Eating for Gestational Diabetes

Tips and a sample menu.

Lara Rondinelli By Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, CDE

Healthy eating is a very important part in the treatment of gestational diabetes. Along with diet, exercise and insulin may be used to achieve tight glycemic control to achieve the best outcome for the pregnancy. If you were obese prior to pregnancy, your doctor may limit your recommended weight gain to 11-20 pounds in order to help control blood glucose levels too.

Sample Menu

How to Eat

  • Eat 3 meals per day and time meals about 4-5 hours apart.
  • Work with a registered dietitian to determine how many carbohydrates to eat per meal and count carbohydrates accurately. For example, you may be told to eat 45 grams carbohydrate per meal. Read food labels to check carbohydrate content of foods and learn portion sizes for carbohydrate-containing foods.
  • Choose healthy and glycemic index carbs* including whole grains such as oats, quinoa, beans, legumes, milk and yogurt, fruit and lots of low-carbohydrate vegetables like green peppers, green beans, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, salad, greens, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and mushrooms.
  • If using insulin with meals work with a certified diabetes educator and learn how to do insulin-to-carb ratios to dose rapid-acting insulin based on carbohydrate intake.
  • Limit high-calorie, processed foods to avoid excessive weight gain. Foods to limit include processed meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and salami, fried foods, cookies, cakes, pies, and candy.
  • Choose plenty of plant-food fats. These include nuts, olive oil, and avocados.
  • Include lean protein with meals to help fill you up without raising glucose levels too high. Lean protein foods include chicken, turkey, eggs, lean cuts of beef or pork (includes tenderloin, round and sirloin cuts), cheese, and fish. Fish containing high levels of mercury should be avoided during pregnancy. This includes shark, swordfish, mackerel, and tilefish. Canned light tuna should be limited to no more than 6 ounces per week.

* A recent study found women with gestational diabetes who followed a low-glycemic index diet were much less likely to need insulin to control their gestational diabetes. Of those using the low-GI diet, 29% needed to start insulin. Of those using the other diet, 59% reached a point where they needed insulin, but nearly half of these women were able to avoid starting insulin by switching to a low-GI diet.


Moses, Robert G. et al. Can a low-glycemic index diet reduce the need for insulin in gestational diabetes mellitus? Diabetes Care 32:996–1000, 2009.


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Last Modified Date: May 24, 2013

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