21 Gestational Diabetes Breakfast Ideas to Start Your Day

So you’ve just been told you have high blood sugars in your pregnancy. Now what? Are you wondering what’s a good gestational diabetes breakfast to have?

Breakfast is often the toughest meal of the day. You’re either not hungry, bloated, or too tired from a rough night of sleeping (hello back pain!).  I get it and I’m so glad you’re here! 

This post is going to cover all you need to know to make an awesome gestational diabetes breakfast, with tons of practical examples for you to walk away with.  

DISCLAIMER: This post was written by Justine Chan MHSc, RD, CDE.  All content on this site is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical or nutritional advice. Always seek medical and dietary advice from your doctor or dietitian. 

Before we dive into tips, let’s address the question you’re all wondering about. 

Table of Contents

How many carbs should I eat for breakfast with gestational diabetes?

I get this question all the time. And I say, well, it depends.  First, let’s see what the evidence says.

Diabetes Canada and the Institute of Medicine recommend at least 175 grams of carbs per day. This is the recommendation for anyone that is pregnant (1, 2) to support the growth and brain development of your baby. It’s been noted that for example, head circumference may be smaller with 100g carbohydrates per day (2).

There is obviously some personalization to this recommendation and perhaps some debate around the minimum target.  If you cut carbs, you may be cutting vital calories and this is what’s been hard to tease out in the research (2). 

Therefore, the data remains unclear on the effects of a low carb diet that contains less than 175 grams per day.

The other thing we’re not clear about is what happens when you are in ketosis. This is when your body starts converting fats for energy on a low carbohydrate diet.  Ketosis is linked to lower brain power and motor skills in babies (3).

Consistency is key

It’s also ideal if your day to day carb intake is consistent, especially if you are on meal time insulin. This way, it’s easier to match the insulin dose to your meal. What’s more, blood sugar targets are more rigid in pregnancy.

A quick breakfast option when you are on the go!

Keep in mind that if you substitute the carbs in your diet with high fat foods, believe it or not, it can actually result in higher blood sugars (4). This is because fat can increase insulin resistance, which means this hormone is less effective in lowering blood sugars. 

The bottom line: the research isn’t clear. The effects of a low carb diet is muddled with the effects of a low calorie diet and may affect your baby’s growth and development.

Can I skip breakfast with gestational diabetes?

It’s not ideal.  The existing evidence supports spreading your food intake over 3 meals and 2-4 snacks. This can help to ensure a healthy pregnancy while managing your blood sugars and your hunger (3).  

It’s also a good idea to split your carb intake at breakfast over two meals since blood sugars tend to be the highest in the mornings (3). 

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Eating at regular time intervals can actually help your body process carbohydrates more easily. When you skip breakfast, you are also more likely to miss out on key nutrients you need to support you and your baby. Think calcium, vitamin D, iron, omega 3 fats, and choline!

Now on to some general best tips for building a gestational diabetes breakfast!

Best Tips For A Gestational Diabetes Breakfast: 

  • Replace high glycemic index carbs with low glycemic index ones. In addition to its blood sugar lowering benefits, some evidence shows that low glycemic index diets help to reduce the risk of a big baby.  
  • Limit cereals and refined breads as these foods tend to spike your blood sugars.
  • Ensure you have a good source of protein such as beans, yogurt, lean meat and fish, eggs, nuts, and cheese.
  • Eat your protein or fiber before your starch. For example, have your dahl before your chapati and your chicken before your sweet potato.
  • Make sure you stay well hydrated and choose water first! Think of all that extra blood volume needed for you and your baby.
  • Follow the plate method when you can! Fill your plate with at least 3 food groups: whole grains, fruit or veggies, and a good source of protein.

How to Build a Gestational Diabetes Breakfast

Step 1. Include at least 15 grams of protein
Step 2. Aim for 30 to 45 grams of high fiber carbs
Step 3. Add extras if you can eg. avocado, tomato, etc 
Step 4. Include 8 ounces of water 

Here are a few simple rules that will help you build your ideal gestational diabetes breakfast.

