Gestational diabetes meals
If you need help with ideas and inspiration for gestational diabetes meals, then hopefully this post should help you!
Just because you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, meals don’t have to be something special, or different to what you like, or what the rest of the family eat. It’s all about tweaking!
Gestational diabetes meals can be your normal meals that you’re used to eating, just optimised to achieve the best blood sugar levels possible.
Think about what you could do with your existing recipes to make them follow the 8 Golden Rules
Always try to cook your meals from scratch as much as possible. This means you know exactly what ingredients are going into your meals and you can adjust them accordingly.
Help with choosing vegetables for gestational diabetes meals
Whilst vegetables are packed with lots of fibre, vitamins and minerals, some vegetables are better for achieving lower blood sugar levels than others and some may need to be limited and avoided completely.
The biggest culprits that tend to cause higher blood sugar levels are peas, sweetcorn, carrots, parsnips, swede, butternut squash, legumes and beans. Alone these vegetables on the plate are not too bad, but combined or alongside potatoes, sweet potatoes and other carbs, it can all just be a bit too carb heavy to maintain good blood sugar levels with.
Gestational diabetes meals shopping list suggestions:
*Items listed in green are foods which are safe GD foods, you can snack on these and they will not raise blood sugars significantly and in some cases, due to high protein, they may lower levels. If you are hungry then these are your go to ‘safe foods’ that you can eat freely
- Eggs! Lion stamped eggs if you want to eat eggs soft – runny or raw
- Meat & Quorn; chicken, turkey, pork, beef, lamb, mince, bacon, turkey rashers, high meat content sausages & burgers, gammon
- Cooked meats or Quorn slices; ham, turkey, chicken, beef, pork, Mattessons smoked sausage, chorizo
- Real butter (ideally from grass fed cows e.g. Kerrygold) or ghee
- Real cream; double cream, sour cream (NOT Elmlea)
- Fish; smoked salmon, mackerel, prawns, tinned tuna or salmon, anchovies
- 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 cooking them)
- Salad; salad leaves, rocket, baby spinach, lettuce, spring onions, peppers, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, radishes
- Vegetables and fruit; onions, avocado, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, courgettes, new potatoes, baking potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, chillies, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, beetroot, sweetcorn, butternut squash, aubergine, parsnips, swede, spinach, green beans, lemon, ginger, frozen peas, okra
- Herbs & spices; fresh chives, fresh basil, paprika, chilli flakes, garlic, mixed herbs, rosemary
- 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 granary or wholemeal, brown sandwich thins (shops own brand, Kingsmill or Warburtons), rye bread, Morrisons in-store bakery pumpernickel with sunflower seeds
- Wholemeal or seeded tortilla wraps (mini ones are preferable), or BFree wraps
- 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!
- Seeds; Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, linseed, flaxseed, chia seeds, soya beans
- Pasta; Wholewheat pasta, wholewheat spaghetti, wholewheat pasta sheets
- Rice; Basmati, brown basmati or brown rice, wild rice
- Couscous; wholegrain couscous
- Quinoa; wholegrain quinoa
- Lentils; red split and green
- Chopped tomatoes
- Kidney beans
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- Tomato purée
- Pickled beetroot
- Pickled onions
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Mayonnaise (full fat)
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Soy sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Salt & Pepper
- Wholewheat flour
- Stock cubes or stock pots
- Coconut milk (full fat)
- Thai green curry paste
Gestational diabetes meal ideas, hints and tips
This is far from an exhaustive list of ideas, but gives a basic idea of things that can be great gestational diabetes meals if made from scratch and tweaked to meet your needs! Some of the ideas listed have links to recipes, some are included as free recipes and others are part of the optional membership
Family Favourite meals
All the meals I made during my GD pregnancies and the recipes for this website are based on family favourite meals that both adults and children can enjoy.
If you have allergies or intolerances to certain things, fussy or picky eaters, then tweak the meals so that they suit everyone that needs to be fed, rather than cooking different meals for everyone. Add additional items to the plates and remove parts that don’t suit. Finely dice, chop or blitz vegetables into dishes so that they aren’t recognised for those that would pick them out. If meals need to be gluten, dairy or nut free, then select meals which best suit your needs and add the additional dairy or nut at the end for yourself if you need it for extra pairing of the carbs.
Here’s some of our family favourite meals:
- Spag bol
- Leftover Sunday Roast Chicken & Ham pasta
- Slow Cooker Beef stew
- Cod tray bake
- Chilli Con Carne
- Sausage surprise pasta!
