How to Use Fruits and Vegetables on a Low-Glycemic Diet
5 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Choosing Low-Glycemic Foods
A low-glycemic diet means plenty of fruits and vegetables, which promote overall good health. Fruits and vegetables are some of the most nutritious, low-glycemic, low-calorie foods available. Packed with vitamins and minerals, these foods should make up about half the volume of every meal.
An easy way to measure your fruit and veggie volume at mealtime is to divide your plate in half. Fill one half of your plate with vegetables and fruit and fill the other half with lean protein and whole grains.
Adding volume to your meals
Because fruits and vegetables are high in water and good sources of fiber, they provide volume to your meals. Many people feel more satisfied with a large, heaping plate of food as opposed to what looks like a tiny portion floating in the middle of a large dinner plate. Visualize this example: You want an afternoon snack, and you decide to make a healthy choice — fruit. For 100 calories, you could enjoy 1/4 cup of raisins or almost 2 cups of grapes. Which portion looks more satisfying to you? Eating low-calorie, high-volume foods help you eat fewer total calories and still feel full and satisfied.
The reason for this feeling of fullness is energy density, or the amount of calories in a specific amount of food. To calculate energy density the official way, divide the calories in a serving of food by the weight of that food in grams. If the calories in a food are less than the weight in grams, then that food has an energy density below 1, which means it’s a low-energy-density food that provides volume and fullness with fewer calories. Most fruit and vegetables, skim milk, and broth-based soups fall into this category. If the calories in a food are twice the weight in grams, then the food has an energy density of at least 2, which means it’s a medium-energy-dense food. Meat, cheese, and salad dressings fall into this category.
Because fruits and vegetables have a low energy density, and because many fruits and vegetables also have a low or medium glycemic index, building your meals and snacks around these foods is a smart move. For instance, a big tossed salad becomes lunch with the addition of grilled chicken, and a vegetable stir-fry with small amounts of seafood or lean pork can contain up to four times the amount of vegetables as rice for a satisfying, low-glycemic meal.
Using fruits and veggies as your top weight-loss tools
Low-glycemic fruits and vegetables can keep you feeling fuller longer and for fewer calories, making them the perfect foods for weight loss. The vast majority of fruits and vegetables are low-glycemic, but feel free to check any you’re unsure of at Glycemic Index Foundation.
Make sure fruits and veggies play a starring role in your snacks and meals:
Add chopped fresh vegetables to cooked cereal for breakfast and skip drinking juice.
Add a variety of chopped, dark green, leafy vegetables or leftover cooked vegetables to an omelet for breakfast or even a fast lunch.
Choose broth-based soups that contain lots of vegetables as an appetizer or add small amounts of lean meat or chicken for a satisfying and complete meal.
Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter. (It’s amazing what you’ll choose for snacks if healthy options are right in front of you!)
Have a bowl of clean, cut-up raw vegetables in the fridge, ready for grab-and-go snacking.
Keep the number 3 in mind for dinner: 1 = a cooked vegetable, 2 = a raw vegetable, such as sliced tomatoes or a raw vegetable salad, and 3 = fruit for dessert, such as sliced apples or a bowl of fresh berries.
Perhaps making veggies a priority in your diet is difficult due to horrible childhood memories where you had to stay at the dinner table until you finished your spinach. If that’s the case, you can find help enjoying veggies again with these tips:
Try, try, and try again. It takes many people 15 to 20 times of sampling a food before it becomes okay to their taste buds.
Use different preparation methods. Don’t like veggies raw? Then boil them. Can’t stand sautéed veggies? Try steaming them instead. You may even find that a little spray butter, seasoning, or dip helps transform a formerly unpleasant veggie into something palatable to you.
Explore the unknown. Are there veggies you’ve never tried? Make an effort to purchase one uncommon veggie (or fruit, for that matter) each time you go to the grocery store. Discovering how to prepare this food and the benefits you get from eating it is something you can involve the kids in as well.