Diabetes During Pregnancy: Diet Tips

Diet Tips

Blood sugar control during pregnancy is important for your health and the health of your baby. The following tips will help you control your blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Carbohydrates in food turn into sugar (also called glucose) when digested. Glucose is important for you and your baby, but too much glucose in your blood can lead to problems. It is important to eat the right amount of carbohydrate and to choose healthy foods. Carbohydrates are found in starches, fruits, vegetables, milk and yogurt so these food portions should be measured. Sweets and desserts should be avoided as they may lead to high blood sugar levels.

1. Eat 3 meals and 2–3 snacks per day

Eating too much at one time can cause your blood sugar to go too high. Eat smaller meals and have snacks. You have increased nutritional needs during your pregnancy, and your baby is counting on you to provide balanced nutrition.

2. Measure your servings of starchy foods

Include a starch choice at every meal. A reasonable serving size is about 1 cup of cooked rice, grain, noodles or potatoes, or 2 pieces of bread, per meal.

3. One 8-ounce cup of milk at a time

Milk is a healthy food and it is an important source of calcium. Because it is a liquid, milk sugar is absorbed quickly. Having too much milk at one time can lead to high blood sugar. It is best to limit milk to one cup at a time.

4. One small portion of fruit at a time

Fruits are nutritious, but because they have natural sugars, eat only one serving at a time. A serving of fruit is one small piece of fruit, or ½ large fruit, or about 1 cup of mixed fruit. Avoid fruit that has been canned in syrup. Do not drink fruit juice.

5. Eat more fiber

Try whole grain bread, brown rice, wild rice, whole oats, barley, millet or any other whole grains. Include split peas, lentils and any type of bean: pinto, red, black, or garbanzo. These foods are high in fiber and help to keep your blood sugar levels lower than when you eat refined grains such as white bread and white rice.

6. Breakfast Matters

Blood sugar can be difficult to control in the morning because that is when pregnancy hormones are very strong. These hormones can cause your blood sugar levels to rise even before you eat.

Dry cereals, fruits, and milk are not the best choices for breakfast because they are digested very quickly and can cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly.

A breakfast of whole grains plus a protein food is usually best.

7. Avoid fruit juice and sugary drinks

It takes several pieces of fruit to make a glass of juice. Juice is high in natural sugar. Because it is liquid, it raises blood sugar levels quickly. Avoid regular sodas and sugary soft drinks for the same reason. You may use diet drinks and Crystal Light.

8. Strictly limit sweets and desserts

Cakes, cookies, candies, and pastries are high in sugar and are likely to raise blood sugar levels too much. These foods often contain a lot of fat and offer very little nutrition.

9. Stay away from sugars

Do not add any sugar, honey, or syrup to your foods.

10. These artificial sweeteners are safe in pregnancy

  • Aspartame; Equal, NutraSweet, NatraTaste
  • Acesulfame K; Sunett
  • Sucralose; Splenda
  • Stevia; Truvia, Purevia

11. Look out for sugar-alcohols in sugar-free foods

Sugar alcohol is often used to make sugar-free desserts and syrups. These products can be labeled "sugar free" but may contain the same amount of carbohydrate as the versions made with regular sugar. Look at food labels to see the grams of total carbohydrate.

Sugar alcohols may have a laxative effect, or cause gas and bloating. The following are examples of sugar-alcohols: mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysate.


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.