Posts Tagged ‘eating healthy’

Gestational diabetes: How to control your blood sugar?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that happens during pregnancy. It means that your body is not using a hormone called insulin the way it should, or your body is not making enough of it. When this happens your blood sugar increases. Having high blood sugar during pregnancy increases the risk of certain complications during pregnancy, including: preeclampsia, having a very large baby (macrosomia), premature birth, and having a c-section.

Here are some things you can do to help you manage and treat your gestational diabetes:

  • Prenatal care: Women who have gestational diabetes need to have more prenatal care checkups. This helps your healthcare provider verify that you and your baby are doing ok.
  • Monitor blood sugar: You will need to check your blood sugar regularly and keep a log. This can help your provider monitor your treatment. You may need to use a specific device to measure your blood sugar.
  • Eat healthy foods: Choosing healthy foods, eating the right portion sizes and having regular meals are key to help you control your blood sugar.
  • Being active: Physical activity helps regulate your blood sugar. Ask your provider how much and what type of activity is best for you. It’s ok for most women to do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (like walking, riding a stationary bike) a day.
  • Medication: Your provider may recommend the use of insulin to control your blood sugar. In certain situations, an oral medication might be indicated. Your provider will give you more information according to your specific needs.

Healthy eating for gestational diabetes

The best way to make sure you are eating the right amount and types of food is to visit a registered dietitian nutritionist (also called RDN). A RDN can create an individualized nutritional plan tailored to your likes, dislikes, and your specific needs. Eating well is one of the most important steps in controlling your blood sugar and reducing the risks associated with gestational diabetes. Here are some things you can do:

  • Don’t skip meals. The best way to keep your blood sugar level from dropping or spiking is to eat regularly. This means not skipping meals. Make sure you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. You might also need to have 2-3 small snacks a day. The goal is to spread your calories during the day and avoid spending many hours without eating or eating too much in one meal.
  • Portion sizes. You will need to eat frequently, but you also need to be careful not to overeat. Learn about how many calories you need to eat every day and make sure you are eating the right portion sizes. For example, one small banana (about 6”) counts as one portion, while a big banana (about 9”) counts as two.
  • Learn about carbohydrates. You will need to keep track of the amount of carbohydrates you eat per meal. This is the first step in managing your blood sugar. Foods that contain carbohydrates are: fruits, rice, pasta, potatoes, bread, milk and beans, among many others. Your RDN can make a nutritional plan that specifies the portion sizes you need of each in your meals. Certain foods that contain carbohydrates and are also high in fiber are beans, lentils and oatmeal. These are a good source of carbohydrates for women with gestational diabetes. The fiber content in these foods and the type of carbohydrate takes longer to digest and will help your blood sugar stay within your target range.
  • Proteins and fat. Make sure you eat lean proteins like chicken breast, fish low in mercury, legumes, eggs, and low fat dairy products among others. About 20 percent of your calories should come from protein sources. Healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, almonds, and nuts are good choices. Limit the amount of butter, cream, high fat meats or fried foods.
  • Vegetables are your best friend. Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables and leafy greens every day. Be adventurous and try new recipes. You might get inspired while you visit the farmers market. Ask about how to cook vegetables you’re not familiar with or ask for recipes. You might get great suggestions. Eat a variety of colors like spinach, cauliflower, yellow squash, pumpkin, beets, etc. This will help you consume a variety of nutrients too.
  • It’s ok to use artificial sweeteners. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) sugar substitutes such as aspartame, stevia, sucralose and acesulfame potassium are thought to be safe to eat in moderate amounts during pregnancy. Women with a metabolic disorder known as phenylketonuria (PKU) should not have aspartame (sold as NutraSweet® or Equal®) because it contains the amino acid (phenylalanine) that their bodies can’t break down.
  • Limit or avoid certain foods. Avoid foods that are concentrated on added or simple sugars like sodas, desserts, cookies, candies, fruit juice, dried fruits, syrups, honey, agave syrup, among others. These types of foods have very low or no nutritional value, and will increased your blood sugar. Limit them as much as possible.


Three common folic acid myths

Friday, January 8th, 2016

pills-moon vitaminWe receive a lot of questions about folic acid. Here are three of the most common misconceptions people seem to have.

Myth #1: Folic acid reduces the risk for ALL birth defects.

TRUTH: Folic acid reduces the risk of certain birth defects.

Folic acid reduces the risk for a very specific type of birth defect called a neural tube defect (NTD). The neural tube is the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord. A NTD can happen when the neural tube doesn’t close completely. This results in birth defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida. If all women take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy, it may help reduce the number of pregnancies affected by NTDs by up to 70 percent.

Myth #2: Folic acid will help me to get pregnant.

