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The importance of balancing blood sugar during pregnancy

The importance of balancing blood sugar during pregnancy

Besides short-term dizziness, nausea, irritability, and sugar cravings, chronically imbalanced blood sugar levels can affect you and your baby’s health during pregnancy.  Fortunately, simple tweaks to your eating habits and dietary choices can help smooth any blood sugar curves and support your journey to motherhood. 

What happens to insulin in pregnancy?

Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar (glucose) levels and keeping them within a healthy range.
Insulin increases during pregnancy, which is perfectly normal. Your insulin needs start rising around week 20 to support your baby’s growth and development. From that point, you’ll require around 2 to 3 times the insulin you had before you were pregnant (1).
For some women, the extra insulin in pregnancy may lead to insulin resistance, where the body no longer responds to insulin how it should. Consequently, glucose levels can spike, which may result in high blood sugar and lead to pregnancy complications, including increased neonatal birth weight and premature birth, as well as childhood obesity (2).

How to balance blood sugar levels during pregnancy

There are many ways to bring some balance to your blood sugar levels and prevent insulin resistance during pregnancy. As it turns out, these blood-sugar-balancing principles are important for all life stages – not just when you’re pregnant.

Eat fruit in its whole form

At face value, orange juice seems like a nutritionally-dense choice. It contains vitamins and antioxidants, right? True, but only in part. The problem is that OJ lacks fibre, which is critical for blood sugar regulation.
When we juice, dry, or puree fruit, we increase its sugar concentration, often resulting in a blood sugar spike. As such, consider limiting your intake of dried fruit, juices, and fruit smoothies during pregnancy. Fruit in its ‘whole’ form is the only glucose-friendly way to eat it. 
If you’re a fruit smoothie fan, don’t worry. Just ensure they contain a good source of protein (nuts, nut butter, or protein powder), healthy fat (avocado, nuts, nut butter), a minimal amount of fruit (ideally only berries) and an unlimited number of veggies (spinach, avocado, celery, cucumber)

Enjoy a savoury breakfast

When we think of breakfast, we often think of sugary treats like cereal, croissants, chocolate spread, and marmalade. But a sweet breakfast can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels and kickstart the ‘glucose rollercoaster’, which sets you on a path of lethargy, irritability, lack of focus, and more sweet cravings.
With this in mind, consider having a savoury breakfast that consists of carbohydrates (wholegrain toast), protein (Greek yoghurt or eggs), fibre (seeds or veggies), and healthy fats (nut butter or avocado). Combining these food groups reduce spikes in blood sugar and sets you up perfectly for the day. 
Some nutritionally-balanced breakfast options include scrambled tofu with tomatoes, mushrooms and rocket on wholegrain toast; roasted chickpeas, avocado, and mixed seeds on sourdough; poached eggs, spinach and smoked salmon on pumpernickel bread.
A quick word on oats. For many people, oats are synonymous with breakfast. But instant porridge oats are 100% starch and very processed, meaning they spike your blood glucose levels, which can throw your whole day off kilter.
If you can’t forgo oats in the morning, always use steel-cut (traditional) oats and pair them with fibre (hemp seeds, chia seeds, or nuts), protein and fat (nut butter or protein powder), and low-sugar fruit (strawberries or blueberries).

Nourish your gut

Growing evidence suggests the gut influences almost every system in the body – mood, cardiovascular function, hormones, skin (the list could go on) – and blood sugar, it seems, is no exception (3).
One study found that even when people ate the same food, their blood sugar levels could vary considerably. Researchers believe this might be down to their gut bacteria (4). And so, eating in a way that supports your gut microbiome (the collective name given to the billions of bacteria in the digestive tract) is hugely important.

Here are some ways to nourish your gut:

  • Diversify your diet. Aim for 30 different plant foods (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices) every week. Plants contain fibre, rocket fuel that feeds and sustains your hungry gut microbes.

  • Include more fermented foods, which support gut microbial diversity. Try kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles (the ultimate pregnancy snack!)

  • Add more colour to your diet. The different colours in plant foods are called phytonutrients – and the gut loves them. The more colours, the more phytonutrients. Think yellow beetroots, rainbow chard, and green tomatoes.

  • Consider live cultures, which increase levels of good bacteria in the gut.

  • Try chicory root. It contains a specific type of soluble fibre called fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) that feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut and keeps you regular.


Move your muscles

Exercise is a tonic for your physical and emotional health during pregnancy. Now, research suggests it can bring some balance to your blood sugar levels, too.
Glucose levels peak within 90 minutes after a meal (5). So, if you can – and it’s easy – consider doing some movement straight after your meal. One study found a simple 15-minute post-meal walk may reduce blood sugar levels (6). The research even revealed a 2-minute walk after a meal could help.  

Increase chromium

An essential mineral, chromium is known for contributing to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels, making it a great addition during pregnancy. You can find chromium in egg yolks, Brazil nuts, tomatoes, and broccoli.
For a reliable intake, however, you may wish to take supplemental chromium that contains 200µg of naturally sourced, bioavailable chromium GTF as picolinate – one of the most highly absorbable forms.
You can also find relevant amounts of chromium – along with other important vitamins and minerals for pregnancy – in prenatal multivitamins.

Add omega-3 fatty acids

Most abundant in oily fish, the long-chain fatty acids DHA and EPA play a role in cardiovascular function, which is critical since heart health is often implicated by poor blood sugar management. Eating one to two portions of oily fish weekly can support your omega-3 levels during pregnancy. 
If you don’t eat oily fish or struggle to eat enough of it every week, we recommend taking a high-strength fish oil or vegan alternative – derived from algae oil and known for being extremely rich in DHA – to cover any shortfalls and support your intake during pregnancy. 

Find out more

If you found this article on balancing your blood sugar during pregnancy useful, you can read more about supporting yourself in postpartum here, as well as plenty of other helpful guidance on our health blog. Alternatively, please get in touch with our team of expert Nutrition Advisors, who are on hand to provide free, confidential advice.


  1. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. (n.d.). "Diabetes and pregnancy - Insulin changes during pregnancy." [online] Available at:

  2. Zhao D, Liu D, Shi W, Shan L, Yue W, Qu P, Yin C, Mi Y. (2023) "Association between Maternal Blood Glucose Levels during Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes: A Birth Cohort Study." Int J Environ Res Public Health. 20(3):2102.

  3. Utzschneider KM, Kratz M, Damman CJ, Hullar M. (2016) "Mechanisms Linking the Gut Microbiome and Glucose Metabolism." J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 101(4):1445-54.

  4. Zeevi D, Korem T, Zmora N, Israeli D, Rothschild D, Weinberger A, Ben-Yacov O, Lador D, Avnit-Sagi T, Lotan-Pompan M, Suez J, Mahdi JA, Matot E, Malka G, Kosower N, Rein M, Zilberman-Schapira G, Dohnalová L, Pevsner-Fischer M, Bikovsky R, Halpern Z, Elinav E, Segal E. (2015) "Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses." Cell. 163(5):1079-1094.

  5. Erickson M, Jenkins N, McCully K. (2017) "Exercise after You Eat: Hitting the Postprandial Glucose Target." Frontiers In Endocrinology, 8.

  6. Buffey AJ, Herring MP, Langley CK, et al. (2022) "The Acute Effects of Interrupting Prolonged Sitting Time in Adults with Standing and Light-Intensity Walking on Biomarkers of Cardiometabolic Health in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis." Sports Med. 52:1765–1787.


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Our Author - Olivia Salter


Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.

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