Choosing Foods for Weight-Loss on a Low-Glycemic Diet
7 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Losing Weight on a Low-Glycemic Diet
If you want to keep your body working at peak performance to ensure an increased metabolism, improved health, and success with long-term weight loss, then you need to make the foods you eat work for you. In other words, aim to get the most nutritional bang for each bite.
Choosing lots of fruits and vegetables
Two food groups are generally safe to eat in greater amounts when you want to lose weight: vegetables and fruits. These foods (particularly vegetables) contain lower calorie levels and lower glycemic loads than most other foods. In fact, most vegetables aren’t even measured for their glycemic index/load because the amount of carbohydrates in them is so low (approximately 5 grams on average).
As for the calorie factor, a whole cup of raw vegetables or a half cup of cooked vegetables is, on average, a mere 25 calories. That's a lot of food for such a small calorie amount!
On the fruit side of things, most fruits tend to have a low-glycemic load, and one small piece averages out to 60 calories. Sure, that's not as low as the veggies, but it's still lower than many other food groups.
When you want to lose weight, you can choose to either have tiny portion sizes of high-glycemic foods or pump up the volume with fruits and vegetables and still maintain a lower calorie level. Consider the following calorie information:
1 cup of steamed broccoli = 50 calories
1 cup of fruit = 60 calories
1 cup of pasta = 160 calories
1 cup of ice cream = 340 calories
As you can see, for the same volume of food, you can consume far fewer calories by eating more fruits and vegetables. The beauty is that most of the foods in these two food groups end up on the low-glycemic food list!
The following examples illustrate how you can cut the calorie level of your dinner and dessert with some simple, low-glycemic food swaps:
Grilled salmon served over 1-1/2 cups of pasta = 345 calories
Grilled salmon served over 1/2 cup of pasta with 1 cup of roasted broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini = 240 calories
Total savings: 105 calories
1 cup of ice cream with chocolate sauce = 440 calories
1/2 cup of ice cream with 1/2 cup of fresh strawberries = 230 calories
Total savings: 210 calories
By incorporating more low-glycemic fruits and veggies, you get the same volume of food on your plate but with fewer calories, a lower glycemic load, more fiber, and more nutrients. Not bad for a simple switch!
You can also use vegetables and fruits to increase your overall volume of food for the calorie level. For example, you can have a large salad with 3 cups of mixed greens plus 1 cup of assorted veggies (including tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers) with grilled salmon and light vinaigrette dressing for around 250 calories.
Compare this meal to the grilled salmon over 1-1/2 cups of pasta for 345 calories. You get around 4-1/2 cups of food for the salad meal compared to around 2 cups of food for the pasta and chicken dish. Eating more vegetables and fruits at a meal means you can have more food for fewer calories.
Including healthy fats and protein
Of course, you can't pursue weight loss and health without taking a look at all the foods you consume, including your protein and fat sources. These are two of the nutrients that make up the Big Three of calorie sources (carbohydrates being #3). Not only that but they also help you feel full and give you long-term energy.
Choosing lean-protein foods is essential for weight loss and general health. Some examples of lean-protein sources are skinless chicken breasts, lean cuts of beef and pork, eggs, fish and shellfish, and soy foods like tempeh or tofu.
You also need to eat fat. Believe it or not, fat is healthy when it's the right kind and when you consume it in moderate amounts. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins that can't be absorbed without some fat in your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, chia seeds, and flax seeds (among other foods) are essential for good health. Look for unsaturated fat sources, specifically oils, seeds, nuts, nut butters, olives, and avocados. Do your best to limit saturated fats like butter and cream, and avoid trans fats like hydrogenated oils.
Consuming a protein source and a fat source at each meal is a great way to slow down your body's digestion and conversion of carbohydrates into sugar to provide long-term fullness and nutritional health . . . both of which are keys to long-term weight loss!
Eating the right amounts of low-glycemic fruits and vegetables along with portion-controlled low-glycemic starches is great, but if you're pairing those foods with excessive amounts of butter, oils, or high-fat meats, your hard work may all be for naught. Pay attention to your portion sizes.
Fats in particular are very calorie dense, so keep a close eye on ’em. One teaspoon of oil, 1 tablespoon of nut butter, or six almonds, for example, is plenty.