Eating Out With Gestational Diabetes: An Ultimate Guide

by | Jun 4, 2023 | Blog | 1 comment

Last updated 50 days ago.

If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and are convinced you’re going to have to give up all social events and your favorite restaurants for the next few months I have some good news for you: this isn’t true! 

Eating out with gestational diabetes can feel overwhelming, or even impossible at times, but with a few simple tips you can still enjoy your favorite cuisines while also keeping your blood sugar in check!

Tips for eating out with gestational diabetes

Managing your gestational diabetes and building meals for blood sugar support is about more than just looking for the “low carb option”. Before we get into the specifics on what to order at various restaurants, here are a few general tips you can follow:

  1. Know before you go: it can be helpful to take a quick glance at the menu before you head to the restaurant. This will reduce overwhelm and give you a chance to evaluate your options and see what both sounds good, and what is best for your gestational diabetes and something you want to eat.
  2. Start with water: staying hydrated is great for pregnancy and your health in general! Be mindful about taking sips throughout your meal
  3. Look for the veggies: adding veggies to your meal of choice is a GREAT way to support blood sugars (yay for fiber). The great news is that virtually all cuisines and restaurants will have some sort of veggie side or addition to meals. You can also opt for a side salad or get a salad appetizer.
  4. Be mindful: throughout the meal be sure to check in with yourself to evaluate fullness and satisfaction. Take deep breaths throughout and even put your fork down to evaluate where you’re currently at. If you notice yourself starting to feel full, remind yourself that you can take the meal home and enjoy it later. If you feel like you struggle to identify when you’re full or to stop eating a delicious meal, learn how to develop this skill here.
  5. Remember: it’s not always about what you can remove from a meal. ADDITION goes a long way. It’s also helpful to remember that so many things impact your blood sugars beyond just what you eat. This one meal won’t make or break your gestational diabetes management. Focus on things like reducing stress, getting in daily movement, and getting good sleep. These supporting factors will also influence your blood sugar and overall pregnancy experience (learn more about some of these factors here).

What to order when dining out with gestational diabetes

Pregnant woman
Eating Out With Gestational Diabetes: An Ultimate Guide 3

Below I’ve listed some popular cuisines that you may be enjoying when eating out with gestational diabetes! Although many of the tips and guidelines provided will apply no matter where you’re eating, I’ve included some specifics such as what vegetables to look out for and ideas of dishes to order at certain restaurants. Know that this is not an all-encompassing list, but instead serves as a “cheat sheet” to keep in your back pocket as you learn to get more comfortable with eating out.

Above all, I want you to know that eating out with gestational diabetes doesn’t need to be an overwhelming or scary experience, even with gestational diabetes. It won’t be perfect every time, and that’s okay. More on that at the end of this blog, but let’s go ahead and dive into the guide:

Mexican food and gestational diabetes

Looking to enjoy the bold and spicy flavors of Mexican cuisine with gestational diabetes?  Here are a few general tips to follow and a couple meal ideas to get you started:

Appetizer: Look for options that also include a lean protein like chicken or shrimp and add healthy fats like avocado or nuts!

Entree: 

  • Look for proteins like chicken, shrimp, or fish! If you’re craving beef opt for a lean cut like sirloin or tenderloin. 
  • Remember what I mentioned earlier: veggies are your best friend! There are plenty of non-starchy vegetable options that are common at Mexican restaurants like: peppers, onions, zucchini, and tomatoes. These are all lower in carbs but higher in fiber which is great for blood sugar levels!
  • Include whole-grains and complex carbs like brown rice, whole-wheat or corn tortillas or beans!
  • Choose tomato-based sauces or pico de gallo as a topping. You can also order things like sour cream or guacamole on the side so you’re able to control how much you’d like to add!

Meal ideas:

  • Fajitas (protein of choice with cooked veggies)
  • Taco Salad
  • Fish tacos

Asian food and gestational diabetes

Heading out to enjoy some Asian cuisine? Keep this cheat sheet below as a reference! “Asian food” covers a lot of different cuisines, but these are general tips you can follow regardless of where you’re eating:

Appetizer: Start with a clear soup or salad that includes lean protein options like tofu, chicken, or shrimp. You can also add veggies for extra fiber and nutrients! Edamame is commonly served at many restaurants (especially those that serve sushi) and is a great appetizer or side dish that is high in protein!

Entree:

  • Choose steamed or stir-fried dishes that include the lean proteins listed above!
  • VEGGIES! Of course we want to include some non-starchy vegetables. Common veggies you may find at asian restaurants include: bok choy, broccoli, snow peas, and mushrooms! All great options for someone with gestational diabetes.
  • Get sauces and condiments on the side so you’re able to decide how much to add

Meal ideas:

  • Hibachi chicken with vegetables and white rice
  • Cooked sushi roll with edamame appetizer
  • Stir fry with veggies and protein of your choice 

Indian food and gestational diabetes

Indian food can be a delicious option for those with gestational diabetes to enjoy! Here are some general tips to follow and a couple meal ideas:

Appetizer: Protein based dishes that include lentils, chickpeas, chicken, and tofu are going to be great options for appetizers and entrees!

