Gestational diabetes snacks

To help keep blood sugar levels nice and stable, it’s advisable to incorporate gestational diabetes snacks between meals. This can help blood sugar levels from dropping too low, which means you can avoid the liver dumping stored glucose into your bloodstream, spiking levels high.

Eating little and often of the right kind of foods will help achieve blood sugar levels which are more like gently rolling hills, than spikes and crashes of a rollercoaster

blood sugar rollercoaster
Reprinted with permission from health and sugar expert Connie Bennett’s website, ConnieB.com

“I’m so hungry” vs “I have no appetite”

We all have different experiences in pregnancy and may even fluctuate between times where we could literally eat anything and everything in sight, to times where we can’t think of anything worse than trying to force some food down.

Gestational diabetes snacks are important in both instances and can be adjusted to suit.

Insatiable hunger strikes, then as long as you are outside of your test window, you can munch on your safe gestational diabetes snacks. This refers more to postprandial (post-meal) testing, where you eat and then test levels after 1 hr, 90 mins or 2 hrs. If you start snacking before your test your time, then this will obviously impact the result and may encourage you to overindulge in carbs which your body will struggle to process (you’ll see higher levels) which will not be an accurate account of how well you tolerated the previous meal.

If you really don’t feel like eating, then eat a very small little something just to keep you ticking over. Don’t feel you have to force down 3 big meals plus 3 snacks every day. Break it right down into smaller, manageable amounts.

Gestational diabetes snacks for pre-meal testers

Snacking may prove harder for those that have pre-prandial (pre-meal) test targets as eating too much, or too close before the test will obviously cause a rise in blood sugar levels.

Pre-prandial test targets are much lower than post-prandial and so you don’t want to be testing a pre-prandial target when your blood sugars are actually in a post-prandial state.

It’s important to make good choices that do not contain too much carbohydrate and to leave enough time for your body to process the snack before testing. 90 mins – 2 hours is a good amount of time.

Not enough time to eat snacks due to testing times

If you having difficulty waiting for 2 hrs after eating to be able to test and then snack, or because you are a pre-prandial tester, then speak to your diabetes team and discuss the possibility of changing to 1 hr post-prandial testing.

All our National guidelines (NICE, SIGN and HSE) have targets for testing blood sugar levels in gestational diabetes at 1 hr post-prandially and so unless there are other medical reasons to do so, there is no reason you couldn’t change to 1hr post-prandial testing: –

1.3.5 Advise pregnant women with any form of diabetes to maintain their capillary plasma glucose below the following target levels, if these are achievable without causing problematic hypoglycaemia:
fasting: 5.3 mmol/litre

and
1 hour after meals: 7.8 mmol/litre or
2 hours after meals: 6.4 mmol/litre. [new 2015]

NICE Guidelines, NG3 Diabetes in pregnancy – 1.3.5 Target blood glucose levels

Postprandial glucose monitoring should be carried out in pregnant women with gestational diabetes and may be considered in pregnant women with type 1 or 2 diabetes. ; In people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, as long as hypoglycaemia can be minimised, aim to achieve blood glucose: ƒ

  • between 4 and 6 mmol/l preprandially, and ƒ
  • <8 mmol/l one hour postprandially, or ƒ
  • <7 mmol/l two hours postprandially ƒ
  • >6 mmol/l before bed.
SIGN Guidelines 116 – Management of Diabetes – 7.5.1 C GLUCOSE MONITORING

5.3.6 Blood glucose targets during pregnancy The following target values are recommended for optimum maternal and fetal outcome:

  • Fasting capillary glucose level: 3.5-5.0mmol/L
  • 1 hour post-prandial capillary glucose level: <7.0mmol/L (√).
HSE Guidelines for the Management of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus – 5.3.6

Be prepared!

Don’t get caught out. Just like you would (or will soon need to) with young children, you need to plan and take snacks with you! If you don’t then you may be faced with things that you know will cause high blood sugar levels. So plan and prepare to make sure you have suitable gestational diabetes snacks to hand!

Use food pairing to make sensible choices for snacks, so if eating something that is higher in carbohydrates (starchy carbs, fruit, a piece of chocolate) then add natural fats and protein to make it more tolerable e.g.

  • Crackers or crispbreads on their own will be hard to tolerate – add butter and plenty of cheese and you will turn it into a better gestational diabetes snack
  • Apple on its own may raise blood sugar levels too high, but add a handful of nuts or dip it in peanut butter and it becomes a more tolerable gestational diabetes snack

Don’t forget to have a drink with your snack. Hydration is also important for keeping blood sugar levels stabilised

Fruit

Fruit is called natures natural sweets for a reason. Fruit contains high amounts of fructose which is a type of sugar. Fruit is also full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, but unfortunately, the high sugar content can make fruit a tricky food to tolerate with gestational diabetes.

