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Starting a Low-Glycemic Diet with Small Steps

Even with all the science and numbers, starting a low glycemic diet doesn't need to be difficult. Actually you don't have to know the glycemic number of a food to follow an overall low-glycemic diet. Simply choose foods with a low or medium glycemic ranking, and you can be confident that you're making smart choices.

Making just one or two changes in the foods you choose each day, switching from a higher-glycemic food to a lower-glycemic one, for example, can lead to big differences over time. The first step is to focus on simple changes that are easy to incorporate into your usual eating habits, such as the following:

  • Include one low-glycemic food with every meal and snack. You can find resources online like www.glycemicindex.com for help finding low-glycemic foods.

  • Eat smaller portions of high-glycemic foods. By cutting your portion of a high-glycemic food such as mashed potatoes in half, you decrease that food's impact on the overall glycemic load of your meal.

  • Swap out a high-glycemic food for one that's low- to moderate-glycemic. So instead of eating a smaller portion of mashed potatoes, you could try a bean or vegetable salad instead.

  • Compare your current choices and swap. Start to look at your favorite meals more closely. How often do you choose high, medium, and low-glycemic foods? As you identify your current high-glycemic food choices, think of ways to substitute a lower glycemic food. For example, mashed potatoes are high-glycemic (around 97 on average), but boiled new potatoes with their skins are low-glycemic (around 54). Or you can use quick-cooking brown rice with a glycemic index around 48.

Take your time adjusting to these changes in order to give yourself a better chance of sticking with them. Set a goal to include a low-glycemic food at just one meal the first few days. Then, include a low-glycemic food at a second meal. By the time one month has passed, you'll find incorporating low-glycemic foods is a habit, not a chore. You'll also notice improved health and mood benefits.

As long as you start with small, reasonable changes in the foods you routinely eat, you'll gradually consume more low-glycemic foods and fewer high-glycemic foods over time. The end result will be an overall moderate- to low-glycemic eating pattern.

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