If you’ve just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you’ve come to the right spot! After going through gestational diabetes myself, I created this gestational diabetes meal plan along with plenty of resources (like breakfast ideas for gestational diabetes), reassurance, and tips from my own experience to make your journey a little easier. I’m here for you!
Estimated reading time: 27 minutes
Table of Contents
- Sample Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan
- Signs of Gestational Diabetes
- Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes?
- What to do After A Gestational Diabetes Diagnosis
- Healthy Recipes for Gestational Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes FAQs
- Can You Eat Dessert with Gestational Diabetes?
- Eating Out with Gestational Diabetes
- Movement + Gestational Diabetes
- Insulin + Gestational Diabetes
- Does Gestational Diabetes Go Away?
- Breakfast Ideas
- Gestational Diabetes Lunch Ideas
- Gestational Diabetes Dinner Recipes
- Side Dish Ideas for Gestational Diabetes
- Snack Ideas for Gestational Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes Diet Menu Plan
Sample Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan
After thousands and thousands of visits and meal plan downloads, I realized a lot of you were just like me. Frustrated with the gestational diabetes plans found online. The meals felt dated, focused on highly-processed foods, and like “diet” foods – ALL things I was not interested in when creating a healthy environment for my baby.
It’s packed with whole-foods focused recipes, easy dinners you can make (and the whole family can eat), and plenty of nutritious foods like lean protein, whole-grains, produce, and more.
If you’re looking for a real food for gestational diabetes meal plan, this is it.
Disclaimer: This post and the easy gestational diabetes meal plan ideas are just that – IDEAS to help you navigate! As always, run everything by your Doctor.
Signs of Gestational Diabetes
There aren’t many symptoms or signs of gestational diabetes, but increased thirst and urination are possible symptoms according to The Mayo Clinic.
Which is essentially a pregnancy symptom, so I didn’t think anything of my increased thirst and need to use the restroom. 🙂
Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes?
It can come as quite a shock, but you’ll get through it! When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I failed both the one-hour and three-hour glucose tests, and was subsequently diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was very surprised to say the least.
I went into a frenzy of figuring out how this happened, what I needed to eat (and not eat), how it would affect the baby, and anything else that I could worry about at the time. I know quite a bit about type-1 and type-2 diabetes, but didn’t have much experience with gestational diabetes until it happened to me! Now that I have lots of practice and personal experience, I hope that I can help you eat well through your diagnosis. Here’s some helpful background info about gestational diabetes from Mayo Clinic.
What to do After A Gestational Diabetes Diagnosis
Breathe: The upside of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes is that you can now make sure your glucose levels stay within a healthy range – good for baby and good for you! And this is definitely something to be grateful for.
And the diabetes will most likely be over in a matter of months. Stress can affect blood sugar levels, so don’t stress about this, and find ways to minimize the stresses in your life. Meals, snacks, and food will take up a lot of time, so maybe it’s getting help with housework, childcare, working less, etc. (Easier said than done, I know.)
You’ll go see specialists. Write down all of your questions and concerns – they have all of the answers! After my gestational diabetes diagnosis, I was referred to both a Doctor and a Registered Dietitian who specialize in gestational diabetes. I was surprised when they recommended that I start testing my blood sugar – even before I saw them – but it’s easier than you think and the first prick is the worst. I promise!
Your dietitian will determine how many carbs you should be eating and will help you find a diet that works for you – and make tweaks when necessary. Your Doctor will monitor you lots for complications, which can feel worrisome at the time, but it is all worth the extra precautions and many hours spent at the Doctor’s office. Upside: you’ll get to see and hear your baby a lot!
Healthy Recipes for Gestational Diabetes
What to Eat: I love food and I hate diets, so the restricted diet was the hardest aspect for me. (I wrote a little about this here.) It’s not that the diet you’ll follow doesn’t allow carbs (quite the opposite!) but they do need to be the right carbs, counted, and eaten at the right times. You’ll need to read food labels. 🙂
I wasn’t thrilled with what I found after some internet searching for gestational diabetes diet plans, so that is really the reason for this whole post. I eat a diet that consists mostly of whole, real foods and I wanted that emphasis to continue. Obviously you’ll need to follow whatever recommendations you get from your Doctor and/or RD, but here are some meal ideas (staples in my gestational diabetes diet!) to get you started.