Keep reading to see all the gestational diabetes breakfast options you can have.  Whether you want something on the go or something that’s not egg-based, these ideas are bound to get you and your baby going in the morning! 

Each option contains 30 to 45 grams of low glycemic, high fiber carbs and at least 15 grams of protein. This balanced breakfast are great for your blood sugars.  

If you find your readings still spike afterwards, it’s NOT your fault. Remember, your pregnancy hormones continue to increase as the baby grows. This ultimately blocks insulin causing your blood sugars to rise. 

Without further ado, let’s start with egg-based breakfasts.

Egg-Based

Avocado toast with eggs, 34g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • 2 slices of sourdough toast
  • ½ avocado
  • 2 eggs, any way

Half an avocado contains 10% of your daily requirement of folate, which can help your baby’s brain, skull, and spine form properly (5).  Eggs are also a great source of choline, which influence the health of your placenta and the development of your baby’s brain (6). 

Spinach and cheese egg bites with a fruit and yogurt, 32g carbohydrates 

Serving: 

  • 2 egg bites made with spinach and cheese
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1/2 cup yogurt with less than 10 grams of added sugar per serving 

It’s hard enough getting enough veggies in our diet, so breakfast is a great opportunity to sneak some in! Cooked spinach is a great source of folate, an important vitamin for your baby’s growth and development.

All you need to do is whisk together a dozen eggs, some spinach, cheese and your favorite spices. Bake in the oven at 350F for 20 minutes and enjoy immediately or freeze for later.

Including citrus fruits can help to boost your absorption of iron, which is important for the extra blood volume that comes with pregnancy. 

Egg mcmuffin with egg and avocado, 34g carbohydrates 

Serving:

  • 1 english muffin
  • 1 egg
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 slice of cheddar cheese
  • 1 tangerine

Want to know an easy hack to increase the fiber at any meal? Add avocado.  One avocado provides nearly 14 grams of fiber! Fiber slows down digestion, causing your blood sugars to gradually rise. Certainly, this is a high fiber twist to the classic egg mcmuffin sandwich.

There are lots of great ways to incorporate eggs into a diabetes-friendly breakfast.

Oat-based

Overnight oats with berries, 37g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • ½ cup oats
  • ½ cup berries
  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

This breakfast is a dream because it’ll be ready for you when you wake up. Just combine all the ingredients and let it soak overnight.

All of the ingredients are low on the glycemic index, meaning your blood sugars are less likely to spike afterwards. Overall, this meal contains 9 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein, both of which will keep you satisfied. 

Greek yogurt parfait with chopped apple, muesli, and nuts, 40g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • ½ cup greek yogurt, plain
  • ¼ cup muesli, whole grain such as this one
  • 1/2 small apple, chopped

Nothing beats a traditional style whole grain muesli soaked in yogurt. You can easily pack this to go for those mornings when you’re in a rush. 

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Muesli + fortified soy milk + raspberries + slivered almonds, 45g carbohydrates 

Serving:

  • ½ cup muesli like this one
  • ½ cup unsweetened soy milk
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds

Given that the goal of a gestational diabetes breakfast is one that’s high in fiber and protein, this muesli bowl checks off all the boxes.  Per serving, you’re meeting about half of your daily fiber goal and getting close to 20 grams of protein. This is undoubtedly a perfect idea for those mornings where you don’t have a ton of time. 

Grain or legume based

Grilled cheese sandwich, 30g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • 2 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 1.5 oz of cheddar cheese
  • 2 slices tomato 
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise on each slice

Grilled cheese sandwiches are undeniably simple and the ultimate comfort food.  What’s more, pumpernickel bread is low on the glycemic index with a score of 49 (7).  Tomatoes contain vitamin C, which can help to boost iron absorption and support your baby’s growth.  

