6 Tips for Low Glycemic Eating

6 Tips for Eating Low on the Glycemic Index

By: Jen Halvorson R.D.

Understanding the Glycemic Index

Understanding the glycemic index is critical for optimal health and weight maintenance.  Eating low GI foods will help you lose weight, reduce inflammation in your body, give you more energy, more mental clarity and support your cardiovascular health, blood pressure, cholesterol….just to name a few!  When you eat low glycemic foods, you will also be eating foods rich in healthy micronutrients (antioxidants and minerals) and healthy macronutrients (protein, fiber, fat and carbs)!

Most of us don’t realize it, but we are sending our blood sugars on a roller coaster every day by the decisions we make about our food choices!   Every piece of food you put into your mouth will affect you in some way.  You wouldn’t fill your car up with cheap gas or forget to change the oil, right? Same applies to your body.  You have to FUEL your body. You only have one body, and unlike a car, you won’t be able to get a new one!  You need to take care of it so you can live your life to the fullest.

As a Registered Dietitian, my passion it to teach my clients how to SIMPLIFY living a healthy lifestyle.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you do have to make a decision for yourself that you want to make a change!

What is the Glycemic Index?

In simple terms, the Glycemic Index measures the rate at which your body converts a carbohydrate to sugar.  If you eat a high glycemic food (such as jelly beans), your blood sugars will spike.  Your body knows this is dangerous, so it releases a hormone called insulin.  Insulin’s primary role is to bring your blood sugars back down to a healthy range. YAY!!  But there is a problem here…INSULIN is a fat storing hormone.  It also causes inflammation in your body, which can lead to degenerative disease over the years.

So what do you do and how can you start making some small changes in your own life?  

Tips for eating low on the glycemic index

Following the glycemic index (GI) system can be confusing if you spend all of your time memorizing and crunching numbers! But there is no need to do that.  Understanding the general principle and some simple tips can make it easier for this to be a lifestyle.

1. Choose WHOLE over PROCESSED

Think whole fruit, rather than fruit juice, whole grains rather than refined grains, steel cut oats rather than instant oatmeal.  Whole fruit, whole vegetables.  The more macronutrients (carbs, protein, fiber and fat) you eat in your meal or snack, the slower your body will convert the “complex” carbohydrates to sugar, slowing the release of insulin.

2. Aim for 30+ grams of FIBER per day

By definition, fiber is the part of plant foods that cannot be digested by the body, so fiber-rich foods like beans, nuts, vegetables and whole fruit will not only keep you full longer, but they will keep your blood sugars steady which is extremely important.  If your blood sugars spike, your body produces more insulin to bring your blood sugars back down to a safe range.  Insulin is a FAT STORING hormone and will prevent you from reaching your health goals! Make sure that sinks into your brain and remember to eat more fiber.

3. Pair with protein.

When your body has protein to break down, the stomach empties more slowly. Adding a little protein to a carbohydrate-based meal or snack can lower the GI value of your meal.  For example, add fish or chicken to your complex carbs (sweet potato or quinoa) or a light spread of peanut butter on your toast or banana.

4. Drizzle on healthy fat.

Not all fat is going to make you FAT.  Heart-healthy unsaturated fats like olive oil and avocados can be very good for you.  Like protein, fat molecules also slow down digestion, so including a little fat can lower a food’s GI and make it more satisfying. But make sure you eat them in moderation if you are trying to lose weight.  Like protein, fat molecules also slow down digestion, so including a little fat can lower a food’s GI and make it more satisfying.

5. Eat every 2-3 hours

My goal is to eat low glycemic food every 2-3 hours.  What happens if you go too long without eating?  Your blood sugars will crash, leading to a release in cortisol and adrenaline.  These stress hormones cause you to crave sugar because your brain is telling you that you need to get your blood sugars back up again.  So you are starving at the end of a long day…  What happens? You end up walking into your house and raiding the pantry because your body is depleted and needs food.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.  Instead, take a ziploc bag of almonds with you for a snack.  Eat an apple on the way to pick up your kids from school.  Make sure you are prepared with healthy snacks for you and YOUR KIDS.  These tips apply to you whole family!

6. Sugar is not always on the label

What do I mean by this?  Well, I have clients who tell me, “Jen, I don’t really crave sugar.  I crave pretzels, chips, salty foods”. Many people are not aware that pretzels spike your blood sugar more than table sugar does.  WHAT?!  Yes, we have been fooled. Just because you read the label and it says “zero grams of sugar” does not mean it’s low glycemic.

A pretzel or any other simple carb (think 100 calorie snack packs) are made of white flour.  There is no protein, fat, fiber.  It’s SIMPLE a very simple carbohydrate.  So my advice is moderation!  Eat complex snacks that have the macronutrients I listed above 80 % of the time.  And if you do have a simple carb, it is better to eat it with something with fiber, protein, healthy fat, etc.  So dip those pretzels in some sort of nut butter.

Health is my life. It's my career, my passion, and the topic of most of my conversations. I love health and I love helping other people dial in to regaining their health. Our health is our greatest asset.  At Midwest we are your partners for a HEALTHY future.

Copyright 2016: Midwest Weight Control & SkinCare

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