado, walnuts, seeds, olive oil, fish oil, chia seeds, and coconut oil. Fat helps slow the rise of blood sugar when added to meals.
2. CONSUME PLENTY OF FIBRE
Carbs are not your enemy but the type you choose is crucial to blood-sugar levels. Opt for sources with at least three grams of fibre per serving. Great sources include berries, brown rice, quinoa, millet, legumes, vegetables such as artichokes, and the double-whammy fats: flax and chia seeds.
3. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
This is an underestimated factor. Sleep is the key to sustaining energy, avoiding cravings, and letting your body repair and rest. When deprived of sleep, your body goes looking for quick energy sources, usually in the form of sugar or caffeine. As you know, caffeine isn’t something you want to consume while pregnant, so your first go-to will be sugar. This is where things can go downhill if you aren’t producing enough insulin to lower blood-sugar levels.
4. EAT ADEQUATE AMOUNTS OF QUALITY PROTEIN
Protein is a great way to keep blood-sugar levels stable, but the type and quality is important. Avoid processed meats, and eat organic, grass-fed options if possible. If you are vegan, make sure you add plant-based protein sources to your diet such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegan protein powders with no additives.
5. EAT MORE — NOT LES
Yes, that is right! By eating regularly throughout the day and keeping meals full of whole foods, you ensure healthy blood-sugar levels. Eat organic fruits and vegetables when possible. Choose whole grains over processed. Avoid packaged foods and sugar. Eat when you feel you are on the verge of being hungry instead of waiting until you are famished.
6. MINIMIZE STRESS
During pregnancy, it’s very easy to become emotional and overly stressed. Besides work, family, and other life responsibilities, you are worrying about the child you are carrying. Take extra steps to help remain as stress-free as possible. Do things that nourish you like reading, listening to your favorite music, or practicing deep breathing a few times a day. Breathing is a great way to send a message to your central nervous system that you are in a more relaxed state, and it will help keep growth-hormone and cortisol levels from rising (which causes muscle and fat to be less sensitive to insulin, leading to more glucose in the bloodstream).
Keep moving at least four days a week while planning for pregnancy. Once you’re pregnant and have been consistently active, your doctor will likely give you the thumbs-up to keep up your fitness. If, however, you’ve been sedentary when you get pregnant, be sure to get exercise cleared by your doctor first. Working out will help keep blood-sugar levels down and balanced; the body uses sugar as fuel for movement, and it will also keep you in a better state mentally.
By balancing your blood-sugar levels and focusing on health during your pregnancy, you’ll be on the right track for healthy weight gain, improved energy levels, better moods, and proper fetal development. And, adopting these healthy habits now will benefit you for the rest of your life, too.