Gestational Diabetes: Managing Food Intake During Pregnancy

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By : dLife Editors

Reviewed by: Qin Yang, M.D., Ph.D. 4/18

A balanced and healthy diet is important during and after pregnancy and will help control blood glucose levels.  We will discuss managing your food intake during pregnancy and review the best foods to help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and also provide proper nutrition for both you and your baby.

It’s important to monitor how many and what kinds of carbohydrates you consume as well.  Keeping a food log may be a helpful way to monitor your carb intake.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that women with gestational diabetes should eat three small to moderate meals and two to four snacks per day.  The ADA recommends that an evening snack may be needed to prevent accelerated ketosis overnight.

A well-monitored and controlled diet plan is necessary to keep your blood glucose levels in check. The focus should be on the quality of food you’re getting rather than the quantity.

Work with your dietician to monitor and maintain your weight and body mass index (BMI) throughout your pregnancy as obesity along with diabetes can complicate the outcomes of treatment planning.

Foods to Eat for a Balanced Diet

  • Vegetables
  • Non-fat dairy products
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Lean meats
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Poultry

Eating more protein helps to balance blood glucose levels.  These foods include fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, tofu, beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa and legumes or lentils.

Foods to Avoid if Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes

  • Cakes
  • Biscuits
  • Sweets
  • Puddings
  • Soda
  • Fruit juice with added sugar
  • White potatoes
  • White bread
  • White rice
  • White pasta

Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes may be worrisome, but with a strong plan in place to manage your blood glucose levels, and some dedication and discipline, it’s possible to make it through pregnancy with you and your child unaffected.

Make sure you work with your doctor and a dietician to monitor and maintain your weight and body mass index (BMI) throughout your pregnancy.

Testing may be done a few months after pregnancy to make sure blood glucose levels have returned to normal.  It is possible to have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, so make sure you consult your doctor to have regular screenings.

If you have gestational diabetes, regular blood sugar checks are important to the health of you and your baby. Coming up with a plan to manage your food intake during your pregnancy is also a wise step.  Talk to your doctor or your diabetes healthcare provider about your specific target goals for testing and how to reach them.

The American Diabetes Association’s general guidelines for blood sugar checks are as follows:

  • Before a meal (preprandial/fasting blood glucose level—lower than 95 mg/dl (5.27 mmol/L)
  • One hour after a meal (postprandial/lower than 140 mg/dL (7.77 mmol/L)
  • Two hours after a meal (postprandial/lower than 120 mg/dL (6.66 mmol/L)

Learn all about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of gestational diabetes.  Get more information on how to care for yourself if you have gestational diabetes here.

Qin Yang, M.D., Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Physiology, and Biophysics at the Center for Diabetes Research in the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, at the UC Irvine School of Medicine.  He specializes in Endocrinology & Metabolism and Internal Medicine.


  1. American Diabetes Association. “How to Treat Gestational Diabetes.” June 7, 2013. Last updated April 29, 2014.
  2. American Diabetes Association. “Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2016.” Diabetes Care. January 2016. Volume 39, Supplement 1: S1-S112.
  3. DeSisto, C. L., S. Y. Kim, and A. J. Sharma. “Prevalence Estimates of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in the United States, Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), 2007-2010.” Preventing Chronic Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 19, 2014.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Gestational Diabetes.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. September 2014. Accessed September 18, 2016.