Gestational diabetes lunch ideas
Looking for some gestational diabetes lunch inspiration, then this post is for you! Whether it’s lunch on the run, a packed lunch or a cooked meal, you must plan ahead so that you are not left to make poor choices because of lack of suitable options, or reaching for the nearest thing because you’ve left it too long and become prangry!
8 Golden Rules – the key to a successful diet
- Eat little & often, ideally 3 meals and 3 snacks a day
- ‘Pair’ foods so that they will be tolerated better, “food pairing” is a term that we use in relation to the GD diet
- High protein
- Plenty of good, natural fats
- Low amounts of unrefined complex starchy carbohydrates at every meal
- Bulk up meals with lots of vegetables & salad
- Drink plenty of water
- Go for a stroll
Make sure you get your lunch
Ideally we want blood sugar levels which look (if we were to draw a picture) like rolling hills, rather than huge spikes and crashes. In pregnancy, the best way to achieve good control over levels is to choose sensible foods and to eat little amounts often. Aim for 3 meals and 3 snacks a day.
Missing your lunch or going long periods of time without eating can actually have a detrimental effect on your blood sugar levels. If a meal or snack is missed then blood sugar levels can drop low, causing a false hypo and when this happens the liver dumps stored glucose into the bloodstream to give an energy boost. The glucose can spike levels high and then when eating the next meal, as levels are higher than they should be, they spike even higher.
Following a spike in blood sugars, the body will signal the pancreas to produce insulin, but with gestational diabetes we may not be able to produce enough insulin or hormones block our body from using the insulin we have produced. Sometimes the body will overproduce insulin and cause a big crash in levels, which is the start of roller coaster blood sugar levels.
If you are not getting enough time to eat throughout your day, then try to make changes so that you can. If work is getting in the way, then you should speak with your human resources department or manager around completing a risk assessment regarding your additional needs due to gestational diabetes.
We see many ladies faced with challenges around getting breaks to eat and test, especially those who are medical professionals such as nurses, or teachers, or anyone who is involved in long meetings, or situations where they cannot easily take breaks e.t.c. But to properly manage and control blood sugar levels in pregnancy, changes have to be made so that eating and testing can be achieved. Busy mothers that are looking after other children; make sure you take time to feed yourself as well as your other children.
Use food pairing to make sensible choices for lunches, so if eating something that is higher in carbohydrates (starchy carbs, fruit) then add protein and natural fat to make it more tolerable.
Possible benefits of re-heated foods
It’s been found that when cooking carbohydrates such as pasta or rice and leaving it cool, it changes the structure to become a “resistant starch”1.
It becomes resistant to the enzymes in the gut which break down the carbs and cause the response in glucose levels rising. Therefore meaning, reheating cooked, cold pasta may be beneficial when trying to achieve lower blood sugar levels.
it is evident that the cooking methodology of pasta influences post-prandial glucose response, with a faster return to baseline in both cooled and reheated pasta, as well as reduced AUC following reheating, further work is needed to understand the mechanisms driving these changes1Method of Food Preparation Influences Blood Glucose Response to a High-Carbohydrate Meal: A Randomised Cross-over Trial
An experiment on from the BBC series, Trust me I’m a Doctor, found that re-heating the cold cooked pasta helped reduce the impact on blood sugar levels by 50%
Just as expected, eating cold pasta led to a smaller spike in blood glucose and insulin than eating freshly boiled pasta had. But then we found something that we really didn’t expect – cooking, cooling and then reheating the pasta had an even more dramatic effect. Or, to be precise, an even smaller effect on blood glucose. In fact, it reduced the rise in blood glucose by 50%. This certainly suggests that reheating the pasta made it into an even more “resistant starch”. It’s an extraordinary result and one never measured before.
The reason this is highlighted as a possible benefit, is that in other studies on rice2, there was little impact on post prandial blood glucose responses. We have also found from members of our Facebook group, that whilst it may be beneficial for some, for others it made little to no impact for them. It is however, worth a try!
