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Combining Low-Glycemic Foods with Calorie Awareness

8 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Losing Weight on a Low-Glycemic Diet

Following a low-glycemic diet isn't a stand-alone solution for weight loss. Like it or not, you still need to pay attention to the amount of calories you take in each day.

If you eat a low-glycemic diet that's still high in calories, you aren't going to get very far with your weight-loss goals. A low-glycemic diet is an important piece of the weight-loss puzzle, but it's not the solution to the puzzle. Successfully losing weight requires a holistic approach that includes eating a combination of low-glycemic carbs, healthy protein, and fats; counting calories; exercising; and doing what you can to pump up your metabolism.

Understanding why calories still count

Calories are always going to be one of the most important aspects of weight loss. If you consume more calories than your body can convert into energy, your body turns that unspent energy into body fat and stores it somewhere.

Think of it like a car. Gasoline is similar to calories in that it provides energy for the car to function just like calories provide you with the energy you need to function. If you fill a car's gas tank past capacity, the extra gas overflows onto the ground.

Unfortunately, your body's overflow system doesn't just land on the ground; it winds up on your thighs, your rear, your stomach, and wherever else your body deems fit to store fat.

To lose weight effectively, you need to reduce your calorie intake through dietary changes and exercise.

Calorie Deficits and Weight Loss
Rate of Weight Loss (Pounds Per Week) Calorie Deficit Per Day (from Diet and Exercise)
.5 pound per week 250
1 pound per week 500
1.5 pounds per week 750
2 pounds per week 1,000

Cutting back on your calorie intake doesn't mean you need to diligently count calories. Who in his right mind actually wants to do that all day every day? Instead, you just need to make small changes that lead to a calorie deficit.

Adopting a low-glycemic lifestyle is one of those changes because many low-glycemic foods are lower in calories. People who start choosing lower-glycemic foods tend to naturally lower their calorie level without even having to think about it.

Following are a few examples of how switching to a low-glycemic diet can impact your calorie level:

  • Choosing a side salad with your sandwich rather than a small bag of potato chips saves you 50 to 100 calories.

  • Switching from a large bagel (about 4 ounces) with cream cheese for breakfast to 1 cup of low-glycemic cereal with milk saves you around 200 calories.

  • Skipping the baked potato with all the fixings at your steak dinner and replacing it with steamed broccoli saves you around 300 calories.

See? Changing even one meal a day to incorporate low-glycemic foods can be enough to impact your weight loss each week. These changes may seem small, but they add up to big calorie deficits when you stick with them over time.

Knowing that low-glycemic doesn't always mean low-calorie

Although it'd be great if eating low-glycemic foods always resulted in lower calorie levels, it doesn't always work out that way. The calorie deficits you experience on a low-glycemic diet really depend on what your diet looked like before.

If you're exchanging a lot of unhealthy or high-calorie choices for more healthy, low-calorie foods, then yes, you may see a difference in your calorie level. However, if you already eat a fairly healthy diet and you're simply replacing your high-glycemic grains and veggies for their lower-glycemic counterparts, you won't see much of a difference in your overall calorie level.

For example, brown rice is lower-glycemic than jasmine rice, but both contain the same amount of calories.

Don't forget that some treats, such as chips and even some types of candy, have a lower glycemic index but are still high in calories. For example, Peanut M&M's are low-glycemic, but one package costs you 243 calories — that's a lot for a small treat.

Beware of fad diets and messages that simplify the glycemic index diet too much. Just because you're eating low-glycemic foods doesn't mean you can forget all you know about good nutrition. A low-glycemic diet should be looked at as a new way to make the best choices for carbohydrate-containing foods — not as a stand-alone solution for weight loss. When it comes to weight loss, calories still matter.

Keeping portion sizes under control

Even if you're swapping your favorite high-glycemic foods for healthier low-glycemic options, if you regularly eat inappropriate portion sizes, you won't see success.

Eating inappropriate portion sizes hurts you in two ways:

  • Low-glycemic foods can become high-glycemic foods if you eat too large of a serving. The low-glycemic status of many foods is dependent on you consuming the right portion size, meaning if you eat more than that amount, your glycemic load will add up. So if you eat two servings of pasta rather than one, you wind up with a higher glycemic load for that whole meal.

  • More food equals more calories. Adding more calories with large portion sizes will defeat your efforts at weight loss quickly. Whether or not your calories are coming primarily from low-glycemic foods, eating too many of them raises your insulin levels and causes you to gain weight.

Portion sizes are probably one of the biggest culprits in weight gain. People are eating larger portion sizes than ever these days, a fact that correlates directly to the rate of weight gain in many countries.

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