Managing gestational diabetes with a healthy diet

Gestational diabetes is a blood sugar condition that happens to some birthing parents during pregnancy. In a nutshell, it means your body isn’t making enough insulin to steady your blood sugar levels. 

Most people find out they have gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 28 after taking the glucose tolerance test. If you’re in that boat right now, you should know this: gestational diabetes can be very manageable. 

Often, all it takes to keep your blood sugar in check is adding some exercise to your routine and making healthy changes to your diet. Read on for our diabetes-friendly meal planning and snack ideas!

Meal Planning With Gestational Diabetes

Meal planning with gestational diabetes is about balancing macronutrients, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbs have the most power to make your blood sugar spike, so you’ll want to limit how much you eat. A good rule of thumb is to make sure less than half of your daily calories come from carbs. 

Next tip: always pair carbs with fats and proteins. This will help balance your blood sugar and keep it from getting too high after meals. You’ll also want to eat more throughout the day (think: 3 small-ish meals and 2 or more snacks) to help keep your blood sugar steady.

Everyone’s nutritional needs are different, but these food groups are the focus of most gestational diabetes diets:

  • Fiber-rich complex carbohydrates (whole grains, beans, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and Greek yogurt)
  • Lean and plant-based proteins (poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, and low-fat dairy)
  • Healthy fats (nuts and nut butter, seeds, avocado, and olive oil)
  • Non-starchy vegetables (salad greens, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers)
  • Fruits (bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines)
  • Water (Okay, this one isn’t a food, but staying hydrated is extra important when you’re trying to control your blood sugar levels!)

*Your healthcare provider may recommend meeting with a nutritionist to create an individualized gestational diabetes meal plan.

Pregnancy women cooking a healthy meal to manage gestational diabetes

Snack Ideas for Women With Gestational Diabetes 

If you have gestational diabetes, snacking between meals can help stabilize your blood sugar levels. But not all snacks will do the trick. Again, it’s all about balance. Aim for each snack to have between 15 and 30 grams of carbs and 1 to 2 ounces (or more) of protein. Trust us, it sounds more complicated than it actually is. Here are some examples of foods with 15 grams of carbs:

  • 1 slice of whole-wheat bread or a small corn tortilla
  • 1 medium orange or apple
  • ½ cup of cooked oatmeal (no sugar) 
  • ½ cup of starchy vegetables
  • ⅓ cup of cooked pasta, rice, or quinoa
  • 3 cups of popped popcorn
  • 6 whole-grain crackers (double-check the serving size on the package)

And here’s what an ounce of protein looks like:

  • 1 ounce of poultry, fish, or beef (should be about the size of 3 dice)
  • 1 ounce of cheese (usually a single slice or 1-inch cube)
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup of tofu
  • ¼ cup of cottage cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of any nut butter 

Pick one food from each list, and you’re good to go! 

Note: Your carb needs will vary throughout the day, depending on your blood sugar. (Don’t worry, your provider should explain how to adjust your carb intake according to your blood glucose levels.)

When you find the right balance of foods, your gestational diabetes diet should keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the rest of your pregnancy. And, on a very important side note, diabetes-friendly meals and snacks can—and should—make your taste buds happy!

You know what makes us happy? Giving expecting parents the power to control exactly when and where they learn their baby’s sex! Click here to read more about our Juno Birch™ Fetal Gender Test.


Please note: and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

November 02, 2022 — Stephanie McClintock