Leftovers gestational diabetes lunch ideas:
- Any GD friendly meal which is leftover and suitable for re-heating safely e.g. spag bol, or cottage pie, tikka
- Spanish frittata with leftover potatoes
- Bubble and squeak with fried eggs
- Leftover chilli with added fresh chilies, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream and grated cheese with nachos
- Leftover cooked wholewheat pasta mixed with chopped smoked sausage, cheese, broccoli and mayonnaise or chopped tomatoes and herbs, served with salad
- Warmed leftover chicken fajita wrap with salad and mayonnaise
Think about the order you eat your food
When eating lunch it is quite easy to eat it in a set order which can be beneficial to maintaining lower blood glucose levels.
Research3 suggests that eating vegetables, followed with proteins and fats, and carbs last can reduce the postprandial spike in blood glucose levels! This is maximising the food pairing benefit.
Gestational diabetes lunch shopping list suggestions:
- Eggs! Lion stamped eggs if you want to eat eggs soft, runny, or raw
- Bacon or turkey rashers
- Cooked meats or Quorn slices; ham, turkey, chicken, beef, pork, Mattesons smoked sausage
- Bread; Burgen Soya & Linseed (found to be the best tolerated bread by mothers in our Facebook support group), local bakery Low GI bread, Hi-Lo, 400g loaf slice of granary or wholemeal, brown sandwich thins (shops own brand, Kingsmill or Warburtons), rye bread, Morrisons in-store bakery pumpernickel with sunflower seeds
- Wholemeal tortilla wraps (mini ones, or Mission Deli), or BFree wraps (quinoa & chia seed, sweet potato, or multigrain)
- Wholemeal pittas (mini ones are preferable)
- Wholegrain crispbreads or crackers; Ryvita crackerbread, Ryvita crispbread, Jacobs crispbreads, shops own brands – it’s important to choose wholegrain versions!
- Ryvita Multigrain Rye Cakes
- Fish; smoked salmon, mackerel, prawns, tinned tuna or salmon, anchovies
- Real butter (ideally from grass fed cows e.g. Kerrygold)
- Sour cream (full fat)
- Hummus (full fat)
- Sandwich/deli fillers (full fat)
- Wholewheat pasta
- Chopped tomatoes
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- Tomato purée
- Pickled beetroot
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Nuts; in their natural form without added salt, flavourings or coatings. Salted and flavoured nuts can be eaten but can have a very high salt content. Good nut choices are: Mixed nuts, almonds, brazils, macadamia, peanuts, pecan, pine nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts. Avoid dried fruit!
- Pork scratchings
- Seeds; Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, linseed, flaxseed, chia seeds, soya beans
- Salad; salad leaves, rocket, baby spinach, lettuce, spring onions, peppers, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, radishes
- Vegetables; onions, avocado, mushrooms, carrots, courgettes, new potatoes, baking potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, chillies, cabbage, beetroot, sweetcorn
- Cheese; all full fat cheeses including cheddars, cream cheese, cottage cheese, soft cheese, halloumi, feta, mozzarella, Babybels or cheese portions (avoid unpasteurised cheeses which should not be eaten in pregnancy unless cooked)
- Mayonnaise (full fat)
- Herbs & spices; fresh chives, fresh basil, paprika, chilli flakes, garlic, mixed herbs
Hot gestational diabetes lunch ideas
- Omelettes; add cheese, ham, chicken, Quorn, chives, onion, peppers, mushrooms, paprika, chilli flakes – whatever takes your fancy! Add 3 new potatoes, 2 x 400g loaf slices, or 1 x 800g loaf slice of toast or 2 x Ryvita and salad