Entree:

  • Choose tandoori or grilled dishes
  • Non-starchy veggies like spinach, cauliflower, eggplant, and okra are common in Indian cuisines and great options for those with gestational diabetes due to their low carb and high fiber makeup.
  • Choose lower-sugar beverages like water, tea, or unsweetened lassi

Meal ideas:

  • Chicken shorba (soup) with Tandoori chicken
  • Indian salad appetizer and Chicken Tikki Masala
  • Dessert: fresh fruit or dish like like kulfi

Thai food and gestational diabetes

Thai food can be a great option for those with gestational diabetes, as many of these meals include lots of veggies! Thai food usually features a combination of sweet, sour, spicy, salty, and bitter tastes. Here are a few general tips to follow if you are looking to enjoy their food with gestational diabetes:

Appetizer: Clear soup or a salad can be a great starter. Adding protein like chicken or shrimp and even some extra veggies can be great for blood sugar control! Save the green papaya salad for after the baby is born. Unripe papaya can be toxic when pregnant. 

Entree:

  • Choose stir-fried options that have proteins like chicken, fish, or tofu
  • Veggies like bell peppers, broccoli, carrots and cabbage are popular in Thai food and low in carbs, high in fiber: great for gestational diabetes!
  • Order sauce on the side so you can control how much is added
  • Choose lower-sugar beverages like water, tea, or unsweetened iced tea

Meal ideas:

  • Tom Yum Soup with green curry
  • Coconut curry

Italian food and gestational diabetes

Although Italian food is often labeled as “unhealthy” or “too high carb”, there are many ways to enjoy Italian food- even if you have gestational diabetes! Here are a few general tips and guidelines to follow next time you’re craving some delicious Italian food:

Appetizer: Salad is a common appetizer with Italian dishes, which is great for gestational diabetes! Try to order the dressing on the side so you can add how much you’d like and add protein like grilled chicken or shrimp when possible. You can also opt for a soup instead of salad if you’d like! 

Entree:

  • Grilled or baked dishes that include proteins like chicken, fish, or shrimp can be a great option for someone with gestational diabetes
  • Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, zucchini, and mushrooms are common in Italian dishes and lower in carbs/higher in fiber, so great for gestational diabetes

Meal ideas:

  • Salad appetizer with eggplant rollatini
  • Thin crust pizza
  • Caprese salad
  • Chicken piccata 
  • Dessert: sorbet or fresh fruit

What about the carbs?

I hear this a lot from folks when it comes to eating out with gestational diabetes. Many of these cuisines commonly serve rice, noodles, starchy veggies like corn, peas, potatoes and winter squash. Many sauces use sugar as a sweetener. Every person has different responses to the amount and type of carbohydrates eaten in a meal so there isn’t a hard and fast rule to avoid these foods. ADDING in protein, fat and fiber tends to help balance out the blood sugar response from eating these foods rich in carbohydrates. You can also choose more complex carbs like brown rice or whole wheat options.

Pay attention to your desire to eat these foods and eat them mindfully. Notice when you feel full. If you actively avoid food you love (hello warm naan!) and you feel like the meal wasn’t complete with out it you may end up eating more of other types of food that aren’t satisfying because your body is still searching for that satisfaction factor.

You’re probably better off eating some of the food you really love. If this feels hard for you, I get it. When we work together we’ll dive deeper into how to use Intuitive Eating to make peace with all foods and enjoy them in a way that is satisfying and respects your body’s nutrition needs right now.

Removing the guilt around eating out with gestational diabetes

Although I provided many tips and some guidance to use when eating out with gestational diabetes, I want you to remember that the most harmful thing for your overall health is disordered eating. This is why it’s important to learn how to drop the guilt, shame, and stress that is often associated with eating- especially eating out with gestational diabetes. 

You do NOT have to be perfect, in fact, perfect eating doesn’t even exist. Accept that you may not always be able to (or even want to) follow all of the advice mentioned, and that’s okay. What matters most is what you do MOST of the time. A singular meal or snack is not going to break your progress or harm your baby.

Learning how to manage your gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes can feel overwhelming and isolating, but it doesn’t have to. Learning simple tools and strategies to use throughout your pregnancy can greatly impact your overall experience with pregnancy and gestational diabetes. 

I work 1:1 with clients from a weight-inclusive stance to both educate and empower them to make choices in pregnancy that support their overall wellbeing and health as an INDIVIDUAL first. This means you won’t hear me telling you to “just lose weight”, “just put up with it for the baby”, or ever shaming you for your food choices. We’ll work together to ensure you feel fully supported and empowered throughout your pregnancy. Interested in learning more? Click here to book a free discovery call to learn more about how I can join your pregnancy support team.


1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    This is what i needed…. I eat and test 98% of the time great and i was stressed because we are going to an ITALIAN RESTAURANT and i havent eaten any sort of pasta since i was diagnosed.. this was so comforting to read. Thank you..

    Reply

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Emily PiazzaHi! I’m Emily.

I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Full Spectrum Doula, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and mom of 3.

Emily helps pregnant and postpartum folks with gestational diabetes, disordered eating and eating disorders, and body image struggles. Through a weight inclusive, anti-diet lens she helps people confidently feed themselves for a healthy pregnancy and healing postpartum journey.

Schedule a free 15 minute discovery session with me.

As a special gift to anyone who books a discovery call, you will have access to my Intuitive Eating: Explained video lesson.


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