How to Eat Balanced Meals on a Low-Glycemic Diet
9 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Starting a Low-Glycemic Diet
Discovering how to balance the nutrients in your meals is an essential part of losing weight successfully on a low-glycemic diet. For a diet to be truly balanced it must contain a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. You can also think of balance in terms of food groups: starches, fruits, vegetables, meat and beans, and dairy and fats.
When you incorporate a variety of food groups into your meals, you help stabilize your blood sugar and supply your body with a more complete nutritional load of vitamins and minerals.
Eating balanced meals is clearly a great approach to long-term weight loss. And the best part? The rules are simple enough that you don't have to put too much thought into it at mealtime, nor do you need to break out the calculator whenever you eat.
To really appreciate the value of balancing your nutrient intake at each meal, it helps to know some basic facts about proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Proteins are crucial for building body tissues, regulating hormones, and pumping up your immune system. Additionally, they provide a longer release of energy than carbohydrates, helping you to feel more satisfied when you eat them. Incorporate one serving of lean meats (such as poultry, fish, or beef) or other high-protein foods (such as soy, beans, eggs, or nuts) with each meal.
Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy. Eating low-glycemic carbohydrates helps keep your blood sugar steady and makes for a more sustained energy release. The amount of carbohydrates you need really depends on your activity level and metabolism.
For weight loss, women should have two servings of starchy carbohydrates from whole grains and at least one fruit or vegetable serving each meal; men should have two to three servings of starchy carbs from whole grains and the same minimum amount of fruits and veggies per meal.
Fats can also be used for energy, but their primary task is to aid nutrient transport and cell functioning. Fats have a slower energy release, allowing you to feel more satisfied with your meal for a longer period of time. Use small amounts of fat for cooking and preparing cold foods, but don't feel like you have to include added fats like oils and butter at each meal.
Always remember that a little fat goes a long way. Healthy fats include avocadoes, nuts, fish, olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and olives.
The tricky part about dietary fat and weight loss is twofold: When people are overweight, they can store fat more readily because they have increased levels of the fat-storing enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which transfers food fat from the bloodstream to fat cells.
As you may already know, fat contains 9 calories per gram compared to just 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates. Thus, fat adds extra calories. This combination of fat storage and extra calories can make weight loss difficult for individuals consuming too much fat in their diets.
Balancing your intake of protein, carbs, and fat at each meal does many great things for your body, not least of which are
Helping control your total calorie level (because you're eating more low-calorie foods)
Keeping your blood sugar stable to avoid stimulating your appetite and storing more calories as fat
Helping control your food cravings
Keeping you feeling full and satisfied
Supporting your mood to avoid emotional-eating triggers
On the other hand, unbalanced consumption of protein, carbs, and fat can lead to
Unstable blood sugar that can stimulate your appetite and lead you to eat more
A cycle of food cravings
Not feeling satisfied, which may cause you to overeat
An increase in your total calorie intake because you're eating too many high-calorie foods
The negative effects of not balancing your nutrients can creep up on you quite quickly. For instance, if you eat too much fat at one meal, your calorie level will increase rapidly.
On the other hand, if you eat too many carbohydrates, you may experience blood sugar spikes that can lead you to feel starving an hour later, possibly creating a situation where you store more calories as body fat. Eating the right balance of fat and carbohydrates (and protein!) keeps your blood sugar and calorie level under control all the time.