- Cottage pie
- Chicken Korma
- Salmon and zesty couscous
- Roast dinner (see further below)
Meat & Quorn
Meat and Quorn has a high amount of protein and iron. Meat with lots of green vegetables or salad and a small portion of carbohydrate such as 2-3 egg sized new potatoes, 3-4 tbsp of rice, pasta or couscous makes for a good gestational diabetes meal. Try the following meats:
- Steak; beef or venison
- Pork chops or loins
- Gammon steaks or bacon chops
- Lamb cutlets or steaks
- Chicken breast, thighs or drumsticks (avoid breaded or crumbed varieties)
- Duck breast
- Mince; beef, lamb, pork, turkey
- High meat content sausages (>90% meat content)
- Quorn fillets, sausages, burgers (avoid breaded varieties)
If you eat fish, you should try to incorporate 2 portions of oily fish into your diet a week. Oily fish is is rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which is essential for fetal development of the brain, nervous system and retina.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) currently advises pregnant women should eat no more than 2 portions (140g each) of oily fish a week due to the risk of toxins and pollutants.
Oily fish includes:
Due to high mercury content in certain fish, pregnant women are advised to avoid consuming marlin, swordfish and shark and to limit consumption of tuna as follows: –
- 2 tuna steaks a week (each weighing about 140g when cooked or 170g when raw), or
- 4 medium-sized cans of tuna a week (about 140g a can when drained)
Raw shellfish should be avoided, but cooked shellfish is safe to consume in pregnancy.
Fish for food pairing
Fish is a great source of lean protein, but a protein that we find does not pair as well as meat. This means that many ladies report higher blood sugar levels when eating carbs alongside fish compared to when they eat the same carbs with meat. Therefore, you may need to incorporate more protein and fat into the meal when eating carbs with fish to help the food pairing.
Avocado, olives, olive oil, cream and mayonnaise are all good sources of fat that can be added to meals with fish that work well. Why not try out this cod tray bake:
Curries come in many different shapes and forms and can be very different from one part of the world to another and so it is hard to summarise information on curries in one point, but I will try my best based on the most commonly known and made curries in UK households.
Curries can make for great gestational diabetes meals but there are a few things to watch out for…
Make them from scratch
They should be made from scratch where possible, rather than ready made curries from jars as these can contain high amounts of added sugar. If you make the curry yourself, you can control exactly what ingredients go into it to make it suitable.
Carby curries with vegetables, lentils and chickpeas
Some curries, especially vegetarian or vegan curries can sometimes be extremely carb heavy with lack of protein to help pair them. Lentils and chickpeas are popular choices in curries such as dhal and whilst a good source of protein, they are quite carby too. Once adding rice or bread alongside these type of curries leads to high blood sugar levels for many.
This means that these types of curries need additional fat and protein to help make them more tolerable. Adding full fat cream, yoghurt, crème fraîche, or sour cream into curries will help increase the fat content. Tofu or Quorn is also helpful for increasing the protein content in vegetarian or vegan curries. Adding peanut butter, nuts and seeds can also help with pairing curries.
Rice and bread accompaniments
Chapatis and naan breads contain high amounts of carbohydrates and so if you want to eat these then they should ideally be eaten instead of rice to avoid double carbing. Some find BFree wraps more tolerable as an accompaniment than other types of breads.
Curries can be served with a small portion (3-4 tbsp) of cooked basmati, brown basmati, brown wholegrain rice, or wild rice. You could also try cauliflower rice as an alternative to normal rice. This way you can then serve the curry with a good sized portion of cauliflower rice and have a bread accompaniment too if you wish. Cauliflower rice is easy to make yourself, or you can buy pre-made cauliflower rice fresh or frozen.
There are lots of curries that can be made into suitable gestational diabetes meals, here’s just some ideas:
- Basic chicken curry
- Beef curry
- Thai Green Curry
- Crispy Indian Okra (Bhindi)
- Chilli (serve with either 3tbsp of cooked rice or tortilla chips) with lots of guacamole, sour cream and cheese
- Jerk chicken (serve with rice and peas) and green veg
- Chicken or steak fajitas (use one wrap and then make the rest using lettuce leaves as the wraps)
- Huevos rancheros
- Spicy prawn linguine
Serve these dishes with Mediterranean roasted vegetables or a big salad
- Spaghetti bolognese
- Lasagne (sub some or all of the pasta with vegetables such as butternut squash, aubergine or courgette slices)
- Stuffed peppers
- Roasted Mediterranean chicken
- Zesty chicken thighs
- Lamb tray bake
- Meatballs with ragu
- Baked Salmon fillet with couscous
- Sea bass with lemon and capers
- Pancetta wrapped cod parcels
Slow cooker meals:
Great if you’re busy and struggling to find time to prepare meals. Bung everything into the slow cooker and it’s ready for you when you come in! Serve with lots of green veg and 3-4 egg sized potatoes or 3-4 tbsp of basmati or brown rice or couscous
- Beef stew
- Chicken and chorizo
- Chicken casserole
- Sausage casserole
- Lamb hotpot
- Lamb shanks in gravy
- Beef & ale stew
- Whole baked sweet gammon
- Braised beef
- Chilli con carne
- Meatballs in ragu
Pizzas, burgers and grills
Serve burgers in a wholemeal sandwich thin, a high protein roll or if you would like a few chips, wedges, or a rosti then why not use grilled halloumi or a portabello mushroom, lettuce leaf, or just eat it ‘naked’ instead of a bread bun?
