Glycemic Index Cookbook For Dummies
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Cooking low-glycemic foods is a wonderful tool for overall health, but it's especially beneficial for weight management and insulin resistance. Understanding the glycemic index and glycemic loads of foods, using appropriate portion sizes, sprucing up your favorite recipes, and using low-glycemic cooking techniques can start you on your way to successfully meeting all your health goals.

Measuring the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Loads before You Cook

Before you start cooking up recipes that follow the glycemic index diet, you need to know the difference between the glycemic index and the glycemic load:

  • The glycemic index (GI) places foods on a scale of 0 to 100, based on how fast they raise blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) levels. Foods that raise blood sugar quickly have higher GI numbers than foods that take longer to affect blood sugar. Here’s the range of glycemic index measurements:
    • GI of 55 or less = Low
    • GI of 56 to 69 = Medium
    • GI of 70 or more = High
  • The glycemic load (GL) goes one step further: This measurement applies the glycemic index to the amount of food you’re going to eat. You simply multiply the glycemic index of a food by the amount of carbs (in grams) in the food, and then you divide by 100. Here’s the range of glycemic load measurements:
    • GL of 10 or less = Low
    • GL of 11 to 19 = Medium
    • GL of 20 or more = High

Appropriate Portion Sizes for Low- to Medium-Glycemic Dishes

Choosing recipes that are low to medium glycemic and lower in fat and calories is a great way to help you achieve your health and wellness goals. However, eating the appropriate portion sizes is also crucial when you cook glycemic index–based recipes; eating larger amounts of carbohydrates can raise the glycemic load of that recipe and increase the calorie level. Use the following estimates to help you serve the right amounts of your delicious lower-glycemic dishes:

  • A 3-ounce portion of poultry, beef, fish, or pork is equivalent to the size of a deck of cards.
  • A 1-ounce portion of cheese is the size of a domino.
  • A medium fruit is the size of a tennis ball.
  • A cup of vegetables is the size of a baseball.
  • Half a cup of grains is about the size of the palm of your hand (unless you have gigantic hands!).

Adjusting Favorite Recipes to Follow the Glycemic Index Diet

One of the simplest steps in adopting a low-glycemic lifestyle is looking at the foods and recipes you already like to cook and eat. You may find that some are naturally low glycemic and don’t need any changes; others may need a little tweaking to fit your new lifestyle. Use the following tips to help you turn a high-glycemic favorite into a low-glycemic meal:

  • Replace higher-glycemic ingredients with lower-glycemic alternatives. For example, if your favorite stir-fry recipe calls for jasmine rice, you can easily change it to brown rice with little effect on the overall recipe.
  • Use smaller portions of high- and medium-glycemic foods. For example, if your favorite stew calls for white potatoes, which are high glycemic, you can easily include them but use a smaller amount and increase the amount of other low-glycemic vegetables in the dish.
  • Add healthy low-glycemic foods to any dish. Instead of eating a dish entirely made up of pasta, add some low-glycemic veggies like broccoli or bell peppers, and/or add some protein like chicken or salmon. Doing so decreases the amount of pasta you’re eating to lessen your glycemic load for that meal.

How to Cook Low-Glycemic Grains, Beans, Lentils, and Veggies

Identifying low-glycemic foods to eat is the first step; the second step is discovering ways to cook them so that you enjoy making them part of your daily meals. Use the following tips on cooking low-glycemic grains, beans, lentils, and vegetables to help you get started:

  • Grains: Pearl barley, quinoa, and wild rice are all examples of lower-glycemic grains. They sound good enough, but how do you cook them? Essentially, all you have to do is cook them like you cook white rice; just remember to vary the cooking time according to the type of grain you’re making. Simply add some water or broth, a few teaspoons of oil, and your grain to a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer. To find out how much water or broth to add and how long to simmer, check out the instructions on the grain’s package.
  • Beans: You can purchase beans either canned or dry. Canned beans are ready to go as they are. Just give them a quick rinse, and add them to your recipes or eat them right away on a salad. Dry beans take a little more work, but they offer more flavor than their canned counterparts.
  • To fix dry beans, you first need to soak the beans, either by putting them in a large pot of water overnight or by bringing a pot of water to boil, removing it from heat, adding your beans, and soaking them for 3 to 4 hours. Discard the soaking water when they’re done, and then start adding your beans to recipes.If you’re cooking dry beans by themselves, you can do so either in a stockpot or in a pressure cooker. To cook them in a stockpot, fill the pot with water and add the beans so they’re covered by the water. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 1 to 1 ½ hours. To cook them in your pressure cooker, follow the manufacturer’s directions. You generally fill the cooker only half full, and although the cooking time depends on how long you’ve soaked the beans, it should take only about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Lentils: Although many people think cooking lentils is like cooking beans, it’s actually more like cooking grains. Simply add 1 cup of dry lentils to 1 ½ cups boiling water or broth, boil for about 3 minutes, turn down the heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. You don’t have to soak lentils prior to cooking like you do dry beans.
  • Vegetables: Before you cook with any vegetables, make sure to wash them in water. Then to maintain a lower glycemic index measurement and retain more nutrients, try cooking your vegetables al dente (or a little crisp). Cook your veggies by steaming, grilling, or roasting; just avoid frying so you don’t add a lot of calories and fat.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Meri Raffetto, RD, is a registered dietitian and recognized professional in the area of nutrition and wellness; she has been featured in Healthy Living Magazine and the Chicago Tribune. She is the founder and CEO of and author of The Glycemic Index Diet For Dummies.

Rosanne Rust, MS, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, and online weight-loss coach for Real Living Nutrition Services.

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