20+ Lunch Ideas: Gestational Diabetes

Last Updated on March 4, 2024 by Kari Garner, MS RDN LD CDCES

Eating with gestational diabetes can often feel overwhelming and frustrating.  At times, it can seem like all you have is a list of foods that you shouldn’t eat instead of a list of foods that support balanced blood sugars. In this blog, I focus specifically on lunch ideas for gestational diabetes, but you will quickly learn that my framework can be used for all meals and snacks. 

As a registered dietitian, diabetes educator and mom, I can’t wait to share my meal planning method that you can use starting today!  Together, we can work toward maintaining stable blood sugars while aiming to nourish yourself and your growing baby. 

Read along to learn more about gestational diabetes, eating with gestational diabetes, easy lunches for pregnancy and nutrient-rich food swaps. 

With my support and expert guidance, you can navigate pregnancy with ease. Let’s get started!

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a condition that can develop in women during pregnancy who do not already have diabetes.

It is when your body cannot make enough insulin during pregnancy, resulting in a state of chronic high blood sugars.  This can be harmful to both the mother and child.

GDM is often a symptom of underlying β-cell dysfunction, which is why you will see the increased risk of the mother and child developing diabetes later in life.

B-cells or beta cells are cells located in the pancreas that are responsible for the storage, production and release of insulin.

If you have gestational diabetes, your baby is at a higher risk of being very large at birth, being born early, having low blood sugar, and ultimately developing type 2 diabetes down the road.

However, by monitoring food choices, amounts consumed and timing of meals you can nourish both yourself and your baby while successfully managing blood sugars.

Gestational Diabetes Diet

The American Diabetes Association recommends that pregnant women consume a minimum of 175 grams of carbohydrates, 71 grams of protein and 28 grams of fiber per day.

The distribution of these nutrients across meals should be personalized to you by working with your diabetes care team. Nutrition needs change throughout pregnancy so guidance from your team is essential. 

Consider booking a Diabetes Education Session if you want to craft a personalized meal plan that you can use throughout your pregnancy (and beyond!)

What to Eat with Gestational Diabetes

The balance of protein, fat and fiber along with mindful carbohydrate intake is the goal when building a lunch for gestational diabetes.

In general, aim for 40-60g of total carbohydrates, 20+ grams of protein, 5+ grams of healthy fats and 5+ grams fiber at lunch.

*Always consult with your diabetes care team to determine personalized dietary guidelines and recommendations. 

Choosing complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbohydrates will result in steady blood sugars.  The protein, fat and fiber will contribute to satiety and providing essential nutrients.

Gestational Diabetes Meal Ideas 

Creating healthy lunches when pregnant does not need to be cumbersome. By using my method of building meals for gestational diabetes, you will have lunch ready to go in no time! 

I developed my 25/75 Method of building balanced plates to help ease the meal planning process. Simply fill 25% of your plate with complex carbohydrates and 75% of your plate with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. 

For example, your plate could be filled with a taco meal containing 2, 6” soft tortillas, ground meat, sauteed vegetables, cheese, salsa and avocado slices or a sandwich meal containing sliced grilled chicken, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato between 2 slices of whole wheat bread. 

By having healthy lunch ideas for pregnancy at your fingertips, you can embrace a balance of nutrients that keep blood sugars stable!

Consider any of these other pregnancy lunch ideas:

  • Grilled Chicken Salad: leafy greens such as kale or spinach topped with grilled chicken, dried cherries, toasted pecans, vegetable slices and drizzled with a vinaigrette dressing
  • Quinoa Stir-Fry: quinoa mixed with stir fried broccoli, bell peppers, snap peas, tofu (or another lean protein) 
  • Hummus Wrap: whole wheat tortilla spread with hummus then topped with sliced carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes. Add grilled chicken or shredded Rotisserie chicken for protein
  • Grain Bowl: brown rice, white rice or couscous topped with a baked salmon filet and steamed broccoli 
  • Lentil Soup: lentils, mixed vegetables such as carrots, celery, spinach and mushrooms simmered in vegetable broth
  • Egg Salad: chopped hard boiled eggs mixed with Greek yogurt and dijon mustard served in lettuce wraps alongside a fruit salad
  • Homemade Pizzas: corn tortillas topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and pizza toppings. Try my Air Fryer Pizza recipe for a fun twist on homemade pizza!

Lunch Recipes for Gestational Diabetes

I love collaborating with fellow registered dietitians to bring you all a wide variety of recipes.

The combination of gestational lunch ideas above and recipes below will prepare you for fueling throughout pregnancy while maintaining stable blood sugars. 

Each of these lunch recipes below includes carbohydrates, fiber, protein and fat or can easily be paired with the missing nutrient for a balanced lunch option with blood sugar benefits.

You’ll also find 30 Best Bedtime Snacks for Diabetes and The Best Gestational Diabetes Desserts On The Blog, containing delicious, yet nutritious recipes and ideas. 

Foods To Avoid in Gestational Diabetes

Foods containing added sugars or simple carbohydrates such as soda, fruit juices, candy, French fries, sweetened yogurts, energy drinks and donuts are foods that you want to avoid or have in limited quantities. 

Consuming nutrient-poor foods can make managing blood sugars difficult and increase feelings of overwhelm and frustration during your pregnancy journey. 

Here are some fun meal idea swaps for those common comfort foods:

  • Swap soda or other sweetened beverages with plain water, fruit infused water, sparkling water, green tea or no sugar added coconut water. If you still crave soda, consider diet or zero-sugar sodas.
  • Replace candy with a piece of fresh fruit, dark chocolate with 70% of higher cocoa content, nut/seed trail mix or cacao nibs.
  • Enjoy baked fries, roasted sweet potato fries, crispy zucchini fries, baked kale chips, roasted broccoli or mashed cauliflower instead of French fries.
  • Swap sweetened yogurt with plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit, plain regular yogurt topped with nuts or dairy-free plain yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon. 
  • Have whole grain English muffins, energy bits, fruit kabobs, oatmeal or a rice cake with nut butter and fruit instead of donuts. To satisfy a donut craving, you can also opt to pair a small donut with a source of protein and fiber to minimize the blood sugar spike. 

Flourish with Diabetes

By understanding the basics of gestational diabetes, knowing how to build balanced meals, having delicious recipes at your fingertips and incorporating the food swaps above, you will be well-equipped to enjoy healthy lunches and stable blood sugars!

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Springtime Nutrition, LLC was founded on my passion to partner with individuals to eliminate the stress, frustration and overwhelm of changing their nutrition lifestyle. I am committed to supporting you at every step of your journey. Ready to transform your life? Get started today!

Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist/ Registered Dietitian/ Owner - Springtime Nutrition, LLC <br> Kari's Full Bio

Kari is a diabetes expert with more than 18 years of experience. Kari currently works as a diabetes educator with a large hospital system in Charleston, SC and is committed to improving the lives of people with any type of diabetes.

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