Recipe, Meal, and Snack Ideas for Gestational Diabetes

AndieM.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.1 During gestational diabetes, your body cannot make enough insulin to help keep blood sugar levels within a normal range. If blood sugar levels are left too high for too long, it may increase your risk for preeclampsia, delivery by c-section, developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, or a delay in breastmilk production.2,3

The good news is that diet and exercise can help most people diagnosed with GDM keep their blood sugar levels stable. Additionally, for most people gestational diabetes goes away after they delivery their baby.2

Learn more about what gestational diabetes is as well as how to manage it: How to Manage Gestational Diabetes

Your diet and gestational diabetes

While a diet for gestational diabetes should always be individualized (by a dietitian or diabetes educator), there are some gestational diabetes diet basics that can help you keep your blood sugars under control.

The most important thing to know is that carbohydrates, which are broken down into glucose (sugar) in the body, are the macronutrients that affect your blood sugar.4 The portion size of your carbohydrate food matters most. A big portion will make your blood sugar go up a lot while a smaller portion will affect your blood sugar much less.4

Carbohydrates are found in grains (including bread, pasta, rice, and cereals), potatoes, corn, legumes, beans, juice, non-diet soft drinks, dairy, sweets, and fruit.

Read about: What to Drink instead of Sweetened Beverages

Quick tips for eating while diagnosed with gestational diabetes:

  • Fiber helps slow down how fast your blood sugar goes up. Choose foods high in fiber most often, such as vegetables (keep the skin on if you can), whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and fruit.4

  • You will probably need to limit your carbohydrate intake. Carbs are still very important for your and your baby’s development and health, but try to keep your carbohydrate intake to less than half your calories.5 Your dietitian can help you come up with a plan to suit your personal needs.

  • Protein and fat do not increase your blood sugar level. Because they take longer to digest, these macronutrients can help slow down how fast your blood sugar rises when you pair them with carbohydrates.6 Be sure to include proteins and healthy fats at every meal and snack.

  • Do not skip meals or snacks. Skipping an eating session may lead to your blood sugar dropping too low, or even make it go too high after your next meal.7

Learn more:

Protein: Getting Enough and the Best Sources

Types of Fats: What’s Best for Mom and Baby?

Why Fiber Matters for Babies, Tots, and Mama

Gestational Diabetes recipe, meal, and snack ideas

The meal plan below is an example of how to include high fiber foods into each meal and how to pair carbs with protein and healthy fats. Use this information in conjunction with the advice and recommendations from a dietitian or diabetes educator, as well as your healthcare professional.

Keep in mind that with gestational diabetes, portion sizes of carbohydrate foods do matter. It’s important to get an individualized plan based on your current blood sugar levels by your healthcare provider, your diabetes educator, or your dietitian.

Choosing meals and snacks from the options listed below will help you consume foods that can help you manage your blood sugar, and also include nutrients needed for growth and development of your baby.

Breakfast

  • Option 1: Scrambled eggs, cheese, non-starchy vegetables (greens, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc. – frozen vegetables make this a quick and easy breakfast!); whole grain toast

  • Option 2: Rolled oats soaked overnight with no added sugar almondmilk and nuts

  • Option 3: Whole grain toast with no sugar added nut butter

  • Option 4: Scrambled eggs with sautéed tomatoes and onions topped with queso blanco or feta cheese wrapped in a whole grain tortilla

  • Option 5: Black bean breakfast bowl with beans, avocados, salsa, peppers, onions, and topped with a chopped hardboiled egg

Lunch

  • Option 1: ½ grilled chicken sandwich on whole grain bread or pita; cup of veggie or bean soup

  • Option 2: Quinoa with veggies, tuna* or tofu, olive oil and balsamic vinegar or your favorite low-sugar dressing

  • Option 3: Lentils and brown rice topped with avocado and a side salad with lemon and olive oil dressing

  • Option 4: Lentil soup with whole grain croutons and a tossed vegetable salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice

  • Option 5: Salmon or chicken salad stuffed inside avocado halves with whole grain crackers

Dinner

  • Option 1: Whole grain or bean-based pasta, sautéed vegetables simmered in broth, topped with chicken, turkey, tofu or white beans

  • Option 2: Lean grilled steak, grilled corn on the cob, salad with low-sugar dressing

  • Option 3: Broiled pork chop with a side of unsweetened applesauce, brown rice, quinoa, or another whole grain and side salad tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

  • Option 4: Grilled salmon over a bed of sautéed spinach, zucchini and tomatoes with a side of brown rice

  • Option 5: Grilled or sautéed boneless chicken breast served over farro salad (cooked farro tossed with chopped arugula, carrots, onions, cucumbers, parsley, and a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper for dressing)

Snacks

  • Option 1: Hard-boiled egg with piece of fruit

  • Option 2: Hummus with carrots and cucumbers

  • Option 3: Small piece of fruit with nut butter

  • Option 4: 4-5 whole grain crackers with a stick or slice of cheese

  • Option 5: trail mix bar with 15-30 g carb or less and 2 g or more fiber

Let's Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm (ET). Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Does Gestational Diabetes Matter Postpartum?

Nutritious Snack Ideas during Pregnancy

Food Safety during Pregnancy

Our meal plans offer recipe and meal suggestions. They are not designed to replace your doctor’s recommendations, nor do they take into account special nutritional needs, including allergies and intolerances. The meal plans suggest serving sizes that may or may not be appropriate for you. Please consult your doctor to determine what is best for you and your child.

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