Cheat Sheet

Glycemic Index Diet For Dummies

Following a low-glycemic diet for weight loss isn't about deprivation; it's about making better choices and swapping high-glycemic foods for ones that have a lower glycemic index or glycemic load. Once you get the hang of figuring out which foods are the best choices, you can easily shop, cook, and snack the low-glycemic way.

Low-Glycemic Measurements

The glycemic index ranks food on a scale of 0 to 100 based on how quickly they raise blood sugar levels. Foods that raise blood sugar quickly have a higher number, whereas foods that take longer to affect blood sugar levels have a lower number. Here are the three measurement categories:

  • GI of 55 or less = low

  • GI of 56 to 69 = medium

  • GI of 70 or more = high

Choose foods that are low- to medium-glycemic to keep your blood sugar stable.

Swapping High-Glycemic Foods for Low-Glycemic Foods

Replacing high-glycemic foods with low-glycemic ones is easier than you may think. The following table features some simple low-glycemic food swaps you can make.

Instead of Choose This
Instant oatmeal Steel-cut oatmeal
White rice Brown rice or quinoa
Penne pasta Cheese tortellini
Sugary cereal Bran cereal
White bread Sourdough bread
Popcorn Nuts
Snack crackers Whole-grain crisp or rye crackers

Stocking Your Kitchen with Low-Glycemic Foods

Keeping your kitchen stocked with low-glycemic staples helps you adhere to a low-glycemic lifestyle. When you can easily make food in your own kitchen, you're more likely to make lifelong changes. Here is a master grocery list of low-glycemic foods to get you started.

Food Type Low-Glycemic Options
Breads Ezekiel Sprouted-Grain Bread
Natural Ovens Hunger-Filler Bread
Grains Uncle Ben's Converted Rice
Brown rice
Cheese Tortellini
Bulgur
Pearl barley
Quinoa
Dairy Low-fat yogurt
Fat-free milk
Cheese
Low-fat cottage cheese
Fruit Any fresh fruit
Fruit canned in its own juice
Fresh or frozen berries
Vegetables Fresh, frozen, or canned (except for potatoes, which are high-glycemic
Protein foods Chicken
Lean beef
Dried or canned legumes
Nuts
Tofu/tempeh
Eggs
Lean deli meats
Fish or seafood

Tasty Low-Glycemic Snacks

Snacking can be an important strategy for regulating blood sugar levels. Just make sure the snacks you choose are healthy and have a low-glycemic load. Keep several of these low-glycemic snacks on hand and you won't find yourself munching on popcorn or crackers.

  • Low-fat yogurt with a sprinkle of chopped nuts

  • Apple slices with an ounce of almonds

  • Low-fat string cheese

  • Bean dip or hummus with raw vegetables

  • Hard-boiled egg

  • Fresh fruit

  • Celery with peanut butter

  • Smoothie made with fresh fruit and milk or yogurt (okay to use soy or almond milk)

Low-Glycemic Portion Sizes

Just because a food has a low-glycemic index doesn't mean you can eat as much as you want. The more you eat, the higher the glycemic level will climb, which is especially important for those foods that hover between low- to medium-glycemic or medium- to high-glycemic. Use this chart as a quick reference for appropriate portion sizes!

Food Category Recommended Portion Size for Various Items
Grains 1 slice of bread
1/2 of an English muffin, hamburger bun, or bagel
1/2 cup of cooked cereal, pasta, or other cooked grain
1/3 cup of rice
3/4 cup of cold cereal
One 6-inch tortilla
Other starchy carbohydrates 1/2 cup of beans (which have a small amount of protein)
1/2 cup of lentils (which also have a small amount of protein)
Fruits 1 medium piece
1/2 cup canned or sliced
6 ounces (3/4 cup) 100% fruit juice
Vegetables 1 cup raw
1/2 cup cooked
6 ounces (3/4 cup) 100% vegetable juice
Dairy or soy products 8-ounce cup of milk or yogurt
1/3 cup of cottage cheese
1 ounce of cheese
Proteins 1/2 cup of beans (which are also high in carbs)
3 to 4 ounces (the size of a deck of cards) of beef, poultry, pork, or fish
1 ounce of cheese
1 egg
1 ounce of nuts
1 tablespoon of nut spread (such as peanut or almond butter)
Fats 1/8 (2 tablespoons) of avocado
1 teaspoon of oil, butter, margarine, or mayonnaise
2 teaspoons of whipped butter
8 olives
1 tablespoon of regular salad dressing
2 tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing
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