Some ladies worry about reducing and limiting fruit on a gestational diabetes diet in case they are missing out on essential nutrients, but you can actually get any nutrient found in fruit from vegetables instead, just without all the sugar!

Some fruits are better than others. The lowest sugar (lowest GI) fruits are berries.

This picture shows examples of better fruits to try, but it is always advisable to pair fruit with fat to help slow down the release of sugar:

Gestational diabetes snacks shopping list:

*Items listed in green are foods that 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

  • 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. Cashew nuts in smaller amounts as they are higher in carbs – Avoid dried fruit at all costs – it is VERY high in sugar!
  • Seeds; Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, linseed, flaxseed, chia seeds, soya beans
  • Cheese; all full-fat cheeses including cheddars, cream cheese, cottage cheese, soft cheese, halloumi, feta, Babybels or cheese portions (avoid unpasteurised cheeses which should not be eaten in pregnancy unless cooking)
  • Yoghurts – Full-fat Greek-style yoghurt – Fage Total or shops own brand. Full-fat natural yoghurt – shops own brand, or any branded. Arla SKYR with added protein. Alpro Soya yoghurts
  • Cream; double cream and Anchor thick spray cream (other spray creams contain added sugars)
  • Milk; gold top, whole (blue top), unsweetened almond, unsweetened soya, Lacto-free whole, or hazelnut milk
  • Cooked meats or Quorn slices; ham, turkey, chicken, beef, pork, high meat content (90%+) sausages, Mattesons smoked sausage & fridge raiders, Peperami
  • Cooked fish; salmon slices, mackerel, prawns, seafood sticks, tinned tuna in spring water (no more than 4 cans per week)
  • Sandwich/Deli fillers; full fat and avoid any containing fruit or added sugar such as pickle
  • Hummus (full fat) or make your own
  • Sour cream dip (full fat)
  • Vegetables; avocado for topping crackers etc. and cucumbercelery, peppers, carrots – cut into sticks and eaten with hummus or cream cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, rocket
  • Olives
  • Eggs
  • Marmite
  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Crisps; (usually fried and contain trans fats, so these should only be an occasional treat) real potato crisps, pom bears, lentil crisps and pea snacks
  • Pork scratchings (usually fried and contain trans fats, so these should only be an occasional treat)
  • Popcorn; popcorn made at home from popcorn kernels with some butter is the best option. Avoid toffee or sweetened flavours that contain added sugars. Watch out for microwave popcorns which may contain high levels of transfats
  • Wholegrain crispbreads or crackers; Ryvita crackerbread, Ryvita crispbread, Jacobs crispbreads, shops own brands – it’s important to choose wholegrain versions!
  • Wholewheat crackers; shops own brand or Hovis, wholegrain, multigrain seeded cracker thins
  • Scottish oatcakes; shops own brand oatcakes, Nairn’s plain, superseeded or cheese flavoured
  • Nature Valley Protein cereal bars (please note: these are not tolerated by all) and should be paired to check your tolerance
  • Sweet biscuits; Nairn’s oat biscuits or gluten-free biscuit breaks. Hobnobs, digestives, rich tea
  • No added sugar jelly; Hartley’s or Chivers no added sugar jelly pots, 10 cal pots, or sugar-free jelly packets to make at home
  • No added sugar angel delight; Branded no added sugar angel delight or shops own brand no added sugar ‘delight’ (eaten in small servings, made with whole milk or a milk alternative)
  • Hot chocolate; Real cocoa powder, Options, Highlights or Sweet Freedom Choc Shot with spray cream and nuts
  • Mini milk ice cream lollies
  • Chocolate; dark chocolate, treat/fun-size chocolate bars, Cadbury’s Freddo, half a Kinder Bueno
  • Fruit; avocado, granny smith apple, clementine, satsuma, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, red currants, blackcurrants, strawberries, kiwis, grapefruit, pomelo, plums

