Lower your risk of gestational diabetes with a preconception diet

 Gestational DiabetesSome women wait for a positive pregnancy test to improve their diet and opt for more positive habits.

While adopting a healthy lifestyle at any stage of pregnancy definitely benefits you and your baby, research suggests that making changes earlier may be better.

What you eat matters to your baby -- even before egg and sperm meet up.

Eating the right types of foods before becoming pregnant can decrease your risk of developing gestational diabetes and other pregnancy complications.

Pre-pregnancy diet and GD risk

Your weight, baby's health and preconception nutrition

If your BMI is above 30, you face an increased risk for gestational diabetes. A recent research study analyzed the pre-pregnancy diet of a large group of women, comparing it to 3 different healthy eating dietary patterns, and looked for correlation between dietary patterns and the risk of gestational diabetes.

The women's pre-pregnancy eating patterns were analyzed to see how well the woman's eating patterns matched one of three healthy eating plans:

• The Mediterranean Diet

• The DASH diet

• The Healthy Eating Index

These plans all include lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They recommend less red meats and highly processed foods. If your diet matches any of these eating plans your risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy drops between 24 and 46 percent compared to a woman who ate an unhealthy diet.

Let My Plate help guide your choices The My Plate icon can help you visual a healthy diet. It's divided into five food group categories.

Grains: Whole grains such as wheat, brown rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain contain vitamins, minerals and fiber that help you feel full longer.

Vegetables: Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes and starchy vegetables.

Fruits: Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. You may want drink juices in moderation as the skin and flesh containing the fiber has been removed.

Dairy: Milk products and foods made from milk are high in calcium. Some sources recommend no- or low-fat dairy, but research suggests that women who consume full-fat dairy products have increased fertility.

Protein: Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry and vary your protein routine by choosing more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.

Oils don't have a featured spot on MyPlate, yet eating the right types of fats such as those in fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil, can cut your risk of developing GD.

Your best pre-pregnancy diet nourishes you and your future baby-to-be. It includes fruit, nuts, soy, whole grains and cereal fiber. It limits alcohol, and reduces red meat, processed meats, trans-fats and sugary beverages.

Did you know that your diet months and years before pregnancy could lower your risk of gestational diabetes? Will this knowledge affect your menu?

Medical references: - Tobias, D et al. Prepregnancy adherence to dietary patterns and lower risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:289-95. Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.