Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar (glucose) that starts or is first diagnosed during pregnancy.
Eating a balanced diet is an important part of any pregnancy. Diet is even more important if you have diabetes.
This article discusses the diet recommendations for women with gestational diabetes who do NOT take insulin.
Gestational diabetes diet
The best way to improve your diet is by eating a variety of healthy foods.
You should learn how to read food labels, and consult them when making food decisions.
Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you are a vegetarian or on some other special diet.
In general, your diet should be:
Moderate in fat and protein
Provide controlled levels of carbohydrates through foods including fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates (such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice)
Lower in foods that have a lot of sugar, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, and pastries
You will be asked to eat three small- to moderate- sized meals and one or more snacks each day. Do not skip meals and snacks. Keep the amount and types of food (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) the same from day to day.
Carbohydrates should make up less than half of the calories you eat.
Most carbohydrates are found in starchy or sugary foods, such as bread, rice, pasta, cereal, potatoes, peas, corn, fruit, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, cookies, candy, soda, and other sweets.
High-fiber, whole-grain carbohydrates are healthier choices.
Vegetables (such as carrots, broccoli, and spinach) add much more to your health than to your blood sugar. Enjoy lots of them.
Carbohydrates in food are measured in grams. You can learn to count the carbohydrates in the foods that you like and that you eat.
GRAINS, BEANS, AND STARTCHY VEGETABLES
Eat 6 or more servings a day: one serving equals 1 slice bread, 1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta, or 1 English muffin.
Foods like bread, grains, beans, rice, pasta, and starchy vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates.
Choose carbohydrate sources with plenty of fiber. Eat whole-grain foods such as whole-grain bread or crackers, tortillas, bran cereal, brown rice, or beans. Use whole-wheat or other whole-grain flours in cooking and baking.
Eat more low-fat breads, such as tortillas, English muffins, and pita bread.
Eat 3 - 5 servings a day: one serving equals 1 cup leafy, green vegetables; 1 cup cooked or chopped raw leafy vegetables; 3/4 cup vegetable juice; or 1/2 cup of chopped vegetables, cooked or raw.
Choose fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauces, fats, or salt. You should opt for more dark green and deep yellow vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, romaine, carrots, and peppers.
Eat 2 - 4 servings a day: one serving equals 1 medium whole fruit (such as a banana, apple, or orange); 1/2 cup chopped, frozen, cooked, or canned fruit; or 3/4 cup fruit juice.
Choose whole fruits more often than juices. They have more fiber. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines, are best. Opt for fruit juices without added sweeteners or syrups.
Choose fresh fruits and juices, which retain more of their nutritional value than frozen or canned varieties.
MILK AND DAIRY
Eat 4 servings a day: one serving equals 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 oz. natural cheese, or 2 oz. processed cheese.
Choose low-fat or nonfat milk or yogurt. Yogurt has natural sugar in it, but avoid yogurt with added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Dairy products are a great source of protein, calcium, and phosphorus (to keep calories and cholesterol in check, though, choose low-fat dairy products).
PROTEIN (MEAT, FISH, DRY BEANS, EGGS, AND NUTS)
Eat 2 - 3 servings a day: one serving equals 2-3 oz. cooked meat, poultry, or fish; 1/2 cup cooked beans; 1 egg; or 2 tablespoons peanut butter
Choose fish and poultry more often. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey. Select lean cuts of beef, veal, pork or wild game.
Trim all visible fat from meat. Bake, roast, broil, grill, or boil instead of frying.
Foods from this group are excellent sources of B vitamins, protein, iron, and zinc.
Sweets are high in fat and sugar, so keep portion sizes small.
Eat sweets that are sugar-free.
Ask for extra spoons and forks and split your dessert with others.
Go easy on butter, margarine, salad dressing, cooking oil, and desserts. But don't cut fats and oils from your diet entirely. They provide long-term energy for growth and are essential for brain development.
In general, you should limit your intake of fatty foods, especially those high in saturated fat such as hamburger, cheese, bacon, and butter.
OTHER LIFESTYLE CHANGES
Your doctor may also suggest a safe exercise plan. Walking is usually the easiest type of exercise, but swimming or other low-impact exercises can work just as well. Exercise is an important way to keep blood sugar in control.
American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes -- 2012. Diabetes Care. 200 Jan;25 Suppl 1:S11-63.
American Diabetes Association. Nutrition recommendations and interventions for diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2008;31:S61-S78.
Cunningham FG, Leveno KJ, Bloom SL, et al. Diabetes. In: Cunningham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al, eds. Williams Obstetrics. 23rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2010:chap 52.
Serlin DC, Lash RW. Diagnosis and management of gestational diabetes mellitus. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Jul 1;80(1):57-62.
Benjamin TD, Pridijan G. Update on gestational diabetes. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics. 2010 June;27(2):255-267.
A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine (9/13/2011)