Sliced chicken on top of a salad.
Lean protein is important to eat for people with gestational diabetes because it can help moderate blood sugar levels and hunger.

What to Eat With Gestational Diabetes

Annually, approximately 1% to 2% of pregnant women have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. However, gestational diabetes occurs in 6% to 9% of pregnant women. Though this does not seem like a lot, this number is on the rise. Studies indicate that between 2000 and 2010, the number of women with gestational diabetes rose by about 56% and the number of women with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes rose by about 37%. Diet is may help when it comes to this. So, let’s learn about what to eat with gestational diabetes.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a specific subtype of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy. It occurs in women who do not have pre-existing diabetes.

During pregnancy, various hormones, as well as weight gain, cause the body to become insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is when the body does not use insulin as effectively as it could. It also is a characteristic of pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes occurs when the woman’s body is unable to keep up with the increased insulin needs, causing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

Foods to Eat With Gestational Diabetes

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is likely your healthcare provider will refer you to a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) and/or a registered dietician (RD) for specific dietary instruction.

There are various guidelines that you may be recommended to follow, such as:

  • Increasing vegetable and whole grain intake.
  • Having three small meals and two to three small snacks per day.
  • Increasing fiber intake to 20 to 35 grams per day.
  • Eating a variety of foods to ensure that you are getting the proper vitamins and minerals.

Here are some food choices that will help you get your vitamins and minerals, as well as keep your blood sugar levels in check!

1. Lean Protein

Lean protein helps with satiety, and it is also a requirement for baby’s growth. Tegan Bissell, LDN, CDCES of the Cleveland Clinic also notes that, “It’s especially important to eat proteins at breakfast for more stable hunger levels throughout the day. Proteins can even help lessen morning sickness.”

Examples include:

  • Chicken.
  • Eggs.
  • Fish.
  • Tofu.
  • Low-fat dairy.
  • Turkey.

2. Non-Starchy Vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables are chock-full of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Because they are so low in carbohydrates, they are generally considered a free food.

Examples include:

  • Salad greens.
  • Broccoli.
  • Cauliflower.
  • Peppers.
  • Onions.
  • Green beans.

3. Healthy Fats

Healthy fats are not only great for heart health, but they also help with satiety!

Examples include:

  • Nut butters, such as peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter.
  • Nuts.
  • Avocado.
  • Olive oil.
  • Seeds.

4. Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates still have carbs, but they have a higher fiber content, which means that they are better for blood sugar control.

Examples include:

  • Whole wheat bread.
  • Rice.
  • Beans.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Quinoa.

5. Water

Water contains no calories or carbohydrates and should be consumed in ample amounts during pregnancy. Not only is it hydrating, but it may help improve blood sugar control.

According to, “Drinking water helps to rehydrate the blood when the body tries to remove excess glucose through urine. Otherwise, the body may draw on other sources of available water, such as saliva and tears. If water access is limited, glucose may not be passed out of the urine, leading to further dehydration.”

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Foods to Avoid With Gestational Diabetes

There is a long list of foods to enjoy with gestational diabetes. In fact, there are no off-limits foods. However, it is a good idea to limit highly processed foods and foods that are high in sugar.

Limit the following:

  • Fast food.
  • Baked goods, such as muffins, donuts and cookies.
  • Fried food.
  • Sweetened cereals, granola bars and sweetened oatmeal.
  • White rice.
  • White pasta.
  • Sugary beverages, such as juice and soda.

What Causes Gestational Diabetes?

There is often no cause of gestational diabetes. However, there are various risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing it, such as:

  • Being overweight prior to pregnancy.
  • Having gestational diabetes in prior pregnancies.
  • Having a family member with diabetes.
  • Having prediabetes prior to pregnancy.
  • Having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) prior to pregnancy.
  • Having other medical complications, such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, or heart disease.
  • Having given birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more.
  • Being over the age of 25.
  • Being inactive.
  • Being obese.
  • Race (being Asian American, Native American, Black, or Hispanic increases the risk).

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Most women do not have any symptoms. They discover that they have gestational diabetes through routine screenings.

However, some women may develop:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Increased urination.
  • Increased hunger.

The Bottom Line

It may be frustrating to learn that you have gestational diabetes but remember – it is a temporary condition that ends when you deliver your baby. You can potentially manage it by consuming a healthy diet.