- Small jacket potato or half a larger potato (no bigger than your fist); with bacon, sausage, ham, smoked sausage, grated cheese, leftover chilli, or tuna mayonnaise on top, add salad on the side
- Loaded jacket potato
- Crustless warm mini quiches with salad and new potatoes, rice, couscous or quinoa
- Cheese on toast; add meats, tuna, onion on top
- Grilled cheese sandwich (toastie); add meats, tuna, onion or avocado
- Tortilla wrap or pitta pizza; add a little tomato purée, grated cheese and meat, olives and veggies, dried mixed herbs and drizzle of olive oil, grill for a few mins
- Garlic mushrooms with cheese on top of wholemeal sandwich thins
- Mushroom soup
- Homemade Vegetable soup
- Broccoli & Stilton soup
- Cauliflower Cheese soup
- Ham & Vegetable soup
- Chinese Chicken Noodle soup
- Chicken soup with added chicken breast, buttered bread or ryvitas for dunking
- High meat content beef burger with grilled halloumi slices and sweet potato chips
- Steak, chorizo, egg and potato warm green bean salad
Create mixed salads using any of the following: Salad leaves, rocket, spinach, lettuce, celery, onion, cucumber, peppers, radish, avocado, fresh herbs, chilies, spring onion, olives, capers, onion, grated cabbage, green beans, lemon, lime, seeds, nuts, edamame beans, *tomato, *grated carrot, *beetroot, *fresh peas, *sweetcorn
*some mother’s cannot tolerate tomatoes, carrots, beetroot , peas, or sweetcorn well, so it is advisable to try these one at a time with foods which are well tolerated and then test to see how well YOU tolerate them
Add the following to mixed salads:
- Cooked meats; ham, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, bacon, Quorn
- Cheeses; cheddars, feta, cottage cheese, grilled halloumi, mozzarella
- Boiled eggs
- Cooked fish; tuna, mackerel, smoked salmon, anchovies, prawns
- Pan fried steak
- Cooked, roasted chicken breast
- Slice of crustless quiche
Don’t forget to add ONE starchy carbohydrate to your salad such as:
3-4 egg sized new potatoes (you could also cut and fry these into potato wedges), 3 tbsp of potato salad, 4 tbsp of basmati or brown rice, 4 tbsp of cooked pasta, 4 tbsp of couscous, 4 tbsp of quinoa, 1 x 800g loaf slice of good GD bread, 2 x 400g loaf slices of good GD bread, 1 x wholemeal pitta, 1 x high protein bagel thin, 1 x wholemeal sandwich thin, 1 x tortilla wrap, 2 Pagen Krisprolls, 3 x Ryvita, 4 x Scottish oatcakes, 4 x falafels
Dress salads with:
- Full fat mayonnaise
- Balsamic vinegar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Full fat Caesar salad dressing
- Full fat coleslaw
- Full fat remoulade
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon or lime
- Full fat Hummus
- Homemade dressings: make in an old jar, tub, or bottle: lid on shake & pour
- Pesto dressing; 2 tbsp squeezed lemon, 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, tbsp of pesto
- French mayonnaise dressing; 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 ½ tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 pinch salt & ground black pepper
- French dressing; ¼ crushed clove garlic, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 pinch salt & ground black pepper
- Balsamic dressing; 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 pinch salt & ground black pepper
Sandwiches, wraps, pittas, crispbreads
One of the following:
- 1 x 800g loaf slice of good GD bread
- 2 x 400g loaf slices of good GD bread
- 1 x wholemeal mini pitta
- 1 x wholemeal mini tortilla wrap or a well-known tolerated wrap as shown on this post
- 1 x high protein bagel thin
- 1 x wholemeal sandwich thin
- 3 x Ryvita crispbreads
- 4 x Ryvita Thins
- 4 x Scottish oatcakes
Have chopped cucumber, celery and pepper sticks on the side, or if you miss crisps with your sandwich, try some nuts, seeds or pork scratchings!