Dosa with chana and paneer, 38g carbohydrates 

Serving:

  • 1 dosa 
  • ½ cup chana masala (chickpeas)
  • 1.5 oz paneer cheese

Chickpeas are a nutritional powerhouse and contain iron, fiber, and folate, all of which can help your pregnancy. You need more iron because you’ve got more blood volume, you need more fiber because constipation is really common, and folate is great for preventing neural tube defects. Throw in some paneer cheese for some extra protein and you’re good to go.

Breakfast pita with hummus, bacon, and roasted red peppers, 32g carbohydrates
Serving: 

  • 1 medium whole wheat pita
  • ¼ cup hummus
  • 1 strip of bacon
  • ¼ cup of roasted red peppers
  • ½ cup plain yogurt

This breakfast pita is savory and hits the spot! To begin with, the bacon adds a bit of crunch, and the hummus is a source of protein and fiber. With a ½ cup of plain yogurt, you’ve got a delicious meal that’s high in protein on the whole.

Moreover, roasted red peppers contain vitamin C which helps with iron absorption, a mineral you need more of as the pregnancy goes on. They’re also easy to add to any meal and you can buy them jarred for convenience. 

Tostadas with guacamole, bean salad and cheese, 38g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • Three 5” tostadas 
  • 3 tablespoons guacamole
  • ½ cup bean salad sprinkled on top 
  • ¼ cup shredded cheese 

Think of tostadas as the ultimate big nacho and the options for toppings are endless.   You can make your own bean salad with your own favorite beans, fresh chopped veggies and herbs or buy one that’s pre-prepared. Top with cheese and you’re golden.

Breakfast taco with scrambled eggs, veggies and cheese, 33g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • 4 small hard shell tacos
  • 1 cup scrambled eggs with cheese
  • ½ cup chopped veggies of choice

This breakfast taco is to die for. The crunch, the savory egg and cheese mix, and the color of the veggies will bring life to your mornings.  This meal packs 20 grams of protein and is a great source of choline, which can help improve the health of your placenta and baby’s brain (8).

There are many healthy grain and legume based options for any type of diet.

Shredded wheat biscuit with milk and mixed nuts, 32g carbohydrates 

Serving:

  • 1 Shredded wheat biscuit
  • 1 cup Fairlife 2% milk
  • ½ pear, sliced
  • 1 oz almonds

This simple breakfast is sure to get you going, especially when you don’t have the energy to cook in the mornings.  Shredded wheat is one of the least processed cereals out there with only two ingredients in the ingredient list. Add a pear and some almonds and you’ve got yourself a balanced breakfast. 

Roti with dahl (lentil stew) and spinach, 30g carbohydrates 

Serving:

  • 1 roti (if you’re making this from scratch, this is based on 1 cup flour yielding 6 rotis)
  • ½ to 1 cup dahl depending on how thick it is
  • ½ cup or more of cooked spinach 
  • 1 oz of sunflower seeds

Did you know beans and pulses like lentils are great for gestational diabetes? They contain resistant starch which “resists” digestion and raises your blood sugars slowly.  

Overall, this is a great choice if you’re also looking to boost folate and iron in your diet, both of which are key nutrients for a healthy pregnancy!

Tofu scramble breakfast burrito, 30g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • 100g extra-firm tofu, seasoned to taste 
  • Salad greens or your favorite vegetable, chopped
  • 1 large 12” tortilla

Here’s a vegan burrito that’s a change from your typical egg-based breakfast. All you need to do is crumble the tofu and toss with your favorite seasoning. Tofu cooks fast in the frying pan and soaks in flavors really easily. This is a great meal idea that’s sure to keep you energized.

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Black bean, kale and cheese quesadilla, 45g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • 2 small tortillas
  • ½ cup kidney beans, mashed
  • ½ cup kale, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded cheese

A quesadilla is the ultimate breakfast comfort food. Beans and cheese go so well together, and if you throw in some kale you’re also getting vitamin K and calcium which are both great for building you and your baby’s strong bones.

