Now that you’ve have a chance to digest the science behind the glycemic index (click to read Part 1), I hope you're ready for another generous serving. I’m always asked by the dietary do-gooders I know for tips on what to eat. My advice is to think of eating as the ultimate sport, with you as the primary player armed with knowledge and practice as your strategies of choice. This is especially true when it comes to the glycemic index, so put your game face on and get ready to play!
Let’s tackle the knowledge component first. I may be stating the obvious, but to eat a low GI diet, you must incorporate low GI starches, fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products into your meals regularly. It is generally recommended that you choose one low GI food per meal. This means substituting basmati rice for instant or choosing pumpernickel rather than traditional white bread. For all you spaghetti lovers, cook your pasta to firm (al dente) rather than soft as overcooking causes starch molecules to swell which increases its GI value. If pasta isn’t your thing, you may want to consider eating low GI grains such as barley and couscous or legumes like lentils and chickpeas.
In case you’re concerned, please rest assured that eating a low GI diet does not mean you’ll constantly feel hungry. In fact, there are a few tricks you can use that will help you stay the course of the day without feeling famished. Many of you may know that protein – the stuff iron pumping athletes swear by – helps to keep you fuller longer. This is because protein slows the rate at which food empties from the stomach into the small intestine thereby releasing sugar into the bloodstream at an even pace. This slower rate means that you are more likely to feel satisfied throughout the day (thanks to steady blood sugar levels) and less likely to reach for that guilt inducing, after lunch pick-me-up. What many of you may not know is that dietary fat has a similar slowing effect in the body. Therefore, consuming low GI foods in conjunction with foods that are high in protein and contain a moderate amount of healthy, unsaturated fat will help reduce cravings while keeping you revved up and ready to tackle your day.
Surprisingly, acid content in foods may also help to manage your cravings when eating a low GI diet. Like protein and fats, the acid found in foods helps to slow digestion which again, means your blood sugars are more likely to remain consistent. Sourdough bread is a good choice as it contains acid and is also considered a moderate GI food. And this goes without saying: in the game of eating, fibre is your friend, not a foe. Fibre also helps to slow digestion and regulate blood sugar, so eating high fibre, low GI foods is another winning combination. Talk about a touchdown!
Now that you’ve been properly trained, we are ready to proceed to the practice component. Let’s have a quick huddle to review our game-time strategy, just in case you need a final recap: low GI choices & fibre + protein, healthy fat, and a little acidity = success! The following are sample meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. As every good athlete knows, practice makes perfect so please consult your nutrition professional for further advice and a more individualized meal plan before changing your diet. Happy eating!
- Oatmeal or oat bran cereal with fortified soy or skim milk and berries
- Whole grain pumpernickel toast with 1 slice low-fat soy or regular cheese and a medium orange
- Berry smoothie made with fortified soy, skim milk, or low fat yogurt
- Homemade granola (made with large sized rolled oats) or muesli with soy or skim milk, ½ cup of cherries or strawberries
- Buckwheat pancakes with fruit or applesauce (natural, no sugar added)
- Minestrone or vegetable soup with yogurt and berries
- Lentil soup with a small pumpernickel roll and an orange
- Veggie sandwich on whole grain pita with salad, low fat vinaigrette
- Green salad with chickpeas, low fat vinaigrette, 1 slice whole grain bread with reduced fat regular or soy cheese
- Veggie burger with tomato and lettuce on whole wheat bun and vegetable soup
- Tofu stir-fry with spinach, broccoli, and bean sprouts over ½ cup of brown rice
- Pasta (cooked to al dente) with vegetables and tofu, green salad with vinaigrette
- Chickpea and eggplant stew over couscous
- Hearty black bean soup with green salad
- Tofu or salmon with steamed greens (i.e., spinach, kale, rapini) and couscous
Hummus and raw vegetables (i.e. celery, bell peppers)
Small handful of trail mix
Celery or banana with 1 tsp natural peanut or almond butter
Orange or cherries and 10 unsalted almonds
3 cups plain air-popped popcorn
About Renee Hughes:
Renee Hughes holds a Master of Health Science in Nutrition Communication from Ryerson University in Toronto. She also holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Food and Nutrition from Ryerson University and a Bachelor of Arts in Crime and Deviance from the University of Toronto. As a passionate nutrition and food writer, Renee has written articles for dietitians, non-profit agencies, and has developed community based nutrition workshops in Toronto. To contact Renee, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org