Gestational Diabetes FAQs
How many carbs in gestational diabetes diet?
This answer is going to depend on YOU. When you go visit your Doctor and Dietitian, they’ll give you a range of what you should be aiming for. Everyone is different so there is no strict number on this one.
Because my body was very sensitive to carbs, I was on a pretty strict gestational diabetes diet plan of:
- Breakfast: 15-20 grams carbohydrates
- Lunch/Dinner: 30 grams carbohydrates
- Snacks: 15-20 grams carbohydrates (3-5 snacks a day)
**Remember, these aren’t necessarily the levels that YOU will follow, just wanted to give you a general idea.
What causes gestational diabetes?
Rumor has it that it’s our fault for getting gestational diabetes, but that’s WRONG! According to Hopkins Medicine:
Although the cause of GDM is not known, there are some theories as to why the condition occurs.
The placenta supplies a growing fetus with nutrients and water, and also produces a variety of hormones to maintain the pregnancy. Some of these hormones (estrogen, cortisol, and human placental lactogen) can have a blocking effect on insulin. This is called contra-insulin effect, which usually begins about 20 to 24 weeks into the pregnancy.
As the placenta grows, more of these hormones are produced, and the risk of insulin resistance becomes greater. Normally, the pancreas is able to make additional insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but when the production of insulin is not enough to overcome the effect of the placental hormones, gestational diabetes results.Hopkins Medicine
Can You Eat Dessert with Gestational Diabetes?
While it’s true that desserts like cake, cookies, ice cream, and soda are high in carbs, it’s still possible to plan desserts into your gestational diabetes meal plan. And in addition to fitting them into your recommended carb levels, it’s also important to pair them with protein and fiber.
So a little bowl of ice cream with chopped nuts and whipped cream is a delicious sweet treat that can fit into your plan.
Eating Out with Gestational Diabetes
I kept things simple when eating out, but we ate at home a lot. Partly because we have a toddler and don’t go out much and partly because I like to sample and share food when I go out, and that makes tracking carbs a little tricky! When we did eat out, I relied on entree-sized salads or protein (usually fish) entrees with low-carb sides (veggies, coleslaw, etc.).
Movement + Gestational Diabetes
Activity levels definitely play a role in glucose levels, so stay active and if you aren’t, get out walking! I made an effort to get out for short walks at least twice a day. You don’t need to be running 5 miles to see an improvement – so it’s worth it!
It was also recommended that I take a walk after dinner if I had high readings, but I honestly didn’t do that this much as I was usually exhausted at the end of the day.
Insulin + Gestational Diabetes
A common question is, will I have to take insulin? And it will totally depend on your body. Many women are able to control their gestational diabetes with dietary changes.
I was not one of those women, even though I was incredibly diligent with my diet and carb intake.
I share that because it’s important to note that even if you follow your gestational diabetes diet plan perfectly and do everything right, you still might not be able to control your blood glucose level on your own, and may need to take insulin.
When I had to start taking insulin, I was so disappointed and frustrated, but later realized I didn’t need to feel that way because it wasn’t an indication that I was doing a bad job. My body just wasn’t able to produce enough insulin on its own. The beauty of having another human in the equation is that you are forced to get over yourself and your own issues. 🙂 (And sometimes it helps to have a therapist who can point that out like I did!)
Does Gestational Diabetes Go Away?
In most women, gestational diabetes goes away right after delivery. This would be a great question to discuss with your Doctor if you are concerned.
In my case, I was able to guzzle down a huge cup of juice (It’s a Cedars-Sinai special!) and my blood sugar didn’t spike. (I tested it because I could hardly believe it.)
Onto the recipes for gestational diabetes during pregnancy…but if you need to have a pity party or complain to someone…you know where to find me! 🙂
Here are a few ideas for some nutritious breakfasts. Depending on your carbohydrate recommendations, you may need to adjust some of these recipes to fit your own guidelines. Check my breakfast ideas for gestational ideas for even more details and ideas.
