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3 Mistakes Women Make When Eating During Pregnancy | Julienne - Gestational Diabetes Meal Program for Prevention and Management

Updated: Mar 15

Julienne's Gestational Diabetes Meal Program preview

Women endure all sorts of challenges during pregnancy, and they sacrifice much of their usual lifestyle and habits for the health of their baby. They go through nausea, mood swings, a changing body, unsuspected food cravings, and so much more. Yet, the information provided about how to improve nutritional intake to avoid some of these complications is lacking, either when they begin their pregnancy or, better yet, when they are trying to conceive.

Nutrition can be an incredibly powerful tool to avoid many health complications when pregnant.

Add in a gestational diabetes diagnosis, and nutrition management can feel even more complex. Gestational diabetes occurs when your body can’t make enough insulin during your pregnancy (1). While pregnant, the placenta produces hormones that block the effect of naturally-made insulin (the contra-insulin effect) and prevents the pregnant woman from properly digesting carbohydrates, therefore becoming insulin resistant. This typically becomes prevalent starting at 16 weeks, and is more often diagnosed at 20-24 weeks during pregnancy.

With that said, insulin resistance is a relatively normal development during pregnancy in response to the hormonal changes and weight gain. When it becomes problematic is when a woman has some level of insulin resistance before getting pregnant and then develops increased insulin resistance during pregnancy. With this increased insulin resistance, a gestational diabetes diagnosis is much more likely.

However, researchers still don't fully understand fully why some women develop gestational diabetes over others. (2) That's why for many, when they receive this diagnosis, it can be very difficult to understand. What is understood and widely accepted is that nutrition is a key part of symptom management and improving longer-term outcomes. This is so important to get right, because mismanagement can not only affect the mother in a critical way, but affect the baby as well.

pregnant woman under a blanket with a bowl of yogurt and toast

Image via Wix


Here are some of the common mistakes that we've observed women make when eating during pregnancy, and how some simple nutritional tweaks can help you better manage or prevent Gestational Diabetes:

Mistake # 1 -- High Sugar, High Carb Diet (Consuming High Glycemic Index Foods)

The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, which long-term can cause a range of problems with your organs and cardiovascular system, and in the short-term increases the risk of developing gestational diabetes if pregnant. In more severe cases, high blood sugar while pregnant can also cause birth defects and can impact your baby’s growth, development, and metabolic health for life (3). We don’t mention this to scare you, but we believe it’s important to know all the facts when it comes to you and your baby!

Common examples of high GI foods include white bread, soda, sugary cereals, and processed snacks, but high GI aren’t always what you would assume. Some fruits and vegetables are also considered high GI due to the sugar content, especially if consumed in excess, or alone without the accompaniment of protein and fat.

Though unfortunately during pregnancy, nausea is a common symptom, and in turn pasta or a piece of toast might feel like the only thing you are able to eat. We get it! However, it is super important to try and avoid excessive consumption of pasta, bread, rice, and other plain carbs, however you can manage. If this becomes a habit, this is when it can have a larger impact on your baby and your body - for the short term and the long term.

Knowing which specific foods have a high GI is of course helpful, but only to a degree. When you go to cook a meal, it may seem like you have to avoid these foods altogether to keep your GI low, but the trick is in the portioning and timing of when you eat them. That’s where Julienne can help! Our Gestational Diabetes Meal Program focuses on recipes and meal planning (not just specific food items) that are low GI and approved for you to eat for your diagnosis. This way, you don’t have to fully avoid certain foods, and can feel confident with what you’re eating…and enjoy it, too! (Bonus: These plans will be a delicious reference for you as a pregnant woman with GD, and for the long term to better understand your body and your family’s health, too!)

Mistake # 2 — Eating for Two (Overlooking Portion Sizes)

One common misconception during pregnancy is the idea of "eating for two." While this is a cute adage, it is also an age-old misconception that can sometimes lead to severe over-eating in early pregnancy. Many women believe they need to eat significantly larger portions during pregnancy, which may inadvertently lead to potential complications such as gestational diabetes. A pregnant woman only actually needs to eat for 1.1. What does, however, increase significantly is your need for certain nutrients, such as vitamin A, folate, vitamin B12, choline, iron, iodine, and many others (3).)

The true recommended portion guidelines per trimester are:

  • First trimester - the individual's regular caloric amount

  • Second trimester - an additional 340 calories per day (adjusts slightly with different peoples’ needs)

  • Third trimester - approximately an additional 450 calories per day (adjusts slightly with different peoples’ needs) (4)

On average, a rule of thumb is to add one extra snack per day, not double the total meal intake (3).

Maintaining appropriate portion sizes is crucial for regulating blood sugar levels and preventing excessive weight gain during pregnancy. The Julienne Gestational Diabetes Meal Program emphasizes the importance of portion control in managing blood sugar levels. It provides guidance on enjoying balanced meals and snacks with appropriate portion sizes to support a healthy pregnancy.

Mistake # 3 — Neglecting Nutrient-Rich Foods

We understand that convenience is important, especially when pregnant. Unfortunately, though, convenience usually means eating processed foods or pre-made meals from the grocery stores. And if you’re not careful and read the nutrition labels, it can have a severe impact on your nutrition.

Such nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy can lead to adverse health outcomes for both you and your baby. Key nutrients, such as folate, iron and calcium play essential roles in brain development, skin development, and every aspect of full body development of the baby. Without the right nutrients, a baby unfortunately has a higher risk of birth defects.

Therefore, when trying to conceive or while pregnant, it is essential to aim for all food consumption to be nutrient-rich whole foods, to ensure a healthy and successful pregnancy! That’s why at Julienne we focused on incorporating a variety of nutrient-dense foods into daily meals via our Gestational Diabetes Meal Program to ensure all nutritional needs are met.

We know this can all feel a bit overwhelming, but knowledge is power and effectively managing your gestational diabetes is crucial for both your own and your baby’s health. If you can try and avoid these three common mistakes - consuming high glycemic index foods, overlooking portion sizes, and neglecting nutrient-rich foods - you are in a great position.

For further information on gestational diabetes and pregnancy nutrition, we recommend visiting reputable sources such as the American Diabetes Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Additionally, Julienne’s Gestational Diabetes Meal Program offers resources, recipes, grocery lists and support to help mothers-to-be navigate their pregnancy journey with confidence. For personalized nutrition advice and support, we encourage pregnant women to consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional specializing in gestational diabetes management.


Cover photo of Julienne's GD Meal Program Guide

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(1) Gestational Diabetes, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Link)

(2) Gestational Diabetes, Mayo Clinic (Link)

(3) Real Food for Pregnancy (Book) by Lily Nichols RDN, CDE

(4) Nutrition During Pregnancy, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists  (Link)

(5) For each one-year increase in maternal age from 18 years, GDM risk for the overall population, Asian, and Europid increased by 7.90%, 12.74%, and 6.52%, respectively ScienceDirect,  (Source: Link)

(6) Maternal Preconception Body Mass Index Overtakes Age as a Risk Factor for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, MDPI (Link)


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