It seems our first look at the benefits of choosing low GI carbs as part of our gluten free diet was a great success. Again by popular demand today we’re going to explore the Australian Dietary Guidelines further along those lines, talk about ways to build low-GI GF carbs into your meals and snacks, and a few tricks to help lower the overall GI of your meals.
Please check with your health professional before making any changes based on this information as it’s provided at a population level and doesn’t take your personal requirements into consideration.
When you consider that carbohydrate foods are included in all 5 food groups (yes, even the protein group as legumes) provided to us as a guideline for healthy eating in the Australian Dietary Guidelines, it demonstrates how important they are as part of a balanced diet. Carbohydrate foods that are high in nutrients and have a low glycemic index should be included in every meal that we eat. The grains and cereals group is the only group that we need to consider gluten in (you can read more about that here) so you might see it’s not as tricky as you may have thought.
The other thing that makes it not as tricky as you may have thought is that it’s about learning to think about the GI of the ‘whole meal’ rather than just the specific carbs you’re including. When it comes to meals it’s a good idea to remember this image of the plate that should be divided into quarters: one quarter for quality carbs, one for lean protein and two (or half the plate) should be non-starchy vegetables or salad.
Other parts of your meal such as your protein source or dairy (like yogurt or sour cream) or fats (choose mainly monounsaturated or omega-3 polyunsaturated fats) or avocado or nuts or even the vinegar or lemon juice in your salad can all help to lower that overall GI of your meal. We’ll discuss this more further down.
Starting with breakfast, aim to include some low-GI cereal (such as GF Weetbix or Freedom Foods Active Balance flakes, or a low-GI bread for toast.
Dairy products are great for breakfast as they add extra protein and help to lower the GI of the other carbs you’ve chosen. So milk on your cereal, or choosing a milk based smoothie made with a weetbix and frozen fruit can really help to keep you going across the morning.
Choosing a piece of fruit or a yogurt or even a milk-based drink will keep you blood sugar levels in the right zone for optimal brain and energy levels.
It depends what you’re having, but adding half a tin of 4 bean mix to your salad, or using low-GI GF bread in your sandwich or having last night’s leftovers should all include that serve or two of low-GI carb.
If you’re a fan of trail mix the nuts will keep those blood glucose levels travelling smoothly along. Apples, oranges, pears and bananas are all a good option too.
If you felt like something savoury, a legume based dip such as hummous served with veggie sticks will give you excellent carb, protein and fibre as well as helping you to meet your 5 veggie serves per day.
Try to choose the lower-GI versions of the carbs you include. Some examples might include:
- Potato – Carisma from Coles is a good example, or new potatoes are good too, and cooked then cooled potatoes also have a lower GI due to development of resistant starch.
- Pasta – there’s a few versions of these around that have been tested. A couple of examples include the Coles Simply GF pastas and one called Sam Mills (corn based) from Woolworths. The new Barilla GF range has been tested with a GI of 60 which is only just outside low (<55), so having it cooked and cooled, or including a protein based sauce or legumes in the sauce will lower the overall GI of the meal.
- Rice – aim for Doongarra or Basmati versions, and brown in them if you can for extra fibre. The GF Clever Rice is also a good option for variety.
- Legumes – include lentils, chickpeas, cannellini beans and others (mashed cannellini beans with extra virgin olive oil make a delicious alternative to mashed potato).
- Quinoa – a great option as a side (delicious when cooked using the absorption method using stock instead of water with the juice of an orange added) or used cold in salads. It’s delicious, nutritious and versatile.
Try to choose fruit/dairy based desserts where possible.
Ways to lower the GI
I mentioned cooking and cooling starches lowers their GI, so through the summer including cooked and cooled potatoes, pasta, rice and quinoa in your salads is a great way to include it.
I also mentioned earlier, here are a few foods that will bring the GI of the meal down:
- adding a few tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice to your salad
- using plain yogurt or light sour cream as a dressing for your potatoes
- including nuts, avocados and extra virgin olive oil in your meals
If you wanted to read more on this subject, here’s a link to a similar blog I wrote for the charity Diabetes Counselling Online on making the change to low GI carbs, and also have a look at the Glycemic Index Foundations website Top Tips to Go Low.
Please remember that it’s important that you check with your health professional before making changes, and I highly recommend a personalised consultation with an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
Sally is the owner of her private practice, Marchini Nutrition, has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too. She is also Social Media Dietitian with Diabetes Counselling Online, and the dietitian on The Moon and You App and works on ‘Be Well Gluten Free’ in her spare time.