What to Eat in Pregnancy With Type 1 or 2 Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on March 15, 2024
4 min read

When you’re pregnant or planning to be, it’s time to pay special attention to what you eat. That’s especially true if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Eating a variety of wholesome foods, working with a dietitian, and skipping unsafe foods and drinks will help you keep yourself and your baby healthy.

See a dietitian if you’re thinking about getting pregnant. They can help you come up with a meal plan with the right nutrients that will work with your lifestyle. Planning your meals and eating at the same times every day can help keep your blood sugar from getting too high or too low.

But remember: “Eating for two” doesn’t mean you should eat twice as much. You only need about 300 more calories each day when you’re pregnant. Focus on getting foods that are more nutritious instead of just eating more.

All the rules of a good diet apply during pregnancy. Choose a balanced mix of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy, lean meats, and healthy fats to get all the nutrients you need.

But you also need a plan to control your blood sugar throughout the day. A good way is to follow a daily plan of three meals and three snacks.

At each one, eat at least one serving of protein and one serving of carbohydrates.

Protein can include:

Carbs can include:

  • Starches, like bread, cooked or dry cereal, rice, pasta, popcorn, or pretzels. (Choose whole grains over processed ones.)
  • Fruit
  • Dairy, such as milk and yogurt

Just like before pregnancy, you’ll need to count your carbs to make sure you keep your blood sugar under control. How many you need depends on things like your height, weight, how active you are, and your current blood sugar control. Your dietitian will tell you the right number of carbs to shoot for. They can also tell you how many calories to eat. It might range from about 1,700 to 2,700 a day. You will probably need more calories as your pregnancy goes on.

Also, make sure you’re getting the nutrients that every woman needs for a healthy pregnancy, including:

  • Folic acid. It protects against problems with a baby’s spine and brain. Pregnant women need 400-800 micrograms of folic acid every day. You can get it from supplements or foods like spinach, nuts, and beans, as well as fortified foods like breads and cereal. Ask your doctor if there are other vitamins you should take.
  • Calcium, from foods like dairy products and broccoli
  • Vitamin D, in foods like salmon and fortified milk
  • Iron, from sources like lean red meat or beans

One easy mealtime rule to control your blood sugar: fill a quarter of your plate with meat or other protein foods, another quarter with whole grains or starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, corn), and the rest with non-starchy vegetables, like greens, tomatoes, or squash. Add a serving of milk, fruit, or yogurt to your meal or have it as a snack.

  • Don’t drink alcohol. It raises the odds of miscarriage and fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Avoid foods that could be unsafe during pregnancy. Don’t eat raw seafood, like sushi or oysters, or high-mercury fish like swordfish. Skip unpasteurized milk products, juices, and soft cheeses, like Brie and feta, unless they are labeled as pasteurized. Only eat meat, eggs, and poultry that are fully cooked. Heat hot dogs and lunch meats until they’re steaming, or don’t eat them at all.
  • Don’t drink more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day -- about 1 1/2 8-ounce cups of coffee. Although many herbal teas don’t have caffeine, scientists aren’t totally sure how some of them affect growing babies. So ask your doctor before you drink them.
  • There’s no evidence that artificial sweeteners aren’t safe during pregnancy, but it’s a good idea to limit yourself to the occasional diet soda or sugar-free treat. Check product labels for ingredients like aspartame and saccharin, and ask your doctor for more advice on how much is OK.
  • Go easy on sweets and desserts. They add carbs without nutrients and can spike your blood sugar.