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 — or 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.
Understanding the role of nutrients and the benefits of balance
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 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 it 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.
Embracing the plate method
The plate method is a fabulous way of balancing your nutrients because it divides your plate into subsections so you know how much to eat of each food group. The idea is to fill your plate with the good, lower-calorie food, leaving only a small amount of room for the foods you should limit — fats and high-glycemic foods. According to the plate method, half of your plate should be filled with fruits and/or veggies, one-quarter with a protein source (such as meat, fish, or poultry), and one-quarter with a low-glycemic starch or grain (such as barley or whole-grain bread):
When people overeat, they tend to do so with starchy carbohydrates (grains, potatoes, breads, and the like) and meats (beef, poultry, fish, and so on). These high-calorie food groups are where a lot of excess calories come from. The starchy carbohydrates also create the blood sugar spikes that you want to avoid. Using the plate method allows you to better control your consumption of these two food categories each meal so you get the perfect balance of carbohydrates and protein.
If the portion sizes on your big plates look very small and make you feel like you’re depriving yourself with dieting, try using the plate method with your smaller salad or dessert plates. Because of their smaller size, they’ll look like they’re chock-full of food even though they’re holding the same amount as the larger plates did. If you have an old set of china, you can also try using one of the dinner plates from that set because the plate size is more normal than today’s monster plates.