Gestational Diabetes & Vegetarian Diet: What to Know and Eat

Gestational Diabetes & Vegetarian Diet: What to Know and Eat

Gestational Diabetes & Vegetarian Diet: What to Know and Eat

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Key Takeaways

  • Incorporating dietary changes recommended by your provider or dietitian is important to keeping blood sugar levels stable if you have gestational diabetes.
  • General dietary recommendations for gestational diabetes include eating a diet that’s balanced in carbohydrates, protein, fats, and fiber.
  • Research suggests that eating a balanced vegetarian diet can provide you with enough nutrients to keep you and baby healthy.

Roughly 2-10% of pregnancies in the United States are affected each year by gestational diabetes. If you receive a diagnosis, working with a dietitian is important to create a healthy meal plan that can help keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Dietary recommendations for gestational diabetes will vary based on your health and individual preferences. Though vegetarian diets are often associated with a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies, the most recent evidence suggests that eating a balanced vegetarian diet may benefit gestational diabetes treatment.

Nourish offers personalized nutrition counseling to help you meet your blood sugar and gestational diabetes needs. If you’re ready to take the next step in your health, consider booking a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes can affect a pregnant person who did not have diabetes prior to becoming pregnant. Providers recommend testing for the condition between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. Testing for gestational diabetes in pregnancy is important because it usually doesn’t cause symptoms and not all people who develop gestational diabetes have any of the risk factors for the condition. The known risk factors are: 

  • A history of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
  • A history of giving birth to a baby who weighed over nine pounds.
  • Having a first-degree relative with type 2 diabetes.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
  • Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.

How is Gestational Diabetes Managed?

If you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, management usually begins with diet modifications, exercise, and glucose (or blood sugar) monitoring. The two main areas of focus when planning a healthy diet for gestational diabetes are: how foods are allocated and distributed throughout the day, and carbohydrate intake. It’s also important to ensure that you’re eating balanced meals on a regular basis to help to keep your blood sugar levels stable. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends working with a registered dietitian to develop a personalized dietary plan based on your health and other needs. 

For exercise, aim to incorporate moderately-intense physical activity (like brisk walking) into your routine to help lower your blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity. For guidance on how much exercise to incorporate into your daily schedule, consult with your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations. 

In most cases, your blood sugar will return to normal levels after your baby is born. 

Can You Eat a Vegetarian Diet with Gestational Diabetes?

Yes, many people can eat a vegetarian diet with gestational diabetes while under the supervision of a registered dietitian. 


More research is needed to understand the potential benefits of a plant-based or vegetarian diet on gestational diabetes. But, one review from 2021 found that a plant-based diet may help to decrease inflammation and improve insulin efficiency in people with gestational diabetes. 

The same review suggests that a well-planned vegetarian diet may also help people with gestational diabetes to eat a diet that’s low in saturated fat and high in fiber, both of which are beneficial during gestational diabetes. 

Potential risks

Vegetarian diets can be associated with an increased risk of nutritional deficiencies, especially B12. But research shows that vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy options during pregnancy and lactation. Working with a dietitian can ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional requirements and reduce the risk of these deficiencies. 

Vegetarian Food to Eat with Gestational Diabetes

There are many vegetarian foods that your dietitian can help you incorporate into your diet to support your health and the health of your baby. Examples of vegetarian foods that may be recommended if you have gestational diabetes include:

  • Whole fruits and vegetables: Incorporating lots of fruits and vegetables, including berries, avocado, broccoli, mushroom, and kale, into your daily diet can help you to meet your nutritional requirements. 
  • High-fiber foods: These include foods like legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.   
  • Lean proteins: Plant-based proteins like tofu, edamame, beans, and other vegetarian sources of protein like eggs or Greek yogurt can help to keep your meals balanced.

Tips for Managing Blood Sugar Levels with a Vegetarian Diet

Your dietitian or healthcare provider may ask you to track your blood sugar levels after receiving a gestational diabetes diagnosis. The ADA recommends aiming for the following blood sugar levels:

  • 95 mg/dl or less before a meal.
  • 140 mg/dl or less one hour after a meal.
  • 120 mg/dl or less two hours after a meal.

Adhering to the dietary recommendations laid out by your dietitian can help you to keep your blood sugar levels stable when eating a vegetarian diet. Incorporating a personalized exercise plan can also help to keep blood sugar levels in check, regardless of what type of eating plan you are following. 

How to Create a Plant-Based Meal Plan for Gestational Diabetes

When planning meals for gestational diabetes, it’s important to consider keeping the amounts and types of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins you eat consistent from day-to-day. Though meal-plan recommendations can vary from person-to-person, general guidelines include eating:

  • Lots of whole fruits and vegetables.
  • Moderate quantities of lean proteins and healthy fats. 
  • Moderate quantities of whole grains.
  • Limit foods with added sugars (like sodas, cakes, candies, etc.).

Consider working with a registered dietitian to create a healthy and sustainable vegetarian meal plan for your gestational diabetes. Working with a professional can help to ensure that your health and preferences are taken into account when creating an achievable meal plan for managing gestational diabetes.

If you’re looking for support with managing your gestational diabetes, consider booking a virtual appointment with a Registered Dietitian.


Though more randomized clinical trials are needed to determine the benefits of a vegetarian diet for gestational diabetes, emerging research suggests that a well-planned and balanced vegetarian diet may help to decrease inflammation and improve insulin efficiency. Ultimately, it is possible to eat a vegetarian diet and still meet your nutritional requirements if you have gestational diabetes, especially if you’re working with a registered dietitian.  

Managing Gestational Diabetes with an RD

Pregnancy can be an exciting and overwhelming time for many people. Though receiving a gestational diabetes diagnosis may seem daunting at first, there are several things you can do to help manage the condition, including making dietary changes. Working with a specialist can help you understand what dietary changes to make help keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Book an appointment with Nourish and see a gestational diabetes registered dietitian through your insurance.

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