Diet for Pregnant Women with Gestational Diabetes

The diet for pregnant women with gestational diabetes is fundamental. You should see a nutritionist and follow up with your doctor.
Diet for Pregnant Women with Gestational Diabetes

Last update: 22 June, 2023

Gestational diabetes (GD) is the most frequent metabolic disorder during pregnancy. It’s estimated that 12 out of every 100 pregnant women develop the disease. In addition, when it’s not controlled, complications occur. First-line treatment includes an adequate diet for pregnant women with gestational diabetes and, if necessary, pharmacological treatment.

In this article, we’ll offer you some tools and options to help complement the information you get from a professional. Do you want to know more? Keep reading!

What is gestational diabetes?

The journal Gynecology and Obstetrics of Mexico, in 2017, reiterates diabetes as one of the most frequent diseases in the world. The fact that it can appear in pregnant women, aggravates it even more as a public health problem. According to this publication, it’s a condition that starts and is recognized during pregnancy and is characterized by carbohydrate intolerance, which generates a severe increase in blood sugar.

What are its causes?

There’s no single cause, but some predisposing factors are excess weight, obesity, or advanced age. However, it’s the hormonal changes of pregnancy that most lead to insulin resistance. This hormone is responsible for carrying ingested sugar into the cells. If it doesn’t work properly, sugar accumulates in the blood.

What are its complications?

The most frequent complications are premature delivery, exaggerated growth of the baby, respiratory problems, type-2 diabetes, stillbirth, preeclampsia, cesarean section, and urinary infections in the mother, among others.

Diet for women with gestational diabetes

The journal Clinical Nutrition in Medicine reports that 70 percent of gestational diabetes is treated exclusively with diet, without the need for insulin as additional therapy. In this regard, only insulin is allowed, as all other medications can cross the placenta to the fetus.

The ultimate goal of the diet is to achieve a change in eating style that achieves adequate sugar and weight control, according to the criteria of the International Office of Medicine.

A pregnant woman checking her blood sugar.
To avoid the risks of gestational diabetes, it’s key to follow a proper diet to regulate blood sugar.


The dietary recommendations for gestational diabetes focus on carbohydrate intake. This has a direct influence on blood sugar after meals. Therefore, 40-50% of total dietary calories is recommended. The American Diabetes Association (2021) states the following:

  • Include 175 grams of carbohydrates per day distributed in 3 main meals and 2 or 3 snacks. One before bedtime should be considered.
  • 71 grams of protein and 28 grams of fiber through fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Emphasize monounsaturated fats (olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (oily fish twice a week and nuts daily). In addition, saturated fats should be limited and trans fats avoided.
  • Vitamins and minerals and their supplements should be adjusted in the same way as for pregnant women without gestational diabetes.

Other considerations

Other dietary considerations for pregnant women with gestational diabetes are as follows:

  • Follow a balanced, varied, and healthy diet. In this regard, the Mediterranean diet pattern is suggested, which includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and olive oil as the main fat. Within meats, white meats and fish are suggested, as well as a limited consumption of dairy and red meats.
  • Avoid foods and beverages containing sugars, such as soft drinks, industrialized juices, cakes, cookies, and sweet jams, among others. Check the labels of the products on the market.
  • Ensure adequate calorie intake according to each trimester of pregnancy. Don’t go on restrictive diets.
  • Include foods with carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI). The GI is based on a numerical scale from 1 to 100, where 100 indicates the fastest absorption for a carbohydrate. Below 55 is considered low.
  • Apply cooking methods such as steaming, grilling, or baking. Starchy vegetables shouldn’t be overcooked, as they increase the glycemic index.
  • Exercise, as it increases blood sugar intake and improves insulin sensitivity. Moderate exercise for 1 hour or walking 30 minutes a day is recommended, especially after meals. The exercise plan should be indicated by a health professional.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco completely. In addition, coffee should be limited.

A model menu plan for women with gestational diabetes

To design a menu for pregnant women with gestational diabetes, the mother’s caloric needs, pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), gestational weight gain, and blood sugar levels should be taken into account. Here’s a sample of meal options to choose from:

Breakfast 1

  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread drizzled with olive oil
  • 1 boiled egg or 1 ounce of cottage cheese

Breakfast 2

  • 1 large (200 grams) nonfat yogurt
  • 1 handful of unsweetened whole-grain cereal

Breakfast 3

  • 1 whole English muffin
  • 1 ounce of cottage cheese or ricotta cheese.
A pregnant woman holding a bowl of cottage cheese.
White cheeses, such as cottage cheese, can be included in the diet of pregnant women with gestational diabetes. Some unsweetened yogurts may be good choices for snacking.

Lunch 1

  • 1 grilled chicken breast seasoned with olive oil
  • 2/3 cup brown rice
  • 1 small fruit

Lunch 2

  • 2/3 cup whole wheat pasta al dente
  • 1/4 cup tomato for pasta
  • 3 ounces ground beef
  • 1/2 cup salad

Lunch 3

  • 1/2 cup cooked seasoned chickpeas with vegetables
  • Baked chicken, beef, or fish
  • 1 small fruit

Dinner 1

  • 1/2 large baked potato
  • Steamed fish
  • 1/2 cup salad
  • 1 small fruit

Dinner 2

  • 1/3 cup whole wheat pasta salad
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, broccoli, cucumber, and tomato
  • Cottage cheese or nonfat white cheese
  • 1 small fruit

Dinner 3

  • Turkey sandwich (2 slices whole wheat bread, 1 ounce sliced cheese, 60 grams turkey breast, lettuce, and tomato)
  • Pear or apple


The following can be good choices for snacks: Cottage cheese and 1 medium fruit, nuts, whole-grain crackers with 1 ounce of cheese or 1 cup of yogurt with 3/4 cup of blueberries.

Before bedtime remember to include protein: 2 slices of whole wheat bread with cottage cheese, 1 whole wheat pita with 1 tablespoon of hummus, unsweetened yogurt with nuts, or whole wheat bread with peanut butter.

Be sure to visit a nutritionist

The menu plan for pregnant women with gestational diabetes should be overseen by a professional in nutrition and dietetics and the accompaniment of your obstetrician. Remember that the diet must be well planned to ensure the baby’s growth and control blood sugar.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • American Diabetes Association. 14. 2021. Management of Diabetes in Pregnancy: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes2021. Diabetes Care; 44 (Suppl. 1): S200-1
  • Codina M, Corcoy R, Goya MM. 2020. Actualización urgente: alternativa temporal para el diagnóstico de hiper-glucemia gestacional y el seguimiento de estas mujeres y aquellas con diabetes pregestacional durante la pandemia COVID-19. Consenso del Grupo Español de Diabetes y Embarazo (GEDE) de la Sociedad Española de Diabetes (SED) y la Sociedad Española de Ginecología y Obstetricia (SEGO). Endocrinol Diabetes Nutr; 67(8): 545-52. Disponible en:
  • Gonzalo Díaz-Soto, Pablo Fernández Velasco, Daniel de Luis Román. 2021. Nutrición Clínica en Medicina. Vol. XV – Número 3 – pp. 127-137. Disponible en:
  • Vigil-De Gracia P, Olmedo J. 2017. Diabetes gestacional: conceptos actuales. Ginecol. obstet. Méx.  [revista en la Internet] [citado  2023  Ene  24] ;  85( 6 ): 380-390. Disponible en:

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.