Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Kari Garner, MS RDN LD CDCES
If you’re a mom-to-be managing gestational diabetes, you might be wondering what to eat for breakfast, what are the best breakfast foods for pregnancy, or how to manage blood sugars around meals. As a diabetes dietitian, educator and mom, I understand the unique challenges you face in maintaining stable blood sugars while aiming to nourish yourself and growing baby. Finding breakfast ideas with gestational diabetes can be difficult!
In this blog, I will dive into the world of gestational diabetes, focusing specifically on breakfast!
You will find clarification on how diabetes impacts pregnancy, simple steps to building a balanced meal, easy breakfast ideas and 15 delicious recipes. I will also leave you with practical tips so you can enjoy breakfast every morning.
Managing gestational diabetes can feel overwhelming but with support and expert guidance, you can navigate your 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 that 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!)
Building a Breakfast for Gestational Diabetes
The balance of protein, fat and fiber along with mindful carbohydrate intake is the goal when building a gestational diabetes breakfast.
In general, aim for 15-45g of low glycemic carbohydrates, at least 15g of protein, a source of healthy fats and a high fiber food at breakfast.
*Always consult with your diabetes care team to determine personalized dietary guidelines and recommendations.
The low glycemic carbohydrates will result in steady blood sugars while the protein, fat and fiber will contribute to satiety and providing essential nutrients.
Breakfast Ideas: Gestational Diabetes
A typical morning meal may include a fiber-rich bowl of oatmeal topped with antioxidant rich berries or a crunchy piece of toast with an egg and avocado.
By building a breakfast tailed for gestational diabetes, you can embrace a nourishing start to the day.
These healthy breakfast ideas for gestational diabetes are ones that you can implement right away! Each one contains the balance of nutrients that you should aim for each morning.
Consider any of these pregnancy breakfast ideas:
- Avocado Toast: 2 slices of whole wheat toast + 2 eggs + smashed avocado + sliced grape tomatoes
- Peanut Butter Rice Cakes: 2 rice cakes + 2 tablespoons nut butter + 1 small banana + 2 tablespoons chia or flax seeds
- Egg Tortilla Wrap: whole grain tortilla + 2 scrambled eggs + sauteed bell peppers + 1 tablespoon salsa
- Breakfast Charcuterie Board: ½ cup berries, 1 small apple, 1 oz cheese cubes, ¼ cup nuts or 2 tablespoons nut butter
- Greek Yogurt Parfait: 1 cup plain Greek yogurt + 1 cup berries + ¼ cup chopped nuts
- Cottage Cheese Cup: 1 cup cottage cheese + 1 sliced fresh peach
Sample Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan
This 7-day meal plan for gestational diabetes can be used to guide your breakfast choices.
Gestational Diabetes Recipes
I love collaborating with fellow registered dietitians to bring you a wide variety of recipes.
The combination of breakfast ideas above and recipes below will set you up to better manage blood sugars throughout pregnancy.
Each of these breakfast recipes below includes carbohydrates, fiber, protein and fat. They can easily be paired with the missing nutrient for a balanced breakfast option with blood sugar benefits.
- Ultimate High Protein Breakfast Burritos, Melissa Traub, MS, RDN, LDN
- Mini Veggie Strata Muffins, Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
- Leftover Steak Breakfast, Lara Clevenger, MS, RD
- Air Fryer Omelette, Lara Clevenger, MS, RD
- Sheet Pan Huevos Rancheros, Megan Byrd, RD
- Low Carb Banana Spinach Smoothie, Megan Byrd, RD
- Meal Prep Spinach Feta Egg Cups, Nicole Addison, RD
- Broccoli Cheese Egg Muffins, Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, FAND
- Mediterranean Plant-Based Herbed Chickpea Omelet, Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN
- Strawberry Smoothie Bowl, Sarah Harper, MS, RD, LDN
- Copycat Starbucks Egg Bites, Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, FAND
- Silken Tofu Scramble, Celine Thompson, RD
- Southwest Tofu Scramble, Kiran Campbell, RDN
- Southwestern Frittata, Ashley Petrie, RDN, LDN
- Protein Baked Oats (Without Protein Powder), Veronica Rouse, MAN, RD, CDE
Expert Tips to Enjoying a Healthy Breakfast for Pregnancy
Before I wrap up and send you on your way to cook up a healthy breakfast, I want to share a few tips to keep at top of mind during your pregnancy.
1. Test your blood sugars each morning
Monitoring your blood glucose will provide insight on how specific foods are impacting your levels.
It allows you to make more informed choices to stay fueled during pregnancy and prevent elevated blood sugar levels.
Here are glucose targets for gestational diabetes to aim for:
- Fasting plasma glucose (before meals, at bedtime, overnight) <95 mg/dL
- 1-hr postprandial glucose (after a meal) <140 mg/dL
- 2-hr postprandial glucose (after a meal) <120 mg/dL
*Glycemic target limits defined above apply to GDM that is treated with and without insulin.
2. Honor Pregnancy Symptoms
Cravings and food aversions can occur during pregnancy. To manage cravings, consider how the food can be paired with the other essential nutrients to create a balanced meal or snack.
For example, if you crave a sweet snack then combine strawberries drizzled with dark chocolate with a handful of nuts.
To manage aversions, try incorporating the food into a recipe where the flavor is masked or swap the food with another with a similar nutrient profile.
For example, meat products such as chicken, beef and pork are sources of protein that can be swapped with plant-based options like beans or lentils.
3. Avoid Certain Foods
Foods with added sugars, refined carbohydrates or sweetened beverages are ones you want to avoid during pregnancy. These can include foods such as candy, French fries, sweetened yogurts, energy drinks, soda, fruit juice and donuts.
These foods are not only nutrient poor but make managing blood sugars difficult. Stick to any of the pregnancy breakfast recipes instead!
4. Stay Hydrated
Water is important during every season of life and pregnancy is no exception. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend drinking 8 to 12 cups of water daily to support digestion and circulate nutrients.
Starting your morning with a glass of water is a great way to set yourself up for success for the rest of the day.
Having a hard time drinking water in the morning hours? Add a lemon or lime slice to boost the flavor without spiking blood sugars.
By understanding the basics of gestational diabetes, knowing how to build balanced meals, having delicious recipes at your fingertips and incorporating the helpful tips above, you will be well-equipped to enjoy healthy breakfasts 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!
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.