How to Plan a Low Glycemic Load Diet

How to Plan a Low Glycemic Load Diet
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Understanding the Glycemic Index

Carbohydrate confusion is a major issue for most people trying to watch their weight. Do I eat carbs? Do I not eat carbs? Carbs are good - carbs are bad! What is a person to do?

Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient, which means that the body cannot produce it on its own and it is needed for daily functioning. The types of carbohydrates that you choose to consume can play a big role in whether or not you are satiated, energetic and at your ideal body weight. Understanding the glycemic index will help you make the right food choices to fuel your body to function at the optimal level.

The glycemic index of a food is an indicator of how much it elevates the body’s blood glucose levels in comparison to a slice of white bread or glucose. Many factors influence the glycemic index of a food:

  • Whether it is a simple or complex carbohydrate. Simple carbohydrates tend to be foods with a high glycemic index rating.

  • The type of fiber in the food. Foods with soluble fiber tend to have a lower glycemic index.

  • The process used to cook the food and how long it has been cooked, for instance, a baked potato vs. French fries.

  • The presence of fat. fat, protein and fiber tend to slow down the body’s absorption of the food, releasing glucose into the system in a slower, steady stream resulting in more stable blood glucose levels.

  • The form of sugar in the food, for instance, fructose vs. glucose or sucrose.

  • Tthe starch structure of the carbohydrate in the food.

Understanding the Glycemic Load

Although the glycemic index tells you how quickly the body will process a food, it does not address portion sizes. The glycemic load of a food correlates to the glycemic index of a food and the grams of carbohydrate that food contains. Planning a low glycemic load diet can be somewhat time consuming if you are going to work out all the math for every food that you take in and stay within a certain daily range.

Most people want to manage their weight and blood sugar levels with the least amount of effort humanly possible because we all know that we have too many other things that need to get done. In order to make life easy think of it like this- how can I get the most bang for my buck?

Ultimately, you want more volume for less calorie and the least amount of negative effect on your body. Allowing your body’s blood sugar to spike regularly can be extremely taxing on your organs and internal system. If you are watching the grams of carbohydrates that you consume per meal and snack, look at the fiber content of that meal. If it has fiber (aim for atleast 3 grams per serving) and is low in simple sugar, than consider it a food that will not have a large impact on your blood glucose as a food that does not have fiber and is rich in simple sugars.

For example, the glycemic load of brown rice would be lower than that of white rice because it still contains the germ portion of the grain which is more nutritious. The same can be said for other breads and grains that have not been heavily processed and stripped of their fiber.

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Why Should You Pay Attention To Your Glycemic Load?

Your blood glucose levels play a huge role in how you feel. Foods that are high on the glycemic index tend to break down quickly and release sugar into your blood stream resulting in spikes in your serum glucose levels. Elevated sugar levels can leave you feeling lazy and sluggish. Shortly after eating you may feel like you want to eat again and will probably crave sugary carbohydrates because after your serum glucose spikes it then drops. In order to avoid these symptoms and this vicious eating cycle you want to make sure that you have balance in your meals and snacks.

Balance means that you consume high fiber carbohydrates with a lean protein and a heart healthy fat. For example, having a apple with 10 to 20 almonds would be better than just eating the apple alone. The digestion process would slow down the rate at which the sugar from your apple is being released into your blood stream and will maintain your serum glucose levels within normal ranges and you will not have these spikes.

Planning Your Meals and Snacks

Planning and preparing your meals and snacks in advance will always help you stay on track with making the right food choices. The sample menu below will give you an idea of how planning a low glycemic diet load can be done correctly without a lot of effort . The portion sizes provided may not be appropriate for all diets.


1 c. All bran cereal with a 1/2 c. skim milk


1/2 c. cottage cheese with 1/2 c. blackberries


3 c. salad with 4 oz. grilled chicken and a small apple


greek yogurt with 1 tsp flax seed


3/4 c. brown rice (cooked) with 1 c. cooked broccoli and 4 oz. baked fish


Escott-Stump, Sylvia. Nutrition and Diagnosis Related Care.(5th Edition). Philadelphia. 2002.

Mahan, L,K, and Escott-Stump, S. Krause’s Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy(10th edition). Philadelphia. 2000.

Harvard School of Public Health: Nutrition Source Carbohydrates and the Glycemic Load