TRUTH: Folic acid is important to take before pregnancy, but it will not help you to become pregnant.

Folic acid does not help a woman to conceive. However, it is recommended that ALL women take folic acid, even if they are not trying to get pregnant. This is because folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects only if it is taken BEFORE pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

The neural tube is one of the first structures that is formed in a developing embryo, therefore you need to make sure you are taking folic acid BEFORE you are pregnant. And because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it’s important that all women take folic acid every day, even if they are not planning to get pregnant. So take a multivitamin that has 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. Most multivitamins have this amount, but check the label to be sure.

Myth #3: I eat a healthy diet, so I can get enough folic acid from food.

TRUTH: It may be possible, but most women will not get enough from their diet.

Folic acid is naturally available in many fruits and vegetables, including:

  • Beans, like lentils, pinto beans and black beans
  • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and Romaine lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Peanuts (But don’t eat them if you have a peanut allergy)
  • Citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit

Many flours, breads, cereals, and pasta are fortified with folic acid, as well. This means they have folic acid added to them. You can look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” on the package to know if the product has folic acid in it.

However, it’s hard to get all the folic acid you need from food. And according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), your body only absorbs about 50 % of that. So even if you eat foods that have folic acid in them, make sure you take your multivitamin each day too.

Some women, like those who’ve had a pregnancy affected by NTDs or women with sickle cell disease, may need more folic acid. Talk to your provider to make sure you get the right amount.

Make a PACT to prevent birth defects

Friday, January 9th, 2015

MOD woman eatingEach year in the United States, about 120,000 babies (1 in 33) are affected by birth defects. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chances of having a healthy baby.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month and this year’s theme is “Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects—Make a PACT for Prevention.” If you are thinking of having a baby, follow this PACT:

Plan ahead:
• Get as healthy as you can before becoming pregnant.
• Make sure you are taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Studies show that if all women in the United States took the recommended amount of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects (NTDs) could be prevented. Folic acid also may help prevent other birth defects, including cleft lip/palate and some heart defects.

Avoid harmful substances:
• Do not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use street drugs.
• Make sure you are aware of any harmful exposures at work or home and do your best to avoid them.

Choose a healthy lifestyle:
• Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean proteins.
• Exercise and stay physically active.
• Make sure you work with your health care provider to get any pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, under control and managed.

Talk to your doctor:
• Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy and make sure you go to all of your prenatal visits during pregnancy.
• Discuss all medications you are taking with your doctor. This includes both prescription meds and over-the counter medicines.
• Review your family health history.

So this year, make a PACT to prevent birth defects by following these healthy guidelines. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s website has more information.

New nutrition labels may be coming

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

When I’m grocery shopping, I often find myself looking at the nutrition labels on food packages and trying to make sense of all the information I’m reading. Once I’m home, I end up trying to figure out if the serving size on the label is the actual size of the serving I have on my plate. Thankfully, it looks like things might get a little easier when it comes to eating healthy.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing changes to nutrition labels to make it easier for you to know exactly what and how much it is you’re eating. Some of these changes include more emphasis on total calories, added sugars and nutrients such as Vitamin D and potassium. The FDA may also be changing serving sizes to some foods so the nutrition label more accurately shows what most people usually eat. Who drinks half of that 16oz bottled iced tea?

Below is an image of a nutrition label as they are now (on the left), and an image of the new label. What do you think? The FDA says the new label is open to the public for comment for the next 90 days. Share your thoughts!Nutrition labels

Eat healthy during pregnancy and your baby’s bones will thank you later!

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

dumb-bell-41Eating healthy during pregnancy doesn’t just help your baby grow while in the womb. More studies are showing that your nutrition during pregnancy benefits your baby later in life.

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed over 2,800 women during pregnancy. They found that pregnant women who ate foods rich in protein, vitamin B-12 and phosphorus greatly influenced their babies’ bone health later in childhood. When these babies were around 6 years old, they were more likely to have greater bone mass, which leads to stronger and healthier bones. On the other hand, babies born to mothers who ate foods high in carbohydrates and had higher amounts of homocysteine (a kind of amino acid) in their blood during pregnancy often had lesser bone mass later in life.

This is just one more reason to keep eating healthy during pregnancy. Your baby will thank you for it!

Moderate caffeine OK during pregnancy

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

I always loved chocolate, but now that I’m pregnant, I found a deeper passion for it! Even then, I try not to go too nuts with it because I don’t want to have too much caffeine. But now, I can rest a little easier.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that it’s OK for pregnant mommies to have moderate amounts of caffeine per day. Research has shown that a reasonable amount of caffeine (about 200mg or 12oz) per day doesn’t appear to lead to miscarriage or preterm birth.

