Diet and nutrition are an essential part of managing gestational diabetes. Being conscious of what you eat and making healthy choices is important for your health and your baby’s health.
Of course, there’s no single “magic” diet for those diagnosed with gestational diabetes. There are, however, general guidelines you can follow to set yourself up for success. Understanding how different types of food affect your blood glucose (blood sugar) is a great way to get started with creating a gestational diabetes diet.
How Food Affects Gestational Diabetes
What you eat and drink plays a key role in regulating glucose levels and minimizing high and low glucose events. Understanding what foods to eat and what foods to avoid is the first step to creating an effective gestational diabetes diet.
Below, you’ll find information on how various foods affect your blood glucose levels and overall health during pregnancy.
|Nutritional Considerations||Impact on Overall Health and Blood Glucose||Food Sources|
|Foods to Include|
|Complex carbohydrates||Although carbohydrates turn into glucose when broken down and can raise blood glucose levels, you need carbohydrates to fuel your body and support your baby’s health.||Legumes (e.g., beans, peas, lentils), starchy vegetables (e.g., potatoes, corn, peas), and whole, unprocessed grains (e.g., quinoa, oats, barley, brown rice)|
|Non-starchy vegetables||Non-starchy vegetables are lower in carbohydrates, so they have a minimal impact on blood glucose levels. They’re also rich in vitamins, fiber, and minerals.||Asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, green beans, leeks, okra, onions, peppers, squash, and tomatoes|
|Lean proteins||Lean proteins are great sources of protein and have fewer calories than non-lean meats. During pregnancy, proteins are the building blocks of your baby’s cells.||White-meat chicken or turkey, lean pork, lean beef, eggs, Greek yogurt, legumes, low-fat milk, seafood (e.g., salmon, cod, shrimp, mussels, scallops), nuts, and tofu|
|“Good fats” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)||Not all fats are bad. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats support healthy body function, may help lower your cholesterol levels, and support the growth and development of your baby. Omega-3 fatty acids and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are important for fetail development of the brain and eyes.||Olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish (e.g., salmon)|
|Foods to Avoid|
|“Bad fats” (saturated and trans fats)||Bad fats, including saturated and trans fats, can increase your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. Saturated fats have also been found to worsen insulin resistance, making it more difficult to maintain healthy glucose levels.||High-fat meats (e.g., ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, bacon), butter, gravy, poultry skin, palm oil, coconut oil, processed foods (e.g., crackers, chips, baked goods), margarine, shortening, and lard|
|Sugary foods and beverages||Unsurprisingly, sugary foods and beverages can cause blood glucose levels to rise. They can also increase your risk of high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, and heart disease.||Regular/non-diet soft drinks, fruit juices with added sugar, baked goods, and sauces (e.g., ketchup, BBQ, teriyaki, some salad dressings)|
What’s the Best Gestational Diabetes Diet?
While there is no “best” gestational diabetes diet, a healthy diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables; moderate amounts of lean meats, plant-based proteins, and healthy complex carbohydrates; and minimal amounts of added sugar and processed foods. Everyone’s body responds differently to food, so be sure to talk with your healthcare team about which foods are best for your diabetes management.
One of the simplest ways to ensure you and your baby are getting the right amount of each type of food when you’re pregnant is to use the diabetes plate method.
To follow the method, fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. Next, fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein. The final quarter should be carbs like starchy vegetables, rice, pasta, beans, and fruit. This can help you get the nutrients you and your baby need while supporting healthy blood sugar levels.
In addition to what you eat, you should also consider what you drink, which can significantly influence your blood glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association recommends drinking low- or zero-calorie beverages, such as these:
- Water (still, sparkling, seltzer, mineral, or infused)
- Unsweetened tea
- Diet sodas
- Skim or nonfat milk
- Zero-calorie drink mixes
While this is a great place to start, gestational diabetes diets should always be created with the guidance of your healthcare team.
The Importance of Blood Glucose Monitoring When Creating a Gestational Diabetes Diet
If you have gestational diabetes, staying in your target blood glucose range is of the utmost importance. The goal is to keep your blood glucose levels equal to those of people who are pregnant without gestational diabetes. If your average blood glucose levels are high during your pregnancy, your baby may be at increased risk of:
- Excessive birth weight (9+ pounds)
- Premature birth
- Low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) shortly after birth
- Breathing problems
- Obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life
Plus, close monitoring of your blood glucose levels before and after meals can help you determine if you’re eating the right amount of carbohydrates and a balanced diet for you and your baby.
While people’s target blood glucose ranges may differ, the American Diabetes Association’s guidelines for people testing blood glucose levels during pregnancy are as follows:
- Before a meal: 95 mg/dL or less
- One hour after a meal: 140 mg/dL or less
- Two hours after a meal: 120 mg/dL or less
Your blood glucose goals may be more or less stringent depending on your unique treatment plan. Regardless, blood glucose monitoring can be vital to effective gestational diabetes management. If you’re looking for a quick, simple, and accurate way to check your glucose levels, you might want to consider an automatic blood glucose monitor (ABGM). While standard blood glucose monitors (BGMs) require you to manually load the test strip into the device, load the lancet into the lancing device, lance, and collect blood, ABGMs eliminate this hassle. An ABGM, such as POGO Automatic®, automatically lances and collects blood in a single step.
If you’re wanting deeper insight while tracking your blood glucose results, you may consider getting a glucose monitoring app. The POGO Automatic Monitor syncs with the Patterns® for POGO Automatic app via Bluetooth, allowing you to have your results at your fingertips anytime, anywhere you choose. Patterns lets you see and manage blood glucose trends, correlate your glucose levels with lifestyle variables, and share valuable insights with your healthcare team.
Supporting a Healthy Pregnancy
Creating meal plans and adhering to your gestational diabetes diet can feel overwhelming at first. Your body is going through many changes as it is, and it can feel like just one more thing to worry about.
But when you have the right tools and resources at your fingertips, it will become easier. Plus, you’ll be creating healthy habits that can stick with you beyond your pregnancy to support your overall health and well-being as you enter parenthood.
Robert Miller is a customer experience specialist committed to helping people navigate the world of diabetes. He focuses on finding innovative tools and strategies that make diabetes management easier to support long-term wellness.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.