You know now that your brain sends messages to your internal organs, and those messages vary depending on what you eat. Today’s post is about the foods that will help you give your body the right message. This is a long post, but it outlines the whole plan. You may want to print it out or bookmark it and come back to it often
Some foods are “green light” foods. They are low glycemic and won’t cause your blood sugar to spike. Your “autopilot” won’t send out the message to your pancreas to pump out insulin to let the sugar into the cells and your body won’t get the message from the insulin messenger to “store fat.” You want to base your meals and snacks around these green light foods. They have a glycemic index of 55 or less.
However, keep in mind green light doesn’t mean free food. You can’t eat all you want until you are stuffed. That’s true with some of the foods, but some, particularly those in the bread category, can become high glycemic if you eat too much of them.
Other foods are in the yellow category. Go slowly on these. Too many and you are in trouble! You can have some occasionally — maybe one or two a day — but overdoing on these can sabotage your plan. These have a GI number of 56 to 70.
You can guess what the red light foods are. They have a number above 70. These are foods that are easily digested and dump masses of sugar quickly into your bloodstream. They don’t just add calories, but tell your body to pack on the pounds — which isn’t exactly the message you want to give it!
A red light doesn’t mean never-ever. It’s just a good idea to stop and think about before you put it in your mouth. Is it really worth it? You won’t feel as well after you eat it. You will be sad to think of your body getting that wrong message. But, if it is really worth it, enjoy it. Savor every small bite. Don’t ruin the pleasure by feeling guilty. Just resolve to pass the next time and go take a walk. And don’t take seconds. Or thirds. Or — well, you get the picture.
Most of your meals and snacks should consist of green light foods, with yellow light foods in a balance and, once in a while, a red. You will be eating meats and vegetables with some fruit and whole grain breads with some interesting and surprising additions. That doesn’t sound too difficult or depriving, does it? It’s not. It’s something you can do for the rest of your life.
Here are some lists of common foods for you.
Green Light Meat, Poultry, Seafood, and other Zero Foods
Zero? Yes, because of the protein, most meats, poultry and seafood have no insulin response. Nuts are also on this list, because most of them have a glycemic number of 0. Cashews are the exception, with a low number of 22.
Zero does not mean free, though. These foods do have calories, which do count. You won’t lose weight — or be healthy — by gorging on these foods. You can, however, do both by making these green light foods a part of your daily diet.
Green Light Vegetables
Well, here is good news! This is a category of food that is free, or nearly so, especially when you eat them raw. The fiber makes them hard to digest, so it’s difficult to eat enough to give you a big insulin spike. They also fill you up and provide lots of nutrients. It would be easier to list the veggies that are NOT on the list, since most are green-for-go. Spend some time checking out the produce section of your grocery store and buy some different varieties of vegetables. Here are some suggestions of old standbys and some that might not appear regularly on your table.
- alfalfa sprouts
- bean sprouts
- brussels sprouts
- carrots (raw — they move to yellow-for-caution when cooked.)
- green beans
- peppers — all varieties
- peas (fresh or frozen)
- snow peas
- sugar snap peas
- summer squash (yellow crookneck and patty-pan)
- sweet potato (surprise!)
- cherry/grape tomatoes
The bean group falls in this category, too. Here are some to choose from.
- black-eyed peas
- baked beans
- kidney beans
- chick peas
- pinto beans
If it isn’t on the list, it is still probably okay since the yellow and red light list is pretty short.
Green Light Breads
These breads will be dark and chunky, because they have lots of fiber. That means your stomach will have to work to digest them and the sugar will go into your bloodstream slowly and steadily instead of in a spike. Here’s my list of breads with a glycemic index less than 55:
- 100% stone ground whole wheat bread
- Whole wheat tortillas
- Corn tortillas
- whole wheat pitas
- sourdough bread (something about the acid content makes this one low GI)
- Whole grain pumpernickel
- Whole grain rye
- Oat bran bread
- Ezekiel bread
A note of caution: Read the label! Some breads are labeled “whole wheat” but they are really only white bread with carmel color added to make it look browner. Just remember– the chunkier and chewier the better.
Green Light Cereals
There is quite a bit of difference, for some reason, in where specific cereals fall in the different reference lists I have. Grape Nuts, for instance, has been listed in all three different categories in three different books. It doesn’t really matter too much, though. If you are eating mostly on the green lists and have one serving of a borderline cereal, you probably are not going to suffer from it — especially if you enjoy it and it helps keep you on the plan. Grape Nuts cereal isn’t likely to slow down your weight loss — unless you eat the whole box in one sitting, of course!