- GD Friendly pizza
- Chicken base pizza
- Cauliflower base pizza
- Thin & crispy base pizza smoothered in extra toppings
- Homemade burgers served in a wholemeal sandwich thin
- ‘Juicy Lucy’ burgers
- Surf and turf; rump steak, prawns fried with butter and garlic
- Chicken breast in peppercorn sauce
- Ham, egg and chips
- Gammon, egg and sweet potato rosti
- Mixed grill
- Bacon chops
- Halloumi salad
- Crustless Quiche
- Chicken or tuna pasta salad
- Waldorf salad (minus the grapes!)
- Celeriac remoulade
- Caesar salad
- Greek salad
Roast dinners can make a great gestational diabetes meals provided you make the right choices when selecting what goes on your plate…
Fill the plate with plenty of meat;
Following our 8 golden rules of eating, bulk up your roast dinner with plenty of non starchy vegetables (especially green ones): sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, creamed spinach and our cauliflower cheese (made with double cream, cheese and mustard).
Parsnips, carrots, peas and sweetcorn are all higher carb vegetables and so these are the ones to cut back on! Watch out for parsnips coated in honey or sweet drizzles.
Buttered sprouts with bacon and walnuts
You’ll never boil or steam a sprout again after trying this!
Ingredients: 600g Brussels sprouts, 4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped, 25g walnuts, coarsely chopped, 25g butter
Recipe: Place the sprouts in a pan of salted, boiling water; cook for 5 minutes then drain. Heat a large frying pan; fry the bacon until crisp then add the walnuts and fry for 1 minute. Add the sprouts and the butter and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned.
Recipe from lakeland.co.uk
As always, you will need to go careful with the amount of potatoes on your plate as potatoes are carbs. Cook roast potatoes in duck or goose fat to increase the fat content which will slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream (and makes for great roasties!)
New potatoes may be more suitable for some and adding a spot of butter on top will make them even more tolerable.
Croquettes are particularly difficult to tolerate as they are highly processed mashed potato covered in breadcrumbs, so these are really best avoided.
With mash potato, try adding butter, cream and cheese. Avoid overdoing the potato accompaniments as it will be carb overload, choose your favourite type and enjoy it.
For hints on how to cook potatoes in goose fat read more here, but avoid coating the potatoes in a dusting of flour or semolina, these are additional carbohydrates that are not necessary.
Sausages and ‘pigs in blankets’
The key to great pigs in blankets that are suitable for a gestational diabetes meal, is ensuring you purchase good, high quality meat sausages (without extras such as honey or apple). Try your local butcher or supermarket and aim for sausages with over 90% meat content if possible or the nearest you can find. Usually gluten free sausages are good for being higher meat content, so this is something to look for (Please note: we don’t normally recommend choosing gluten free foods unless they are needed for other dietary reasons as gluten free foods tend to be much higher in carbs. Sausages are an exception to this). Higher meat content sausages are not bulked with as many cereal fillers and are usually the shops best, top range, or luxury sausages.
Watch out for ‘sticky pigs in blankets’ as these are coated in sweet sticky things like honey.
James Martin shares how to make your own pigs in blankets here, without any added extras such as honey
Wholemeal Yorkshire Puddings
Ingredients: 100g Whole Spelt Flour, sieved, 2 Eggs, 150 mlMilk, 1 pinch Fine Sea Salt, Coconut Oil or olive oil
Recipe: Preheat the oven to 220°c and place ¼ tsp of coconut oil into each bottom of a 12 hole muffin tin baking tray. Once the oven is hot, place the muffin tray into the oven to heat the oil for 5 minutes until hot! Whilst the oil gets hot, whisk the eggs into the flour and salt and then slowly add the milk. Whisk hard to remove any lumps. Once the oil is hot, remove the tray from the oven and fill each hole ¼ full with the batter. Place the tray back into the oven and cook for 10 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Recipe from Charlie on the Kitchen Shed
You may want to add some rosemary to the batter mixture as the taste of spelt or wholemeal flour can taste slightly different to what white flour does.
