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Vegan Nutrition with Dina Aronson, M.S. R.D.Dina Aronson, MS, RD is a vegan dietitian whose specialties include chronic disease prevention, vegetarian/vegan nutrition, and lifestyle management. She is the founder and director of VeganRD.com, a nutrition consulting company. Active in many vegetarian nutrition organizations, Dina was the recipient of the American Dietetic Association's Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award in 2002.
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I am 33 weeks pregnant and have been a vegan for over a year, I was just diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. Do you have any suggestions to help me control this so I can have a healthy baby? - April
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Gestational diabetes (GD), which affects 2-4% of pregnancies, is a temporary form of diabetes that typically subsides upon delivery of the baby. However, about half the women with GD will develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Furthermore, their children are also at greater risk for the disease.
The most important goal for women with GD to do is to control their blood sugar levels. Untreated, GD can harm the heart and liver of the fetus, and may result in birth defects or stillbirth if the blood sugar remains out of control.
The good news is that with a little planning and attention, it is not very difficult to control GD and have a healthy, happy baby. The guidelines for GD among vegans and non-vegans are the same; the only difference is that your nutrients will be coming exclusively from plants.
Did your doctor show you how to test your blood sugars? Blood sugar testing provides valuable information about how your diet is affecting your blood sugar, so that you can adjust your food intake accordingly. You should be testing your sugars at least four times per day: fasting and 1 or 2 hours after each meal. The goal numbers are:
If you find that these numbers are higher than they should be, make an appointment with your doctor or other healthcare giver to see if you need to take insulin.
The number one dietary goal with GD is controlling carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrate control can be attained by eating 3 moderate meals and 3 small snacks throughout the day. The total amount of calories you need depend upon your age, height, weight, and activity level. (A visit with a dietitian will reveal your particular needs.) The carbohydrate content of your meals and snacks should be about ½ of your total calories; the remaining calories are split between protein and fat. Given that plant foods are naturally rich in carbohydrates, it is important to select your foods wisely. Choose foods that are naturally low in sugar, high in fiber, and moderate in protein and fat. Foods that fit the bill include:
Exercise is important for a healthy pregnancy, and may also help control blood sugar levels. Ask your doctor or other healthcare professional what exercise is appropriate for you at this time.
Here is a sample vegan meal plan. This is meant as an example; it is not meant as therapy. No one diet plan suits everyone, as your plan will depend on your blood sugar readings, calorie needs, and lifestyle. Please visit with a registered dietitian to get more specific guidelines that suit your particular needs.
If your foods do not supply added B12 and vitamin D, take a supplement with these vitamins.
**If you do not like the flavor of unsweetened soy milk, use 1/2 unsweetened and 1/2 sweetened soy milk mixed together.