- Sour Cream Scrambled Eggs – Took a trick from Anthony Bourdain, and it’s a genius one!
- Banana Sushi – Breakfast or snack, these bananas are spread with peanut butter and then topped with nutritious crunchies like chia seeds, hemp hearts, or chopped nuts.
- Summer Avocado Toast – This is a great breakfast or lunch and includes a few greens! Use whole-wheat or sprouted bread for extra fiber.
- Banana Oatmeal Pancakes – Just 5 ingredients to make these nutritious and satisfying pancakes.
- Egg Sandwiches – Because my carbs were quite restricted for breakfast, I had 1/2 of a sprouted english muffin, Trader Joe’s meatless breakfast patty, slice of cheese, and a fried egg a LOT. It was satisfying and tasty.
- Greek Yogurt Parfaits – If you need this to be lower in carbs, choose a lower sugar yogurt like Siggi’s.
Gestational Diabetes Lunch Ideas
These gestational diabetes lunch recipes are designed to be prepped ahead so that you don’t have to make them each and every day.
- Israeli Breakfast Bento Box – Switch up your lunches with this make-ahead meal.
- Tuna Salad Snack Plate – You can also make this with canned salmon. Serve with carrots, celery, and cucumber.
- Sausage and Lentil Soup – Make this nutritious soup with pantry staples.
- Mexican Chicken Taco Soup – This simple soup takes the flavor of tacos and turns it into a soup! Made with my secret soup ingredient.
- Tuna Melts – I ate these a LOT when I had gestational diabetes as it was a filling meal on one or two slices of sprouted bread. Sprouted or whole wheat is better as they are higher in protein and fiber than white bread. Top with sliced tomatoes.
- Smoked Salmon Sandwich – Swap out the bread for your favorite low-carb or sprouted bread.
- Salads – Make sure your salads are filling enough and have protein (beans, meat, poultry, tofu, etc.), fats (cheese, avocado, olive oil, etc.), and carbs (dairy products, crackers, etc.).
- Quesadillas – Use sprouted or whole wheat tortillas stuffed with cheese, hummus, and sautéed spinach for a delicious vegetarian meal that’s satisfying or try my shrimp quesadillas, ground beef quesadillas, or steak quesadillas.
Gestational Diabetes Dinner Recipes
Simple and quick dinner ideas for gestational diabetes are a must, and here are a few favorites:
- Crockpot Chicken and Potatoes – If you can have potatoes, this is a delicious, easy meal.
- Pepper Steak Stir Fry – Serve with cauliflower rice to lower the carbs if necessary. Just 30 minutes to make.
- Sheet Pan Sausage & Peppers – If the buns are too many carbs, use a slice or two of sprouted bread! (I like to make it into garlic toast.)
- Blue Cheese Steak Salad – A nutritious dose of greens, vegetables, and iron-rich steak. Use pasteurized blue cheese!
- Easiest Crock Pot Chicken and Salsa – Turn this 2-ingredient chicken into salsa chicken tacos, cheater chilaquiles, or Mexi cauliflower rice burrito bowls.
- Seafood Recipes – Try air fryer tilapia, air fryer frozen salmon, air fryer mahi mahi, and moo shu shrimp for quick and tasty seafood meals.
Check out my cook once, eat twice recipes to really maximize your time in the kitchen.
Unfortunately, pasta was tough for me so I only had it once. I ate a tiny portion and it still caused my blood sugar to spike, so it was both unsatisfying and disappointing!
Side Dish Ideas for Gestational Diabetes
Non-starchy vegetables and salad sides are great to keep the carbs lower in meals:
Snack Ideas for Gestational Diabetes
If you’re after some snack ideas that are designed to keep your blood sugar balanced, grab my list here:
Gestational Diabetes Diet Menu Plan
Click here if you’re looking for a done-for-you gestational diabetes sample meal plan (I know I was!) that has breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes along with FAQs, tips, and a 7-day sample meal plan.