Can gestational diabetes be treated with diet?

Many women, when diagnosed with gestational diabetes, feel overwhelmed, even guilty. It’s important to understand that during pregnancy, women’s bodies go through many changes, including hormonal changes and weight gain. These changes cause a woman’s body to use insulin less efficiently. All women experience some insulin resistance during late pregnancy. 

Gestational diabetes usually develops around week 24 of pregnancy, and all women should be tested for it. For women who do test positive for gestational diabetes, its likely their blood sugar levels will return to normal after giving birth, though, according to the CDC, up to 50% of women develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy and postpartum can significantly reduce the risks for a woman developing type II diabetes.

Almost all women can manage gestational diabetes with dietary interventions and exercise. This is great news because the healthy eating habits you develop while pregnant can last a lifetime. By working with a gestational diabetes nutrition expert, you can learn to manage and control your blood glucose levels with an individualized diet plan.


Here are 6 tips to manage gestational diabetes, improve your wellness, and reduce risks for you and your developing baby during pregnancy and childbirth.

  1. Know your sugars. Sugars are masterful at hiding in foods. Learning how to read food labels, and knowing your sugars and their names, are a great first step toward limiting sugar intake. Get ready for it: there are 56 different names for sugars – everything from galactose and beet sugar to dextrin and barley malt. Anything with “ose” has sugars, as well as “syrup”, or “juice”. 
  2. Opt for whole grain and whole wheat food choices. Rice, bread, even pasta can be purchased whole grain, which has more fiber and nutrients than their refined counterparts. Fiber helps a woman maintain stable blood glucose levels all day.
  3. Fill up with healthy fats. Sometimes you’re craving something of substance. Choose nuts (low-salt or no-salt), avocados (guacamole!), or drizzle olive oil on whole-grain toast as your go-to for fats. Healthy fats can improve blood cholesterol levels.
  4. Craving sweets? Eat one portion of fruit at a time (however limiting portions of high-sugar fruits like pineapple, cherries, and grapes). Add a dollop of sugar-free or plain yogurt and sprinkle with nuts. This crunchy, sweet treat is a great way to curb the sweet craving. (Steer clear of fruit juices that pack all the sugar and none of the fiber). 
  5. Eat a good breakfast, one that includes lean proteins (like eggs!) with a whole-grain piece of toast. Fancy it up with cut-up avocados drizzled with olive oil. Blood sugar levels can be challenging in the morning, so your body needs a healthy breakfast. Steer clear of breakfast cereals. And, remember, no intermittent fasting during pregnancy. Eat regular meals during the day, and smaller portions, as big meals can cause blood sugar levels to go up.
  6. Exercise. Regular exercise is important to help you manage your blood sugar levels. This doesn’t mean you have to get ready for a marathon. Walking and swimming are two great exercises that help improve wellness. Other options include dancing, hiking, low-impact aerobics, and strength training. 

Gestational diabetes can be managed by diet. It’s important a woman work hand-in-hand with her prenatal nutritionist and ObGyn to make sure she’s getting the care and information she needs to make the best food choices for her and her developing baby’s needs.