A Look At The Glycemic Index During Pregnancy

When you’re pregnant, you’ve got all sorts of hormones going haywire and all sorts of cravings creeping up.  It’s important to understand that the two are correlated.  During pregnancy, your dietary habits are especially important because maternal glucose is the main energy substrate for intrauterine growth.  As a dietitian and mom, I do believe in it is important to address that you aren’t eating for two and that a wholesome, nutritious diet will have a positive impact on your pregnancy.

The glycemic index, or GI, measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises your blood glucose levels.  The GI scale refers to carbohydrate-containing foods and not to meats and fats.  Foods are ranked based on how they compare to a reference food — either glucose or white bread.  If a food has a high GI that means it raises the blood glucose more than one with a medium or low GI.

When meal planning your goal should be to focus in incorporating at least 1 Low GI food item to help balance the meal. Examples of carbohydrate-containing foods with a low GI include dried beans and legumes (like kidney beans and lentils), all non-starchy vegetables, some starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, most fruit, and a variety of whole grains (like quinoa, amaranth, barley, whole wheat bread, rye bread, and all-bran cereal).

Below is the GI breakdown as referenced by the American Diabetes Association:

Low GI Foods (55 or less)
  • 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread
  • Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli
  • Pasta, converted rice, barley, bulgar
  • Sweet potato, corn, yam, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes and lentils
  • Most fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots
Medium GI (56-69)
  • Whole wheat, rye and pita bread
  • Quick oats
  • Brown, wild or basmati rice, couscous
High GI (70 or more)
  • White bread or bagel (Limit to 1x per week and try to consume on a day where you’re incorporating cardio exercise)
  • Corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal (Avoid the commercial, sugary cereals)
  • Shortgrain white rice, rice pasta, macaroni and cheese from mix (Any pre-packaged mixes not only are higher GI but also contain excess amounts of sodium)
  • Russet potato, pumpkin (seasonal varieties are also a great idea – low carbon footprint and local produce)
  • Pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers (unless you’re feeling nauseated or maybe going through an episode of food poisoning, best to avoid)
  • melons and pineapple (Melons are prone to food borne illnesses so it’s on my list to avoid)

Even though you probably have several carbohydrate cravings, focus on pairing your meals in a balanced way. Of course, if you’re not feeling well and suffer from nausea or any kind of other discomfort, it’s important to eat whatever makes you feel comfortable and get through this phase (for most, this is usually the first trimester).

Here is a useful resource with a variety of recipes called The Bump to Baby diet.


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