Shredded wheat is a classic breakfast option for a good reason!

High protein pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream, 34g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • 2 high protein pancakes, homemade or made with store-bought pancake mix
  • ½ cup strawberries, halved
  • 1 tsp butter on each pancake
  • A dollop of whip cream

Hands up if you love pancakes! You can make your own high protein pancakes from scratch of course by adding in protein foods like nut butter, seeds, eggs, cottage cheese, or greek yogurt. However, if you’re strapped for time, there is no shame in buying a high protein pancake mix.  

Top with strawberries and whipped cream and *chef’s kiss*, there you have it!

Whole grain crackers with swiss cheese with plum, 35g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • 7 whole grain crackers
  • 1.5 oz swiss cheese 
  • 1 medium plum

If you wake up nauseous most mornings, crackers are the perfect remedy. A balanced breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, and you can use snack foods to hit your macros.  

Wondering how much one and a half ounces of cheese looks like? It’s about the size of 3 dice or your index and middle finger together.  You’ll also be getting close to a third of your daily goal for calcium, which is beneficial for you and your baby’s bone development.

Fish-based

Sardines with sourdough bread and unsweetened nut milk of choice, 34g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • ½ can sardines in tomato sauce
  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 250ml unsweetened nut milk of choice, fortified 

Some of you may turn your nose up at the smell of fish, but believe it or not, sardines in tomato sauce are a great choice for breakfast. 

They’re chocked full of good-for-your-brain omega 3’s and a source of iron. Also, the tomato sauce contains vitamin C which helps to boost your absorption of iron. Sourdough bread is great because it’s lower on the glycemic index compared to whole wheat bread (9), so it may have a better effect on your blood sugars.

Complete your meal with a glass of unsweetened nut milk, which generally contains only 1 to 2 grams of carbs per 250ml cup.

Whole wheat bagel thins with canned light tuna and a small fruit, 30g carbohydrates

Serving:

  • 1 whole wheat bagel thin, like this one
  • Half a can of canned light tuna
  • 1 clementine

According to the Food and Drug Administration, canned tuna is okay in pregnancy at 2-3 servings per week. A serving of tuna contains nearly 17 grams of protein and is a source of iron.  The vitamin C in the clementine can help to increase iron absorption which can promote your baby’s growth and development. 

Other gestational diabetes breakfast ideas

Power smoothie, 30g carbohydrates 

  • ½ avocado
  • ¾ cup blueberries
  • ½ cup spinach
  • ½ cup greek yogurt
  • ½ cup fairlife 2% milk 

A smoothie in the morning is great if you’re not feeling hungry or are strapped for time. It’s too common for a smoothie to be low in protein but because of the greek yogurt and fairlife milk, you’re getting about 20 grams of protein per serving. 

P.S. Don’t be afraid of fruit! Blueberries are low on the glycemic index and are great to have with gestational diabetes. 

Smoothies can be a great way to start your day!

Apple cottage cheese bowl, 30g carbohydrates 

Serving:

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup walnuts

This cottage cheese bowl is the perfect combo of sweet and salty. You probably know cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein, providing 12 grams per 1/2 cup.  Chop up some apples, throw in some walnuts, sprinkle some cinnamon and voila! Here’s a balanced breakfast that’s sure to satisfy. 

Key takeaways: 21 Gestational Diabetes Breakfast Ideas to Start Your Day

In summary, you are walking away with 21 tangible gestational diabetes breakfast ideas to try.  You also now have a formula for building a balanced breakfast for better blood sugars and a healthy pregnancy.  If you’re also looking for snack ideas, check out this post.

How many carbs to eat is highly controversial, and the impact of a low carb diet is unclear based on the current research. 

Wishing you all the best with your pregnancy and beyond. For more exclusive tips that I share with my audience only, be sure to sign up below!

References

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