One of the primary goals of any fat-loss program must be to keep insulin levels low and blood sugar levels in the low to normal range. This becomes even more important during the holidays, when it is easier than ever to go off track.
The good news is that there are simple methods that you can use to lower the glycemic impact of a meal or snack — essentially, how quickly a food boosts your blood sugar and in turn can lead to fat gain. Let’s take a look at a few examples of beneficial food combinations, food preparation tips, or alternative food choices that will help you lose the calories without losing the taste this season.
2. Choose steel-cut oats over quick oats — they are higher in fibre and lower on the glycemic index. They make a nice warm, comforting breakfast that is high in B-vitamins, calcium, protein, and fibre while low in salt and unsaturated fat. Their high fibre content helps to balance blood sugar and insulin while reducing cholesterol and heart-disease risk. Remember, high-fibre foods slow down digestion and therefore keep your blood sugar levels steady.
3. If you really want to have a piece of pie or cake, have protein with it. Adding whey protein powder or cottage cheese to your snack will slow the release of sugars into the blood stream and help keep insulin levels from shooting through the roof. But remember, the amount of calories you take in must stay below the amount calories you burn through activity and exercise for you to lose fat. Adding protein will not negate excess calories.
4. Cook your pasta and rice al dente (slightly firm) to maintain a moderate-level glycemic load. Overcooking pasta or rice raises the glycemic load.
5. Lightly steam your vegetables or eat them raw to maintain their fibre content.
6. Choose firm fruits that are not overly ripe. The riper the fruit, the higher the amount of naturally occurring sugars.
7. If you enjoy sushi, opt for sashimi and simply add miso soup and salad to avoid the high glycemic load of the rice.
8. Instead of a sandwich, have a salad with a scoop of sandwich filling such as egg, tuna, or salmon. You can also wrap the protein in between a few romaine lettuce leaves for a low-carb meal or snack. Two slices of bread or a bagel will raise the glycemic load of your meal.
9. If you must have pizza, choose a whole-wheat thin crust instead of a thick, white-flour crust. Also, always ask for extra pizza sauce to benefit from the antioxidants present in cooked tomatoes.
10. Soups made of lentils or other legumes are better choices than cream of potato because of the higher fibre content and lower glycemic value of beans versus potatoes. If your soup has a high glycemic load, consider adding low-fat cheese to increase the fat and protein content of your meal.
11. Avoid having fruit by itself. Enjoy an apple with a tablespoon of almond butter or a slice of cheese and some nuts to increase the fat and protein content of your snack.
12. If you must eat breakfast cereal, go with a high–protein, high-fibre choice — I like Kashi GOLEAN. Try adding a scoop of vanilla protein isolate or have a boiled egg on the side, to increase the protein content and slow the release of sugar to your bloodstream.
13. Choose berries for dessert instead of pineapples and bananas because they are low glycemic and higher in both fibre and antioxidants.
14. Dark chocolate is a better choice than milk chocolate because it is lower in sugar and provides a source of health-promoting antioxidants. According to a recent study, eating a small portion of dark chocolate each day can lower blood pressure without packing on extra pounds. But remember, one small square is all you need to get those health benefits!
15. Steer clear of low-fat, fruit-flavoured yogurts, which are typically high in carbohydrates and contribute to insulin resistance. Instead, choose plain, low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt (which is high in protein) and add your own fresh berries.
16. If you must have a sweetened yogurt, choose one that is free of artificial sweeteners and mix it with some plain yogurt. The mixture will still give you the flavour you like, but without as much sugar.
17. In my opinion, the best type of bread to use is one made with sprouted grain instead of flour; I suggest Ezekiel breads from Food For Life. Do your best to avoid white flours and white breads 80 percent of the time. If you cannot find Ezekiel, look for 100-percent whole-grain rye bread with 18g of carbohydrate or less per slice. (Dimplemeier and Stone Mill breads are available at most health-food and grocery stores in Canada).
18. Top your bread with butter, almond butter, olive spreads, pesto, or hummus instead of jams and jellies, which are high in sugar.
19. Eat whole fruits and vegetables rather than juices, which have much of the fibre removed and are a more concentrated source of sugar.
20. If you have an alcoholic drink with your dinner, then skip starches such as bread, potatoes, rice, or pasta. Instead have lean protein and vegetables to account for the extra calories.
21. Instead of using chips or crackers for dips, try using white button mushrooms to dip instead.
22. Savour a handful of dried tart cherries and nuts the next time you are looking for something to munch on. Not only are tart cherries full of antioxidants, they have been known to lower levels of inflammation and improve arthritis.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique.
For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.