- Store bought sandwich/deli fillers (avoid any containing dried fruits e.g. coronation chicken)
- 2 Boiled eggs crushed with full fat mayonnaise (egg mayonnaise)
- Cheese, salad & mayonnaise
- Tuna mayonnaise and cucumber
- Homemade Coronation chicken
- Chicken, sweetcorn and mayonnaise
- Cream cheese, ham, pickled gherkins, olives and salad
- Spicy chicken and salad
- Steak and rocket
- Hummus and olives
- Ham, cheese, salad, mustard and mayonnaise
- Prawns, salad, avocado and mayonnaise
- Falafal, cheese, salad and hummus
- Avocado and chargrilled roasted veg
- Cold chicken fajita filling, salad and cheese
- Bacon, lettuce and tomato with mayonnaise
- Smoked sausage, cheese and salad
- Egg, bacon and cheese
- Smoked mackerel fillets blitzed with full fat cream cheese
- Cream cheese and smoked salmon
- Cottage cheese and salad
- Herring tostada; smoked herring in sour cream with chives on shredded lettuce on mini wholemeal wraps (toasted till crispy)
- Prawns or crab meat
Watch out for Lunchtime ‘double carbing‘
- Avoid eating crisps with sandwiches. Crisps and a sandwich, roll, wrap e.t.c. is too much carbohydrate for you body to process in one go and is ‘double carbing‘. Instead, save your crisps for a snack with cheese or some nuts for later
- Avoid eating yoghurt, fruit and sweet treats as lunchtime desserts. Once again, this is too much carbohydrate for your body to process in one go. Have these an hour later as an afternoon snack instead. A sugar free or no added sugar jelly pot is a great option to follow for ‘pudding’
- Beware of quiches with pastry crusts alongside other carbohydrates such as potatoes, pasta, rice, bread e.t.c. Ideally opt for crustless quiches so that you can have an unrefined complex carbohydrate instead of the pastry
- Watch out for carbs served with carbs, such as baked beans on toast, baked beans on a jacket potato, soup with a roll, pasta with garlic bread e.t.c.
Gestational diabetes lunch on the run
Many of us need to grab lunch on the go and this can easily be achieved as long as you make sensible choices based on the 8 Golden Rules. Many more shops are now stocking fresh lower carb, high protein choices. But you can also grab a few bits to put together your own gestational diabetes lunch.
Subway salads are a favourite of many members of our Facebook group. McDonald’s, KFC and other fast food restaurants have good salads that won’t impact blood sugar levels too much, but watch out for sauces and dressings that are high in carbs.
M&S Food shops have some great items and most supermarket stores and corner shops have items that are perfect as long as you think outside of the box and walk beyond the sandwich cabinet! Items from the hot chicken counters, cooked meats and fish, cheese, nuts and prepared salads are easy to whack together in a hurry.
Golden Rule No 8
Rule No 8 of the 8 Golden Rules is to go for a stroll (exercise) and if you can manage this after eating lunch, you will see such a benefit in your blood sugar levels.
Give yourself some time and get some fresh air if can. Weather permitting, perhaps lunch can be a picnic. Take a stroll if you can, pop down the street, or even to the other side of your building if you’re stuck inside.
But I eat a healthy diet…
This post shows a typical popular healthy lunch, but one which can easily spike blood glucose levels.
Gestational Diabetes UK Lunch Meal Ideas
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Thanks, Jo (Founder and Author of Gestational Diabetes UK)
- 1.Hodges C, Archer F, Chowdhury M, et al. Method of Food Preparation Influences Blood Glucose Response to a High-Carbohydrate Meal: A Randomised Cross-over Trial. Foods. 2019;9(1). doi:10.3390/foods9010023
- 2.Chiu Y, Stewart M. Effect of variety and cooking method on resistant starch content of white rice and subsequent postprandial glucose response and appetite in humans. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2013;22(3):372-379. doi:10.6133/apjcn.2013.22.3.08
- 3.Shukla A, Iliescu R, Thomas C, Aronne L. Food Order Has a Significant Impact on Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Levels. Diabetes Care. 2015;38(7):e98-9. doi:10.2337/dc15-0429