So if you’re pregnant, you can go ahead and have your daily cup of coffee. As for me, I’ll be making brownies!

Cutting back on added sugars

Monday, August 31st, 2009

sugarIn the last few months, I’ve been trying to be more physically active and make healthier food choices. It hasn’t been easy, especially with all the weekend barbeques and summertime desserts (ice cream… yum). My goal isn’t so much to lose weight, but to live a healthier lifestyle so I can lower my chances of developing serious health conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease later in life.

Your body needs nutrients to give you the energy you need throughout the day. Most of these nutrients and calories come from the healthy foods you eat. Out of your daily calorie allowance, you also have a certain amount of “discretionary calories” or extra calories that you can use any way you want – maybe an afternoon snack or a small dessert after dinner (Learn more about discretionary calories). However, it turns out that many of us eat too many discretionary calories, and most of these come from drinks with added sugars (colas and other soft drink beverages).

The American Heart Association (AHA) made a new recommendation about the amount of added sugars we eat during the day. The organization recommends that most women have no more than 100 calories per day of added sugar. To give you a better idea, one can of regular cola has about 130 calories of added sugar, which is 30 calories more than recommended.

Instead of cola, why not try some sparkling water with a slice of lemon? That way, you can use your discretionary calories on something yummy.

Managing weight for baby’s sake

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

scaleYou might remember me writing about my best friend and her new baby, Milana. I can’t get over how cute Milana is!!! Now that she’s 4 months old and doing fine, my best friend is ready to hit the gym and lose the weight she gained during pregnancy. I’m hitting the gym, too – not to lose any baby weight, but rather to stay at a healthy weight for the baby I’ll have someday.

I know all about the benefits of being at a healthy weight, such as reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and more. But I was fascinated to learn that being at a healthy weight has a major impact on the health of your baby, even before pregnancy.

USA Today recently featured an article about a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study reviewed research that showed babies born to overweight, obese moms were more likely to face special health risks. Some of these risks include birth defects (spina bifida, cleft palate, heart defects), being born prematurely or being born too large (macrosomia).

Since you can’t diet once you’re pregnant (because you risk limiting nutrients your baby needs to grow), it’s very important to eat healthy and manage weight before getting pregnant. Not only will I have a better chance of having a healthy pregnancy someday, my future baby will also have a better chance of being born healthy.

Pregnant Mommies: Not so fast on that Halloween candy!

Friday, October 31st, 2008

It’s Halloween and the kids will be bringing home LOADS of goodies. It’s okay for mommies to treat themselves every once in a while during pregnancy. But don’t overload on the fun-size candy bars and the candy corn.

A recent study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that moms who gained more than 40 pounds during their pregnancy were twice as likely to have babies who were too large, compared to other moms. In fact, out of 40,000 moms in the study, 1 in 5 of them had gained too much weight during their pregnancy.

So what’s the harm in having a large baby, you ask? Well, let’s start with what that means for moms. Moms who gain too much weight during pregnancy are at increased risk of facing serious health complications such as gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension and preeclamspia.  Also, a pregnant mom who gains too much weight is more likely to encounter difficulties during labor and childbirth, such as a baby stuck in the birth canal, vaginal tearing, c-section, a longer hospital stay and other recovery complications.

Babies born to overweight or obese moms face their own special health risks, too. These newborns are at increased risk of being born prematurely, having certain birth defects and needing special care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Some studies even suggest that babies born too big are more likely to face obesity in their childhood, which is a growing problem in the U.S.

While you don’t want to go on any “fad diet” during pregnancy, it’s important that you make healthy food choicesWatch our video on healthy food choices during pregnancy.  Talk to your health provider for more nutrition tips.

Image: Juushika Redgrave, Flickr

Are U Ready for a March of Dimes Makeover?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Don’t U Dare is a short video about a young woman’s unique journey through self-discovery and positive behavior change. The goal is to heighten awareness about physical fitness, good nutrition, and multivitamin use among women between the ages of 18-24.

Our main character, Bella, is nominated to appear on a reality TV show by her roommate. The show’s host, Danielle, spots our healthy makeover nominee as she sits at her favorite coffee place, gulping down a huge caramel coffee topped with whipped cream. Then Danielle and the March of Dimes crew strike!

Danielle explains to Bella that she’s been busted for practicing some particularly unhealthy habits. Enough is enough and it’s time for a change! Danielle analyzes everything—from Bella’s schedule to her refrigerator— and gives suggestions for getting it together. Not ever realizing that she was making so many mindless decisions in the first place, Bella reluctantly agrees to give it a shot. The journey begins… Click here to watch, Don’t You Dare