15 Lunch Ideas for Gestational Diabetes

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Gestational diabetes (GDM) is, unfortunately, one of the most common adverse medical conditions during pregnancy, and occurrence is only rising (1). Making changes to your diet can be key in the prevention and management of it. This post discusses how to build a healthy meal with GDM along with 15 lunch ideas for gestational diabetes. 

What Are the Risks of Poorly Managed Gestational Diabetes?

The presence of gestational diabetes increases pregnancy and birth complications, and can even affect you and your baby’s health long-term. Some examples of the risks include:

  • Excessive birth weight and macrosomia, with an increased risk for C-section.
  • Early pre-term birth.
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes for both mom and baby.
  • Higher risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia.

What Are the Current diet Recommendations for Women With Gestational Diabetes?

In addition to the increased dietary needs during pregnancy, women must pay more attention to the amount and type of carbohydrates consumed during a meal. Most nutritional recommendations advise pregnant women with GDM to limit total intake or choose complex, low-glycemic carbohydrates. 

However, carbohydrates are an important energy source for pregnant women and fetus. Pregnant women need at least 175 grams of carbohydrates (2), which translates into 3 small-to-moderate sized meals throughout the day and 2-4 snacks. Therefore, it’s important not to skip meals as this can lead to nutritional deficiencies that can affect you and your baby.

It is important to note that GDM is a complex disease, and guidelines vary depending on the organization. Meals for gestational diabetes may need to be individualized. Meeting with a Registered Dietitian can help with figuring out your exact dietary needs.

Building a Healthy Meals for Gestational Diabetes

Complex Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are more readily digested and absorbed in the small intestines which can contribute to a rapid increase in blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates include fiber, which makes them more resistant to digestion and results in a slower increase in blood glucose. 

Therefore, instead of restricting carbs – try to monitor portion sizes and limit the more simple carbohydrates. Below is a table of complex carbohydrates that should be prioritized. 

a table comparing complex carbohydrates to simple carbohydrates


Not only are protein needs increased during the second and third trimesters, but eating a meal high in protein increases satiety and satisfaction. It’s the macronutrient which takes the longest to digest and helps to stabilize blood sugars when consumed with a carbohydrate. 

Healthy Fats

Consuming healthy fats during pregnancy assists with the development of the fetus, and helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that cannot be synthesized in the body, and have numerous benefits during pregnancy and postpartum. There’s a reason they have been recently added to most prenatal vitamins. Food sources which are high in omega-3’s include salmon, eggs, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. 

Infographic on building healthy meals: making sure half your plate is vegetables; eating healthy as a busy mom

Lunch Ideas for Gestational Diabetes

Below are guidelines that ensure the increased nutrient needs during pregnancy are met while also providing well-balanced meals to promote stable blood sugars. These guidelines may need to be customized for women with poorly controlled blood sugars.

Nutritional estimation is an approximation, and may vary depending on individual preparation and ingredients.

Table with Guidelines for Gestational Diabetes Lunch: 300-500 calories, 20-30 grams of protein, 30-45 grams of carbs

1. Quinoa Chicken Salad; 460 calories, 46g protein, 35g carbs

quinoa cucumber chickpea salad portioned out in storage containers for low calorie high protein meal prep

A delicious and healthy lunch idea with fiber from the chickpeas and quinoa, healthy fats from the walnuts, and lean quality protein from the chicken breast. 

  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas
  • 3 oz. grilled chicken breast
  • 1 Tbsp. walnuts
  • 1/4 cup cucumber and onions
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil and vinegar

2. Chicken Salad Wrap in High Fiber Tortilla; 400 calories, 30g protein, 34g carbs

A simple chicken salad with grapes in a high fiber tortilla would make a great, well-balanced lunch for gestational diabetes. Substitute the chicken with falafel and vegetables for a vegetarian option. Make sure to read food labels for the tortillas – compare carbohydrates and fiber content of different brands. 

3. Grilled Salmon and Brown Rice with Side Salad; 372 calories, 30g carbs, 30g protein

  • 4 oz. Grilled Salmon
  • 1/2 cup Brown Rice or Quinoa
  • Side Salad: mixed greens, cucumber, tomatoes with light dressing like olive oil and vinegar

Salmon is a high-protein, low-mercury fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids – completely safe to eat 2-3 times per week. In fact, it is one of my top foods for pregnancy because it has been shown to improve eye and brain development, as well as lower your baby’s risk of allergies and asthma (3). 

