How to Follow a Low Glycemic Diet

Karen Frazier
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Walnut and spinach salad

Following a low-glycemic diet may help you lose weight by allowing you to manage how your body releases insulin. While there is no diet specifically called "the low-glycemic diet," many diet plans focus on the principles of consuming low-glycemic foods for weight loss.

Low-Glycemic Index Diets

Low-glycemic index diets focus on foods that minimize and control insulin release into the body. Complex carbohydrate foods that have a low glycemic index burn more slowly than processed simple carbohydrate foods that have a high glycemic index. The result is a sustained and modest rise in blood glucose levels. Because of this, low-glycemic index diets are sometimes called "slow carb diets."

While all low-carb diets are, by nature, low-glycemic index diets, not all low-glycemic index diets are low-carb diets. Some low glycemic index diets include:

  • Atkins Diet - A very low-carbohydrate diet that restricts carbs to about 20 to 50 grams per day.
  • Protein Power - A low-carbohydrate diet that allows between five and 15 grams of low-glycemic carbs per meal
  • South Beach Diet - A moderate carbohydrate diet that recommends eating high quality, low-glycemic carbs
  • Beauty Detox Solution - A plant-based diet that focuses on vegetables and high-quality, minimally processed carbohydrates
  • Zone Diet - A diet that balances high quality carbohydrates with protein and fat intake

Following a Low-Glycemic Index Diet

You don't need to follow a specific diet plan to follow a low-glycemic index diet. There is, however, a learning curve as you figure out which foods fit within the low-glycemic lifestyle.

Check with your physician before starting this or any diet.

Finding Low-Glycemic Foods

Web MD defines low-glycemic foods as those with a glycemic index of less than 55. You can find lists of low-glycemic foods or search a glycemic index database.

Shopping

When you are on a low-glycemic diet, you will need to plan ahead to ensure you have low-glycemic foods and snacks available. Some tips for shopping include:

  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Glycemic Index Weight Loss
    Shop around the store's periphery, where the healthiest low-glycemic foods can be found.
  • Load up on fresh, raw low-glycemic vegetables and fruits.
  • Avoid foods that have sugar added.
  • Choose legumes and whole grains such as quinoa.
  • If you purchase snack foods, make sure they are made with 100 percent whole grains and don't contain added sugars.
  • Purchase nuts and seeds, which have a low-glycemic index. Avoid nuts and seeds with any kinds of flavorings or coatings added.
  • When purchasing condiments, check to ensure they don't have high glycemic ingredients added such as sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or white flour.

Planning Meals and Snacks

As with any other diet plan, you'll want to eat regularly in order to keep from feeling hungry or deprived. When following a low-glycemic index diet, you can still follow the USDA's MyPlate recommendations for portions and content. You just need to make sure that the choices for each category are low-glycemic choices. Plan for three meals and one or two snacks, which will help keep your blood sugar levels consistent throughout the day.

Portion Control

Low-glycemic diets can help you lose weight in two ways: by controlling insulin (with stable blood glucose levels) and by keeping you from feeling hungry. Portion control is still necessary, however, if you choose to pursue a low-glycemic diet as a weight management strategy. According to the Mayo Clinic, even on a low-glycemic diet, you must control calories by burning more calories than you consume, or you will not lose weight.

To calculate your body's current caloric requirements, use a tool such as the Mayo Clinic's calorie calculator. Next subtract about 200 to 300 calories per day and aim for that for weight loss. If you merely wish to maintain your weight, then stay within about 100 calories per day of that number in either direction.

Foods to Avoid

Highly processed foods and sugary foods tend to have a higher glycemic index. You should avoid the following foods on a low-glycemic index diet:

  • Candy
  • Foods made with white flour, such as white bread
  • White rice
  • Foods made with grains that have been stripped of the germ and bran
  • Sugary cereals
  • Cake, cookies, and other sweets
  • Juice
  • Soft drinks
  • Jams and jellies
  • Corn and foods made with corn
  • Rice cakes
  • Crackers not made with 100 percent whole grains
  • Bananas
  • Dried fruit
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon
  • Potatoes (as well as things made with potatoes including French fries and potato chips)
  • Pasta (unless made with 100 percent whole grain or specifically noted as low-glycemic)
  • Honey
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Sweetened dairy products such as flavored yogurt or ice cream
  • Winter squashes including pumpkin

A Lifestyle Choice

Eating a low-glycemic index diet isn't a temporary solution to lose weight. Rather, in order to maintain your good health and weight, it should be a permanent lifestyle change. Switching to a diet that consists primarily of healthy, low-glycemic foods can help you manage hunger and energy levels without subjecting you to blood sugar dips and spikes inherent with a highly processed, high-glycemic index diet.

How to Follow a Low Glycemic Diet