Foods to Avoid with Gestational Diabetes

pregnant lady on couch eating fruit for foods to avoid ith gestational diabetes

The overnight switch to a gestational diabetes diet can be overwhelming. Thankfully, you have support, whether it is your care team or my Better Pregnancy Gestational Diabetes Course, blogs, and social media. We got you! I am commonly asked what foods to avoid with gestational diabetes. The answer is very individual. While sugary cakes, cookies, and pie may be obvious, some aren’t to many people. To answer this question, I created a list of the most common blood sugar spikers I see on blood sugar logs from my patients.

Balanced Diet is Key in Gestational Diabetes

First and foremost, a balanced diet plays a pivotal role in managing gestational diabetes. Incorporating a variety of nutrients, especially high-fiber carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, can help stabilize blood sugar levels. You’ll find eating this way not only helps your blood sugar but can improve mood, energy, and satiety. Check out this gestational diabetes meal plan for more help.

Fair Warning! No Food is ‘Bad’

Before we dive into what foods to avoid, I want to remind you no food is ‘bad’ or restricted. This is a list of foods I commonly see in patients’ food logs that cause blood sugar spikes.  

The occasional high blood sugar is not the end of the world. Many gestational diabetes specialists, like myself, look for at least 80% of fastings and 80% of after-meal blood sugar numbers to be normal. These percentages mean that occasionally, having food that spikes you is ok. It’s when we’re eating foods that spike our blood sugar every day that we worry about complications. 

Common Foods to Avoid with Gestational Diabetes

Restaurant French Fries

Restaurant french fries are often coated with extra corn starch to enhance crispiness, leading to a higher spike in blood sugar levels. The added corn starch increases the glycemic index of these fries, making them less suitable for those managing gestational diabetes.

I often find patients surprised that fries can spike their blood sugar. This spike is likely due to the extra starchy coating on restaurant fries. Of course, these results are individual. I see it often enough for it to make the list!

White Rice

Rice is a staple in many diets; unfortunately, the rapid digestion of white rice results in swift blood sugar spikes. When having white rice, watch your portion, pair it with protein and fat, and stay active after your meal. Other higher-fiber grains to try instead of white rice include farro, quinoa, barley, and wild rice.

Juice

Juices, even those labeled as “natural” or “100% fruit juice,” can cause rapid increases in blood sugar due to their high fructose content and absence of fiber. Just one glass of orange juice can contain up to five oranges! Choose whole fruits over juice to help you get your nutrients and fiber without the sugar rush.

Starbucks Drinks

Many Starbucks drinks are loaded with sugar, contributing to significant blood sugar elevations. Awareness of the sugar content can guide better choices. Check out my Starbucks beverage guides for better ordering when craving Starbucks.

Pizza

The combination of highly refined carbohydrates and saturated fats in traditional pizza crusts can cause blood sugar levels to remain elevated beyond the one-hour mark after consumption. Opting for low-carb, thin crust, or keto pizza crusts can be a healthier alternative during a pregnancy with gestational diabetes. 

Be wary of cauliflower pizza crusts. Many cauliflower pizza crusts contain rice flour, potato starch, and rice starch. Double-check the ingredients list on all cauliflower pizzas to make sure it is genuinely a cauliflower pizza crust. 

Ketchup

Ketchup, a common condiment, often contains high amounts of sugar, which can unexpectedly increase your blood sugar. Choose whole food no-sugar-added ketchups like Primal Kitchen or Good Food for Good.

BBQ Sauce

Like ketchup, BBQ sauce is typically high in sugar, contributing to blood sugar spikes when consumed in significant amounts.  Choose condiment brands like Primal Kitchen or Good Food for Good, which use spices instead of sweeteners to create their condiments.

Cereal (e.g., Honey Bunches of Oats)

Despite appearing healthy, many cereals are high in sugar and low in fiber, negatively impacting blood sugar control. Many of us grew up on cereal, so it’s a natural craving to have. (I am guilty). Try to pick only high-fiber cereals with at least 5g of fiber per serving and pair them with a protein. Many people use a protein drink as their milk, like OWYN, or use cereal as a topping on plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. 

Granola Bars (e.g., Belvita, Nature Valley bars)

Granola bars, often considered healthy snacks, can contain considerable amounts of sugar, making them less ideal for managing gestational diabetes. What makes them crunchy and the oats stick together is sugar, so it’s natural that it may spike sugars. Pick a protein snack idea. You can find more snack ideas here.

Oatmeal

Not all oatmeal is created equal. Oatmeal packets often contain extra sugars. Double-check what you’re buying. Do half oatmeal and half chia seeds to keep your blood sugar stable when enjoying oatmeal. 

Bottomline on Foods to Avoid with Gestational Diabetes

Understanding which foods to avoid with gestational diabetes can help save you time, money, and grief. Results will vary depending on your activity level, amount of protein and fat with the meal, and stress level. Make sure to keep a food journal and understand every week of pregnancy will likely be different. For more help, check out my Better Pregnancy Gestational Diabetes Course and Coaching program. 

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Ginger Cochran is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, functional medicine practitioner, Certified Diabetes Educator & Care Specialist, Certified Wellness Coach, Certified Exercise Physiologist, and owner of Nutritious Ginger, an integrative and functional nutrition practice focusing on full body self-care and nourishment. Ginger’s primary specialty is women’s health, with a special emphasis on gestational diabetes, weight management, infertility, digestive wellness, and overall health + happiness.
Ginger serves on the board of director for the Nutrition Care Manual by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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