You could have a normal white flour yorkshire pudding but it would be advisable to cook it yourself using plenty of lard, or oil in the pan to increase the fat content and treat this as one of your portion of carbs on the plate.
The best option for GD friendly gravy is to make gravy from scratch. Jamie Oliver has some great gravy recipes including this one where the gravy is prepared ahead of the day required. Take a look at this recipe, you could omit the flour and continue to simmer to thicken through evaporation instead to make this lower carb, or use a very small amount of cornflour mixed with cold water to thicken.
There is also this recipe which shows how to make gravy without flour from thespruce.com
If you’re looking for pre-made gravies, then look out for fresh gravies and/or ones which have been with real meat juices. Compare the labels and look for the the lowest total carbs. Comparing a few, Turkey gravy seems to have higher carb amounts, so something like this Tesco Chicken one may be better.
Create your own stir fry sauces rather than using pre-made ones which can be high in sugar. Pack your stir frys with lots of protein (meat, Quorn or tofu), plenty of crisp vegetables and keep noodles minimal
Here’s Elizabeth’s (one of my Facebook group admins) basic stir fry sauce recipe: Soy sauce, Oyster sauce, ginger, garlic, white pepper and just before its done throw in spring onions – the sauce can also be used to marinade the meat
- Garlic crushed pea pasta; frozen peas, chopped garlic, chopped onion, mint – mashed up together, serve with wholemeal pasta and poached eggs
- Homemade broccoli and Stilton or cheddar soup with 1 slice of good GD bread with cheese
- Cheese & Mediterranean vegetable omelette
- Vegetarian calzone
- Falafel and hummus
- Quorn Spaghetti bolognese
- Quorn Chilli
- Quorn fajitas with extra cheese
- Cauliflower cheese
- Tofu stir fry
- Spanish Frittata
- Quorn lasagne
- Vegetarian shepherds pie
- Chickpea stew
- Vegetarian sausages
- Nut burgers
- Nut cutlets
- Poached egg, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and vegetarian sausage
- Tofu & avocado burger with fresh tomato, in grilled halloumi slices
- Buckwheat Gallettes filled with fried asparagus, mushrooms and onions
- Aubergine Parmigiana
- Aubergine Mini Pizzas
- Peppers with feta & walnuts
- Courgette fritters
- White cabbage curry
- Saag paneer
- Tofu noodles
- Whole roast cauliflower
Things to watch out for with gestational diabetes meals
- Ready made, jar sauces – these can contain high amounts of sugar. Try making your meals from scratch so that you know exactly what is hiding inside your meals
- Table sauces such as tomato ketchup, brown sauce, BBQ sauce. Even low sugar versions contain high amounts of sugar so try to avoid using these and opt for mayonnaise or creamy sauces instead
- Gravy granules and sauce thickeners. Some ladies will struggle with these gravies and sauces due to the flour and thickeners used in them. Try using meat juices and stock cubes for gravies and find alternatives for sauces which do not require flour and thickening agents. Add celery, butter beans, lentils, chickpeas and butternut squash to stews and casseroles as natural thickeners
- Tomatoes can be tricky to tolerate for some mothers. Chopped tinned tomatoes or passata is used in many recipes. Compare product labels to select the ones showing lowest in total carbohydrates. Bulk up protein within the meal by adding plenty of meat or Quorn, keep starchy carbohydrate amounts small and try. You won’t know until you’ve tried!
- Keep an eye on carbs! It’s easy to double carb without really thinking about it with larger meals, so play close attention to what starchy carbohydrates are on your plate, then think about the other forms of carbs that you may be adding on top, such as carb heavy vegetables like root veg
- Don’t forget to add a complex unrefined carb to your plate e.g Using a spiralizer for courgette spaghetti is a great way of bulking up on vegetables and keeping carbohydrates lower, but your body (and baby) need a small amount of carbohydrates for energy and to prevent ketosis
- Avoid eating a dessert or pudding straight after dinner. Your body will struggle to process larger amounts of food so it is best to wait an hour, test blood sugar levels and then eat dessert as a treat
I created Gestational Diabetes UK as a GD Mum, for other Mums. I’m dedicated to providing information on gestational diabetes, from diagnosis through to birth and beyond.
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Thanks, Jo (Founder and Author of Gestational Diabetes UK)