Diet to Prevent Gestational Diabetes

Did you know that pregnancy alters insulin sensitivity, putting you and your baby's health at risk? Find out how to prevent gestational diabetes.
Diet to Prevent Gestational Diabetes

Last update: 07 September, 2021

Approximately 3% to 5% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes in their second or third trimester. It’s the result of a dysfunction of the Beta cells of the pancreas aggravated by insulin resistance and the hormonal alteration typical of this stage. Although there are multiple risk factors, it’s essential to know the diet to prevent gestational diabetes.

Diagnosis of this disease is by means of the O’Sullivan test. This consists of assessing blood sugar levels after ingesting 50 g of oral glucose. If it’s higher than 139 mg/dl, an a posteriori curve is performed with 100 g in a period of 3 hours.

Did you know that not treating it properly means complications for both you and your future child? On the one hand, you have a higher risk of preeclampsia, premature delivery, and cesarean section. What’s more, it puts you at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, the child is born weighing more than 4 kg (better known as macrosomia), may have hypoglycemia and, in the long term, may suffer from obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic diseases.

Pregnant women on a diet to prevent gestational diabetes.

Risk factors for gestational diabetes

As we’ve said in the beginning, the risk of gestational diabetes increases with:

  • Being overweight or obese. It has to do with both pre-pregnancy weight and weight gain during pregnancy.
  • A family history of gestational diabetes.
  • A previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes.
  • Pregnancy after 35 years of age.
  • Race and ethnicity. There’s a higher occurrence rate in Asian and Hispanic countries, the Pacific Islands, and North Africa.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome.

In addition, diet is another factor to take into account given that it’s effective in 80% of cases.

Diet to prevent gestational diabetes

The main objective of nutrition during gestational diabetes is to regulate blood glucose levels. Most studies agree that following the Mediterranean diet based on vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, virgin olive oil, and fish prevents the onset of gestational diabetes.

Generally, complex carbohydrates should account for 40% of daily calories. Therefore, experts recommend against consuming soft drinks and juices as well as products rich in rapidly absorbed sugars, such as sweets and pastries (including cookies).

It’s also advisable to reduce the intake of sausage and foods rich in trans fats, as they increase the risk of developing this disease by 6%. Studies have observed differences between the consumption of proteins of animal origin (meat, fish, and eggs) and vegetable origin (legumes). After replacing 5% of meat with legumes, the risk of developing gestational diabetes decreases by 51%.

Vitamin D is one of the nutrients with a high presence in investigations because its deficit is very common and has been related to an increase in the occurrence of this type of diabetes. However, supplementation shows contradictory results.

Speaking of hydration, you can drink water or some herbal infusion before, during, and after meals. Regarding coffee and tea, it’s preferable they be free of caffeine and theine. If this isn’t enough to lower your blood glucose levels, the doctor may prescribe insulin injections.

Woman eating a healthy breakfast to prevent gestational diabetes.

An example of a diet

  • Breakfast: 1 glass of milk or vegetable drink + 1 slice of whole wheat bread with canned tuna and roasted peppers or peanut butter and banana slices.
  • Mid-morning (if you’re hungry): 1 plain yogurt with oat flakes and a diced apple.
  • Lunch: Endive, tomato, and corn salad + baked sea bream with potato, leek, and carrot + 1 slice of watermelon.
  • Snack (optional): rooibos tea + a handful of toasted almonds.
  • Dinner: Gazpacho + scrambled eggs or tofu with mushrooms + 1 medium piece of fruit (a peach, for example).

About the diet to prevent gestational diabetes

Finally, as gestational diabetes produces complications throughout pregnancy and after delivery, all pregnant women must undergo the test starting from the 24th week of their pregnancy. This way, it’s easier to keep it under control.

It’s also important to consult a dietician-nutritionist for advice on nutrition to prevent and treat gestational diabetes so that your child grows up healthy.

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.

  • Plows, J F; Stanley, J L; Baker, P N; Reynolds, C M; Vickers, M H (2018) The pathophysiology of gestational diabetes mellitus. Int J Mol Sci, 19(11): 3342.
  • Committee on practice bulletins-obstrectic (2018) Gestational diabetes mellitus. Obstet Gynecol, 131(2): 49-64.
  • Spaight, C; Gross, J; Horsch, A; Puder, J J (2016) Gestational diabetes mellitus. Endocr Dev, 31: 163-78.
  • Ministerio de Salud y Protección Social (2016) Guía de práctica clínica para la prevención ,el tratamiento y el seguimiento de la diabetes gestacional. 
  • Contreras-Zúñiga, E., Arango, L. G., Zuluaga-Martínez, S. X., & Ocampo, V. (2008). Diabetes y embarazo. Revista Colombiana de Obstetricia y Ginecología, 59(1), 38-45.

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