Note that low GI cooked cereals are not “instant” but slow-cooking. That’s because they take the fiber out and pre-process the cereal to make it quick. Plan on a longer cooking time
- Oatmeal (old fashioned and steel cut)
- All Bran
- All Bran Buds
- Special K (green on some lists, yellow on others. Just keep it to one serving.)
- Fiber 1
- Kashi Go Lean
- Grape Nuts — maybe.
That’s a short list — but you can add others by reading the labels. A good-for-you cereal will have at least 10 grams of fiber and be low in sugar. Try to keep it under 10 grams, but the lower the better.
Again, remember, green is not the same as free. This category is another that is easily moved from green to yellow or red if you have more than a single serving. Also, read the box for the serving size. A serving of Special K is one cup. A serving of Bran Buds is 1/3 cup.
Green Light Dairy
Look both ways as you approach this green light!
Most dairy products have a low GI — including yogurt, some puddings, and even ice cream. They contain both protein and fat, which slow down digestion so that you don’t have the big sugar dump and insulin flood. Beware, though, that they do contain more calories and can move pretty quickly from low to high glycemic by eating too much. One dip of ice cream, for example, is low glycemic. Two dips moves it into high.
Most dairy products, including:
- Ice Cream (one scoop)
- Instant pudding (1/8 of a package, prepared)
Green Light Fruits
Here is a quick list of fruits you can enjoy making a part of your new lifestyle.
Choose fresh, whole fruit if possible. Remember to check to make sure that the fruit is not packed in sugared syrup if you are choosing frozen or canned fruit.
Is your favorite fruit not on the list? Ask me and I’ll look it for you. Unlike vegetables, though, there are several fruits that are in the moderate to high categories.
Yellow Light/Red Light Cereals
Cereals seem to wander from one category to another more than any food in my various lists. One reason for that might be that formulas for the cereals often vary from country to country and the bulk of testing has been in Australia. Here are some breakfast cereals that tend to have a lower GI number, but are not on the green list.
- Bran Buds
- Bran Chex
- Mini Wheats
- Nutri Grain
- Shredded Wheat
Most of the rest are on the red light list, including:
- Corn Chex
- Cream of Wheat
And by the way — don’t dump sugar on your cereal! Use another natural sweetener if you have to have it sweeter.
Yellow Light/Red Light Breads
Most of the breads do fall in these categories and should be eaten in small amounts and in moderation, especially if they are a trigger food for you. Some of the yellow light breads are:
- barley flour bread
- some fruit breads
- hamburger buns
- sourdough rye
- pita bread
- white high-fiber bread
- wheat flour bread
Lots of red lights here! A few are:
- bread stuffing
- english muffin
- french baguette
- kaiser rolls
- melba toast
- white bread
In general, just be aware that the whiter the bread, the more quickly it will be digested and turn into sugar in your blood stream.
Yellow Light/Red Light Fruits
- cantaloupe melon
- fruit cocktail (canned)
- kiwi (borderline red light)
- peaches (canned)
There are only a couple of red light/occasional fruits. They are:
watermelon — which actually has a low glycemic load — more about that in a later post.
dates (borderline — some lists have them as yellow)
Yellow Light/Red Light Vegetables
There aren’t many of these, but there are a few. Some of the vegetables to eat more sparingly are:
- butternut squash
- cooked carrots
- acorn squash
- new potatoes
- pale skin potatoes
- spaghetti squash
- sweet corn
You can still have them, as they are nutritious and filling and have only medium GI numbers. You just don’t want to make these the core vegetables in your daily diet.
Even fewer are on the red light list. Potatoes and parsnips are just about the only ones I could find.
Most of us can live without parsnips, but potatoes have long been a staple in the western diet. Try eating boiled or grilled new potatoes when you must have them, but it’s time to start substituting other vegetables for these high glycemic ones. We’ll be talking about lower glycemic options in later posts.
Yellow Light/Red Light Dairy
Not much on this list! Most dairy products have a low GI number. That doesn’t mean, though, that they are free food, as they do have calories. Just about the only products that change to yellow/red are ice cream and pudding.
In general, foods that are low glycemic have one or more of these factors: protein, fat, and fiber. These are the three things that slow down digestion and keep a major insulin dump from happening. Since insulin is implicated in all kinds of diseases and health problems, from diabetes to glaucoma, it is important to keep it down to low doses. You’ll not only lose weight, but you will be healthier and will feel younger, too!
Eating to live and living for Christ,
Susan Jordan Brown