Gestational Diabetes Diet Plan

Gestational diabetes is the name given to diabetes which appears for the first time during pregnancy. In a majority of cases it disappears after the baby is born. Although there is increased risk of developing diabetes in the future, risk can be reduced by controlling your weight. Blood sugar (glucose) levels are normally controlled by a hormone called insulin, produced by the pancreas. Glucose comes from the digestion of starchy foods, such as bread and potatoes, from sugar and naturally sweet foods, and the liver where it is made and passed into the blood.

Gestational diabetes occurs because pregnancy increases the need for insulin and some women do not have the capacity to make extra insulin. Insulin enables glucose to be used as a fuel by the body. Insufficient insulin can therefore result in high blood sugar levels. The excess glucose passes over into urine and can make the mother pass more urine and feel thirsty. Other symptoms include tiredness, blurred vision and disorientation.

To enable your baby to grow and develop properly, your blood glucose level should be kept within normal limits. This is usually achieved by dietary changes, but occasionally requires treating with tablets or insulin.

The aim of treatment is to improve the mother's blood glucose regulation and to enable proper foetal development. For this reason regular meals and snacks are encouraged, especially in respect of carbohydrate foods. Diabetics should aim for slow-released low glycaemic carbs as the basis of each meal and snack. See our Glycaemic Index Tables for GI values of foods.

It's important that pregnant mothers who develop gestational diabetes follow a suitable diet because:

  • What you eat affects your blood glucose levels
  • Being a healthy weight helps control your blood sugar levels
  • Diet affects the amounts and type of fats in blood, keeping these to a desired level reduces risk of heart disease
  • Blood sugar control will have an effect on the infant's development

A diet for gestational diabetes is simply based on the healthy eating guidelines which we all should be following. However, so called 'diabetic products' such as special chocolates, cakes, biscuits, etc are not recommended. Eating a range of low fat, low sugar, high fibre 'ordinary' foods is far better. Many of these 'diabetic products' are no lower in fat or calories and are normally more expensive. Some contain the sweetener sorbitol which can cause wind, stomach upsets and diarrhoea. However 'low sugar'/'sugar-free' products, like diet soft drinks, are fine, and can be enjoyed.

The usual guidelines for healthy eating during pregnancy also apply. This includes a good folic acid intake and avoiding too much vitamin A and foods containing high levels of vitamin A (e.g. liver). It's important that the mother doesn't gain excessive amounts of body fat and the ideal weight gain is 9-13kg (1½ - 2 stones) during pregnancy. Excess weight gain is difficult to lose afterwards and can lead to type 2 diabetes, so it is wise to control it now. If you are overweight prior to becoming pregnant, then eat healthily during the pregnancy to minimise any further weight gain.

The following meal plan is an example plan of a healthy diet which is suitable for a gestational diabetic mother. It is aimed at providing sufficient nutrition for both mother and infant with a healthy weight gain for the mother. Use this to give you an idea of what are healthy and nutritious foods to include, but don't forget to vary your food choices and to drink plenty of water through the day. Remember to check with your doctor or diabetes specialist nurse before commencing this plan.

High fibre cereal (40g porridge, 40g no added sugar muesli, 2 x Shredded Wheat, 2 x Weetabix, etc) + 200ml skimmed milk + sweetener (optional)
and/or 1-2 slices granary bread with olive oil-based spread
200ml fruit juice
Mug tea/coffee
1-2 oatcakes or 1-2 digestive biscuits
Item fruit
Sandwich: 2 slices granary bread + olive oil-based spread + slice deli chicken/ham or tuna in low fat natural yoghurt or smoked salmon
or 3-4 oatcakes or rye crispbread with cottage cheese
Mixed salad
Low fat / low sugar yoghurt
Drink water
1-2 oatcakes or 1-2 digestive biscuits
Item fruit
Mug tea/coffee
Evening Meal
120g chicken breast or 140g white fish or 120g lean meat
and (dry weight) 50g basmati rice or 50g wholewheat pasta or 5-6 small boiled new potatoes or small sweet potato
and loads of veg or large salad
2 slices granary bread with low fat cheese spread
Drink water

As with all the meal plans this is merely a guide and you are encouraged to eat a variety of different meats / fish / alternatives, complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables every day, and drink plenty of water. Adapt the plan to suit your own needs and daily routine and vary portions and food choices from day to day. It's especially important during pregnancy to ensure that food is prepared properly and free from contamination in order to minimise risk of food poisoning.

Plans for people with illness or medical conditions in no way should override advice provided specifically for you by your doctor, clinical dietitian or other clinician. We advise that you seek the advice of a suitably qualified physician before commencing any exercise regime, following any dietary or nutritional regimen or beginning the use of any dietary supplements, legal or otherwise. The information provided on the Website is intended as information only and does not constitute advice. Therefore, it must not be relied on to assist in making or refraining from making a decision, or to assist in deciding on a course of action.