Savoury snack ideas

gestational diabetes snacks
  • Hummus dip with cucumber celery carrot & pepper sticks
  • Celery sticks filled with cream cheese
  • 2 oatcakes with almond butter & a small glass of almond milk
  • Mattessons smoked sausage chopped up with cheese
  • High meat content sausages, pre-cooked and eaten cold
  • Chicken thighs or drumsticks, pre-cooked and eaten cold
  • seafood sticks dipped in mayonnaise or balsamic vinegar
  • Lettuce, Quorn or ham & cheese wraps (use a lettuce leaf instead of a tortilla wrap)
  • Roast chicken flavour Mattessons fridge raiders
  • Peperami
  • Boiled egg & cheese or ham
  • 20g popcorn with butter
  • A handful of salt & vinegar popcorn with nuts
  • Homemade scotch eggs
  • Homemade mushroom pâté on Ryvita
  • Plain salted potato crisps and a lump of cheese
  • Crustless mini quiches
  • Breakfast muffins
  • Wholemeal cheese scone
  • 2 x Ryvita crispbread, crackerbread, thins or 3 wholewheat crackers or oatcakes topped with:
    • cream cheese & smoked salmon
    • cottage cheese
    • hummus and sliced peppers
    • peanut butter
    • cheese & ham
    • cream cheese, ham & sliced pickled gherkin
    • egg mayonnaise or sandwich filler
    • butter, marmite & cheese
    • avocado & curried tuna
    • cream cheese, chicken slices & cucumber
    • tuna mayonnaise
    • cheese, cherry tomato & rocket
Crustless Quiche
Quick and easy crustless quiche. A perfect lunch, dinner or snack
Check out this recipe
crustless quiche lorraine
Quiche Lorraine
A classic Quiche Lorraine, but without the carbs. Cheese, bacon pieces, and onion. A delicious crustless quiche, perfect for meals and snacks which can be served hot or cold
Check out this recipe
Quiche Lorraine
Breakfast Cup Omelettes
Breakfast Cup Omelettes, so easy and quick to make. Great for eating hot or cold, packed with protein & natural fats AND cheap too!
Check out this recipe
Breakfast Cup Omelettes
Spanish Tortilla
A Spanish omelette, containing eggs, sliced cooked potato and your favourite fillings. Lower carb, gluten-free, dairy-free, and packed with protein. Perfect as a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as snacks which can be eaten hot or cold
Check out this recipe
Red Onion and Chorizo Spanish Tortilla
Spanish Frittata
A great way to use leftovers. This frittata can be made with all your favourite ingredients and makes for a great lunch, snack or dinner
Check out this recipe
Spanish Frittata
Breakfast Cups
Handy bitesize breakfast cups that you can make in advance and eat cold or re-heated. You can make these simple with just eggs and bacon, or you can add cheese, veggies, herbs and spices to your taste
Check out this recipe
Ham Breakfast Cups

Sweet snack ideas

For sweet snack ideas, please take a look at the desserts page. Desserts are better tolerated when eaten as ‘snacks’ as opposed to straight after your meal.

Frozen Yogurt Bark
Frozen yogurt broken into pieces, ready to enjoy whenever you fancy a nibble. Perfect for desserts or snacks, a recipe that can be tweaked to your own preferences
Check out this recipe
Frozen Yogurt Bark
Almond Cookies (Moroccan Ghriba)
Sweet almond cookies. Crisp on the outside, soft in the middle and delicious almond taste like marzipan. This is my low-carb version of Moroccan Ghriba cookies
Check out this recipe
almond cookies Moroccan Ghriba
Peanut Butter Cookies
Crumbly salty sweet peanut butter cookies, sugar free, grain free and low carb. It's the perfect gestational diabetes sweet treat!
Check out this recipe
3 ingredient peanut butter cookies stacked next to a glass of milk
Bounty Bars
A taste of Paradise without the extra sugar!
Check out this recipe
Caramel Nut Bars
Chewy caramel, gooey caramel, packed with nuts & seeds a layer and a good drizzle of chocolate. These Caramel Nut Bars will satisfy those sweet chocolate cravings at any time of day
Check out this recipe
Caramel Nut Bars
fluff milk jellies
chocolate cheesecake
chocolate velvet
sugar free peanut butter cookies
sugar free coconut macaroons
breakfast muffins
sugar free jelly
lemon cheesecake gestational diabetes
Gestational Diabetes Christmas 2018

Bedtime snacks

Bedtime snacks can help with some peoples high fasting blood sugar levels, as they can help counteract the Dawn phenomenon or Somogyi effect. If you would like to know more about high fasting levels and these phenomena then please read more here.

Any of the snacks above may be suitable bedtime snacks, but if you find you are still struggling with high fasting levels then try a snack that is high in protein and natural fat as these are believed to have a better effect than those which include carbohydrates. Things like nuts, cheese & cooked meats are good things to try.

We often get ladies in our support group saying “I’ve tried a bedtime snack but it doesn’t work for me”, yet when asking what they’ve tried they’ve had fruit or toast e.t.c.

The best things to eat are high protein and natural fat. Bedtime snacks may take some playing around with to find what works best for you. As your pregnancy progresses and your insulin resistance increases, you may need to change to find things that work better and many ladies may need the extra help of medication or insulin to lower fasting levels.