Gestational Diabetes Diet: Which Food Should I Eat?

Gestational diabetes occurs in around 5% of all pregnancies.¹ If left untreated, it can cause health problems for both mother and the baby. Fortunately, the condition is very treatable. Most women can successfully manage gestational diabetes through diet and exercise and have a healthy baby.

If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or are at risk for it, learn more about what you should be eating and what food to eliminate from your diet.

Have you considered clinical trials for Gestational diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Gestational diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is gestational diabetes?

Diabetes is a health condition that occurs when your blood sugar levels are too high. In healthy people, the body uses insulin to move glucose (sugar) out of the bloodstream into the cells, where it can be used to produce energy. Someone who has diabetes is either resistant to insulin or isn’t producing enough insulin to remove glucose from the bloodstream, leading to high blood glucose levels.

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Even if you didn’t have diabetes before your pregnancy or weren’t at risk of developing the disease, you can develop it while pregnant.

Gestational diabetes is caused by hormones produced by your placenta. This hormone makes you more resistant to insulin during your pregnancy. This is usually a good thing because it allows more glucose to pass to your baby and helps it develop.

Your body should start producing more insulin to overcome these hormonal changes and keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range. However, in around one out of 20 pregnancies, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to overcome the hormonal effect, leading to gestational diabetes.

While it’s possible to develop gestational diabetes at any point in your pregnancy, it’s most common around the 24th week of pregnancy.² Your healthcare provider will likely administer a test for gestational diabetes at this time.

Despite being an inconvenient test in which someone will collect your blood a few times after you drink a sugary beverage, it is essential to catch gestational diabetes as early as possible. If left untreated, it can create serious health risks for you and your baby. Babies may experience:

  • High birth weights that increase the risk of birth injuries, preterm labor, and C-sections

  • Difficulty breathing after birth

  • Low blood sugar after birth

  • An increased risk of becoming diabetic or being obese later in life³

Fortunately, gestational diabetes is a very treatable, manageable condition. Most women can manage this condition with changes to their diet and lifestyle.

A gestational diabetes diet plan makes it possible to have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby.

How is gestational diabetes treated?

There are many treatment options for gestational diabetes. These treatments aim to bring your blood sugar levels back into a normal range and prevent too much glucose from passing to your developing baby.

Your doctor will work with you on determining the treatment options that are best for you, which may include the following: 

Monitoring blood sugar levels

Your doctor might ask you to monitor your blood sugar levels at home. You’ll do this by pricking your finger with a tiny needle and then placing a drop of blood on a glucose meter. This meter will tell you your current blood sugar level.

Keep a log of these readings to show your doctor at your next appointment.

Following a gestational diabetes diet plan

If you have gestational diabetes or are at risk for it, changing your diet helps. This includes limiting your intake of carbohydrates and sweets, which are common sources of glucose. That means eliminating a lot of processed foods, sugary drinks, and candy.

Instead, you’ll want to focus on eating lean proteins, more vegetables, and complex carbohydrates like whole wheat and brown rice. 

Getting plenty of exercise

Walking and swimming are great low-impact ways to move your body during pregnancy. Exercise will help lower your blood sugar levels naturally, helping to bring them back into a healthy range. 

Keeping an eye on your pregnancy weight gain

It’s natural to gain weight during pregnancy. However, it’s important not to gain too much weight or gain it very quickly. That can make the condition worse.

Your doctor will work with you to set a goal for weight gain during your pregnancy based on your pre-pregnancy weight. 

Taking medication

In some cases where diet and exercise aren’t enough, your doctor may recommend medication to help manage your blood sugar levels. This medication may be in tablet form that you take orally or as insulin injections that you can administer yourself at home.

For most people, gestational diabetes goes away after delivering their baby. However, you will be more at risk of developing the condition again during a future pregnancy. You are also 60% more likely to develop type II diabetes.⁴

What is a good gestational diabetes diet plan?

Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do to help manage gestational diabetes. You can work with your doctor to discuss the best food options. They may also recommend that you work with a nutritionist who can help you create a gestational diabetes meal plan.

Try these tips to make your diet changes a little easier:

Plan your meals

This can help you avoid last-minute food choices, which are more likely to be processed and full of unnecessary salt and sugar. Get everything you need from the store so you have it on hand, making it easier to eat healthy.

Prepare certain foods ahead of time

Chop fruit and vegetables and keep them in sealed containers. They are easy to grab for snacks or to add to your meals. You are less likely to give in to cravings when healthier options are ready to eat. 

Eat smaller meals more often

Instead of eating two or three large meals a day, eat three smaller meals and have a snack in between. Smaller, more frequent meals can help control blood sugar levels.⁵

List of foods to eat with gestational diabetes

A gestational diabetes diet plan includes a mix of:

  • Lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and eggs

  • Healthy fats from avocados, nuts, and olive oil

  • Complex carbohydrates like Greek yogurt, beans, brown rice, and sweet potatoes

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables, including berries, broccoli, green beans, and apples

Limit your intake of carbohydrates like bread, beans, potatoes, and spaghetti. Some research recommends that less than half of your total daily calories³ should come from carbohydrates. You should include protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables with every meal.

When your diet includes plenty of nutritious food, you may be less likely to experience food cravings. If you do experience cravings, look for suitable alternatives to processed, sugary, or salty options.

For example, if you want to eat something sweet, spread some nut butter onto an apple instead of eating chocolate. Or, when you want something crunchy, opt for carrots dipped in hummus instead of chips.

Along with changing what you eat, you’ll want to change what you drink, too. Water is the best thing you can drink when pregnant. It can help decrease swelling, keep you energized, and won’t have a negative impact on your blood sugar levels. Purchase a water bottle and carry it with you, making it a minimum goal to drink 64 oz a day.

Foods to avoid with gestational diabetes

For your gestational diabetes meal plan, there are certain foods and drinks that you should eliminate from your diet. These include:

  • Sugary drinks, including sodas, energy drinks, and sugary coffee beverages (even if they are decaffeinated) 

  • Saturated fats, which come from red meat, cheese, and butter, among others 

  • Simple carbohydrates, which come from processed foods, like candy, cakes, syrup, and table sugar

While you’ll find simple carbohydrates in fruit, that doesn’t mean you should avoid eating fruit when you have gestational diabetes. You can (and should) consume two to four servings of fruit a day, whether it’s fresh, frozen, or canned.

You can also consume fruit juice, but do so in moderation and make sure it contains no added sugar. If you worry about fruit consumption, stick with berries. They are high in fiber and low in carbohydrates. 

The lowdown

Gestational diabetes affects around 5% of all pregnancies. It’s a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, and is caused by hormones released by the placenta that cause your body to become more insulin resistant.

Gestational diabetes can cause high birth weights and increase the risk of birth injuries and the need for a C-section. However, it is a manageable condition, and most women successfully manage it through diet and exercise.

A healthy gestational diabetes diet plan consists of plenty of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. Avoiding refined sugars, simple carbohydrates, and saturated fats is important. You should also increase your daily exercise to help your body naturally balance blood sugar levels.

For most women, gestational diabetes will go away after giving birth. However, it does increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes in your next pregnancy. You will also be at an increased risk of developing type II diabetes later. Maintaining a healthy gestational diabetes diet and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day may help reduce this risk.

Have you considered clinical trials for Gestational diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Gestational diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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