Snacks for Gestational Diabetes: Dietitian- Approved!

Last Updated on by Kari Garner, MS RDN LD CDCES

Do you feel like you have been on an endless search for ideas for healthy snacks for gestational diabetes?  Whether you have been recently diagnosed with gestational diabetes or have been navigating it for the last few weeks, you are in the right place!

Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes can be overwhelming and even cause you to be fearful to eat. 

That is why I am sharing what snacks to pick and the ones to avoid helping you learn the best snacks for managing gestational diabetes. Plus, I am sharing a sample snack plan that you can use right away. 

Let’s get started!

Understanding Gestational Diabetes 

Gestational diabetes (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!

Role of Snacks

Health snacks with gestational diabetes are an excellent way to stay fueled during pregnancy.  Be sure to consume essential nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop.

Good Snacks for Gestational Diabetes

The balance of protein, fat and fiber along with mindful carbohydrate intake is what turns any snack into a healthy choice.

Whether you are craving sweet or savory, building a snack with these nutrients will put you in the right direction toward blood sugar stability.

Keep reading to learn more about each nutrient!

Protein

Protein will extend the time it takes your body to break down carbohydrates, which can prevent spikes in blood sugars.

Foods such as beans, edamame, fish, eggs, poultry and dairy products are examples of protein sources. The goal is to have 1-2 ounces of protein per snack. 

Fat

Like protein, fat also extends the time it takes your body to convert carbs into glucose to prevent blood sugar spikes. It also contributes to feelings of satiety.

Healthy sources of fat include olive oil, nuts, seeds, olives, fatty fish and avocados. 

Dietary Fiber

Last, but certainly not least, dietary fiber! Dietary fiber will slow digestion to help you feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time. Aim to include high fiber foods with a snack to prevent blood sugar spikes after eating.

Examples include seeds, nuts, beans, whole grains, lentils and vegetables. The goal is to have 3-5 grams of fiber per snack.

Typically, carbohydrate rich foods like whole grain crackers, oats, wheat bread, fruit, popcorn or rice are in this nutrient category.

A good rule of thumb is selecting a complex carbohydrate that contains 10-20 grams (along with the 3-5g of fiber) for snacks.

graphic showing gestational diabetes snack ideas (such as overnight oats, trail mix, edamame, guacamole, fruit salad and hummus).

When To Eat Snacks

In general, you want to aim to have a meal or snack every 3 hours. This can look like three main meals with two or three snacks per day. 

Keeping a variety of both perishable and non-perishable snacks on hand allows you to have access and honor your hunger cues.

Snacks can be kept in your fridge, desk drawer, purse, diaper bag, car, etc. 

There will be times when you want to make a homemade recipe and days when grabbing a prepackaged snack is necessary. Below are good snacks for gestational diabetes to consider incorporating into your routine!

List of Snacks for Gestational Diabetes

  • Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs
  • Hummus
  • Chia Pudding
  • Edamame
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Trail mix 
  • Oats 
  • Whole grain crackers 
  • Wheat toast 
  • Cheese 
  • Tuna 
  • Popcorn 
Text heading reads: "sample snack plan. snacks for gestational diabetes"
gives examples of 2 snacks per day for a week.

Sample Snack Plan

Monday

Morning: 1 small banana + 2 tablespoon nut butter 

Afternoon: ½ cup baby carrots + scoop red pepper hummus 

Tuesday 

Morning: 1 cup chia seed pudding 

Afternoon: 3 cups popcorn + ¼ cup mixed nuts

Wednesday

Morning: 2 turkey and cheese roll-ups 

Afternoon: Greek yogurt cup + ½ cup raspberries

Thursday

Morning: ½ avocado, smashed with 10-12 whole grain crackers 

Afternoon: 1 cup edamame 

Friday 

Morning: hard boiled egg + ½ cup watermelon

Afternoon: ½ cup bell pepper slices + veggie dip 

Saturday 

Morning: roasted chickpeas

Afternoon: black olives + ½ cup baby carrots + cheese stick

Sunday

Morning: chia seed pudding 

Afternoon: cottage cheese cup + ½ cup peaches

Foods to Avoid 

Foods with added sugars, refined carbohydrates or sweetened beverages such as soda or fruit juices are foods that you want to avoid.

Keep in mind that the focus is on consuming nutrient-rich foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals.

Foods such as candy, French fries, sweetened yogurts, energy drinks and donuts are not only nutrient poor but make managing blood sugars difficult. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to monitor blood glucose levels?

Yes! Monitoring your blood glucose will provide insight on how specific foods are impacting your levels.

Both fasting and postprandial glucose goals (target for after meals) should be determined by your diabetes care team.

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

Is it necessary to eat a bedtime snack necessary with Gestational Diabetes?

It may be necessary if you are frequently waking with high blood sugars in the mornings. Adding a bedtime snack can prevent a morning spike.

Any of the protein or fiber rich snack ideas above would be suitable before bed.

It is best to limit snacks high in fat in the evening. To know if a bedtime snack is necessary for you, monitor your evening and morning blood sugar trends. 

How to manage cravings

Cravings are very common during pregnancy. To manage cravings, consider how the food you crave can be paired with the other essential nutrients to create a balanced snack.

For example, if you crave a salty snack then combine popcorn with mixed nuts or stir in a scoop of peanut butter into overnight oats to satisfy a sweet tooth. 

Final Thoughts

Gestational diabetes is a condition that can develop during pregnancy. It can be overwhelming and difficult to understand what and when to eat after you receive the diagnosis. 

An easy way to keep blood sugars controlled and eliminate the fear around eating is to use the sample snack plan above. You can follow it as written or swap in any of the other ideas. 

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Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist/ Registered Dietitian/ Owner / Springtime Nutrition, LLC

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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