4. One Pot Mexican Chili; 400 calories, 25g protein, 35g carbs

Mexican Chili in a bowl topped with shredded cheese and avocado

This one pot Mexican Chili takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, and there are usually enough leftovers for future lunches. I like to call it a “lazy meal”. It is loaded with vegetables and the black beans provide a good source of fiber.

5. Cottage Cheese Fruit Parfait; 358 calories, 37g protein, 28g carbs

Cottage cheese or greek yogurt parfait in glass containers with chopped nuts for lunch idea for gestational diabetes.
  • 1.5 cups of low-fat cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of mixed fruit
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
  • Drizzle of honey

This is a great option if you need something easy to throw together. Cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are excellent sources of protein while also helping to meet the increased calcium needs during pregnancy. 

6. Egg Salad Sandwich; 450 calories, 28g protein, 36g carbs

Egg salad sandwich on a plate.
  • 2-3 eggs, hard-boiled, with Greek fat yogurt and spices of your choice
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread 
  • 1/2 cup of pineapple

Since two eggs is only 13 grams of protein, something like this Greek Yogurt Dill Egg Salad ensures this meal is higher in protein. 

7. Turkey Burger with Carrots and Cauliflower; 400 calories, 39g protein, 30g carbs

Another lunch idea for gestational diabetes is a 4 oz. turkey burger patty with a whole wheat bun and a side of mixed veggies. The hamburger bun used for this nutrition estimation had 20 grams per 1 large bun – read your labels!

8. Tofu Stir-Fry; 350 calories, 26g protein, 36g carbs

  • 1 cup of cooked tofu
  • 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice noodles
  • 1 cup of mixed veggies
  • 1 Tbsp. stir-fry sauce

9. Greek Salad with Whole Grain Pita; 490 calories, 35g protein, 35g carbs

A medium-size Greek salad with 3-4 oz. of chicken or gyro meat, 1-2 Tbsp. of Greek dressing, and a side of whole-grain pita makes for a delicious, healthy lunch. 

10. Shrimp Pasta; 348 calories, 34g protein, 32g carbs

shrimp pasta with broccoli lunch idea for gestational diabetes
  • 2 oz. cooked Banza chickpea rotini noodles
  • 3-4 oz. cooked shrimp
  • 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli
  • 1/4 cup of Rao’s Alfredo sauce

11. Turkey, Baked Potato, and Vegetables; 330 calories, 30g protein, 33g carbs

  • 3 oz. lean turkey breast
  • 1/2 baked potato
  • Vegetables of your choice
  • 1 Tbsp. sour cream for the baked potato

12. Chicken Enchilada Soup; 333 calories, 30g protein, 35g carbs

This Chicken Enchilada Soup from SkinnyTaste can be thrown in the crockpot, and easily stored in the fridge for lunches for up to 4 days. 

Also try: Mini Chicken Meatball Soup from HauteandHealthyLiving.com.

13. Tex Mex Quinoa Bowl; 365 calories, 29g protein, 45g carbs

A meal packed with fiber from complex carbohydrates, this Tex Mex Quinoa Bowl is packed full of flavor- and can be made in one pan in under 30 minutes. 

14. Tuna Salad with Whole Grain Crackers and Cucumber Slices; 450 calories, 30g protein, 25g carbs

Tuna salad on a plate with crackers and cucumber slices.

Tuna salad with crackers make for a quick and easy lunch – as long as you’re not eating it more than twice a week because of the mercury levels. Serving size should be one cup of tuna salad, 15 whole-grain crackers (check labels) and 1/2-1 cup of chopped cucumbers. 

15. Chia Seed Pudding; 447 calories, 27g protein, 35g carbs

chia seed pudding high protein meal or snack for women

Using just three ingredients, this protein chia seed pudding can make for a highly nutritious lunch. Prep a few in advance for an easy, grab-and go option. This recipe does use protein powder, which can be helpful during pregnancy – but read this post on how to choose one and the best protein powders for pregnancy. 

What About Breakfast Ideas?

There you have it – 15 lunch ideas for gestational diabetes. As you can see, it’s more beneficial to monitor portion size instead of restricting carbohydrates altogether. The type of carbohydrates makes a difference as well.

Smaller, consistent meals throughout the day have been shown to be most effective with controlling blood glucose during pregnancy. 

For more meal ideas with GDM, check out these breakfast ideas for gestational diabetes

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