Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar (glucose) that starts during pregnancy. Eating a balanced, healthy diet can help you manage gestational diabetes. The diet recommendations that follow are for women with gestational diabetes who do NOT take insulin.
Gestational diabetes diet
For a balanced diet, you need to eat a variety of healthy foods. Reading food labels can help you make healthy choices when you shop.
If you are a vegetarian or on a special diet, talk with your health care provider to make sure you're getting a balanced diet.
In general, you should eat:
Plenty of whole fruits and vegetables
Moderate amounts of lean proteins and healthy fats
Moderate amounts of whole grains, such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice and starchy vegetables such as corn and peas
Fewer foods that have a lot of sugar, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, and pastries
You should eat three small- to moderate-sized meals and one or more snacks each day. Do not skip meals and snacks. Keep the amount and types of food (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) the same from day to day. This can help you keep your blood sugar stable.
Less than half the calories you eat should come from carbohydrates.
Most carbohydrates are found in starchy or sugary foods. They include bread, rice, pasta, cereal, potatoes, peas, corn, fruit, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, cookies, candy, soda, and other sweets.
High-fiber, whole-grain carbohydrates are healthy choices.
Vegetables are good for your health and your blood sugar. Enjoy lots of them.
Carbohydrates in food are measured in grams. You can learn to count the carbohydrates in the foods that you eat.
GRAINS, BEANS, AND STARCHY VEGETABLES
Eat 6 or more servings a day. One serving equals:
1 slice bread
1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal
1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
1 English muffin
Choose foods loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates. They include:
Whole-grain breads and crackers
Whole grain cereals
Whole grains such as barley or oats
Brown or wild rice
Starchy vegetables such as corn and peas
Use whole-wheat or other whole-grain flours in cooking and baking. Eat more low-fat breads, such as tortillas, English muffins, and pita bread.
Eat 3 - 5 servings a day. One serving equals:
1 cup leafy, green vegetables
1 cup cooked or chopped raw leafy vegetables
3/4 cup vegetable juice
1/2 cup of chopped vegetables, cooked or raw
Healthy vegetable choices include:
Fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauces, fats, or salt
Dark green and deep yellow vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, carrots, and peppers
Eat 2 - 4 servings a day. One serving equals:
1 medium whole fruit (such as a banana, apple, or orange)
1/2 cup chopped, frozen, cooked, or canned fruit
3/4 cup fruit juice
Healthy fruit choices include:
Whole fruits rather than juices. They have more fiber.
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines
Fruit juices without added sugar
Fresh fruits and juices. They are more nutritious than frozen or canned varieties.
MILK AND DAIRY
Eat 4 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products a day. One serving equals:
1 cup milk or yogurt
1 1/2 oz. natural cheese
2 oz. processed cheese
Healthy dairy choices include:
Low-fat or nonfat milk or yogurt. Avoid yogurt with added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Dairy products are a great source of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
PROTEIN (MEAT, FISH, DRY BEANS, EGGS, AND NUTS)
Eat 2 - 3 servings a day. One serving equals:
2-3 oz. cooked meat, poultry, or fish
1/2 cup cooked beans
2 tablespoons peanut butter
Healthy protein choices include:
Fish and poultry. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
Lean cuts of beef, veal, pork or wild game.
Trim all visible fat from meat. Bake, roast, broil, grill, or boil instead of frying. Foods from this group are excellent sources of B vitamins, protein, iron, and zinc.
Sweets are high in fat and sugar, so limit how often you eat them. Keep portion sizes small.
Eat sugar-free sweets.
Ask for extra spoons or forks and split your dessert with others.
In general, you should limit your intake of fatty foods.
Go easy on butter, margarine, salad dressing, cooking oil, and desserts.
Avoid fats high in saturated fat such as hamburger, cheese, bacon, and butter.
Don't cut fats and oils from your diet entirely. They provide energy for growth and are essential for baby's brain development.
Choose healthy oils such as canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, and safflower oil. Include nuts, avocados, and olives.
OTHER LIFESTYLE CHANGES
Your doctor may also suggest a safe exercise plan. Walking is usually the easiest type of exercise, but swimming or other low-impact exercises can work just as well. Exercise can help you keep your blood sugar in control.
American Diabetes Association. Nutrition recommendations and interventions for diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2008;31:S61-S78.
American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes -- 2013. Diabetes Care. Jan;36 Suppl 1:S11-66.
Benjamin TD, Pridijan G. Update on gestational diabetes. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics. 2010 June;27(2):255-267.
Cunningham FG, Leveno KJ, Bloom SL, et al. Diabetes. In: Cunningham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al, eds. Williams Obstetrics. 23rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2010:chap 52.
Serlin DC, Lash RW. Diagnosis and management of gestational diabetes mellitus. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Jul 1;80(1):57-62.
Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.