Meal Planning by the Numbers

By Dancehawk Latest Reply 2008-07-04 07:53:38 -0500
Started 2008-06-12 08:25:02 -0500

Meal Planning by the Numbers
The glycemic index can help you plan diabetes-friendly meals—but only if used properly
Publish Date: August 2007
Sometimes a new way of thinking about food catches fire in the public’s imagination, suggesting a quick-fix solution to weight loss or blood glucose control. One such concept today is the glycemic index (GI).

The GI is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich food by how much it raises blood glucose compared to glucose or white bread.

Planning meals based on a food’s impact on blood glucose levels may seem tailor-made for people with diabetes. But is the GI the magic bullet we’ve all been waiting for to help us streamline the way we manage our diabetes? It can be a helpful tool, say the experts at Johns Hopkins, but only if used properly.

Understanding GI
Glycemic index is the number assigned to a carbohydrate-containing food. A GI of 55 or less ranks as low, a GI of 56 to 69 is medium and a GI of 70 or more ranks as high. (Common foods and their GI value are listed at the end of this article.)

Know the proven benefits of a low-GI diet
Despite the recent popularity of the GI among the general public, it’s taken longer for the medical community to agree on whether this concept helps people with diabetes control their blood glucose. In 2003, an article published in the journal “Diabetes Care” examined data from 14 studies that compared low-GI and high-GI diets for their effects on after-meal glucose levels. The authors determined that people with diabetes might receive a small benefit by choosing lower-GI foods over medium- or high-GI foods.

The American Diabetes Association states that using the GI to plan meals may provide modest help in controlling blood glucose levels, but that total carbohydrate grams consumed is more important.

Factors that affect GI
Do the blood glucose control and other potential benefits of a low-GI meal plan mean you should switch to a diet composed solely of low-GI foods? It’s not that simple. The GI should not be your only guide to meal planning. This is because a food’s GI value depends on several factors, among them:

Fiber content. Foods that are less processed or naturally high in fiber or both slow the release of sugar molecules into the bloodstream.
Ripeness. Riper fruits and vegetables tend to have more sugar than unripe ones. The riper the fruit, the higher its GI.
Fat content. The more fat or acid a food contains, the slower its carbohydrates are converted to sugar and absorbed into the bloodstream.
Learn the basic characteristics that determine whether a food has a low-, medium- or high-GI value and what happens to your blood glucose levels when you eat a particular food. The GI of the carbohydrate foods you eat is just one element in planning a balanced diet. Work with a diabetes educator or dietitian to develop a healthy diabetes-friendly meal plan that suits your needs and helps keep your blood glucose levels within your target range.

What are the glycemic indexes of your favorite carbohydrates?
Low-GI carbs (up to 55): milk, apples, grapes, bananas, pears, brown rice, lentils, yams, peas, nuts

High-GI carbs (70 or higher): watermelon, dried dates, white bread, baked potatoes, french fries, refined cereal products (Cheerios®, corn flakes, Rice Krispies®), Coca-Cola® soda, jelly beans, cooked couscous

For a more in-depth listing of foods and their glycemic indexes, go to

6 replies

GabbyPA 2008-07-04 07:53:38 -0500 Report

I am just learing about the GI and it is confusing and I can see why it would become more of a head ache if you misunderstand what to do. Consulation with a nutritionist is another good way to use this. There are things that sound really wacky in it, but there are some great insights into things like why one brand of whole wheat bread will spike your sugar and another won't. For us, research, reading and experimenting is what gets us thru. At least it makes life intersting. I think we need to return to eating like cavemen did. Will that put hair on my chest?? LOL

lily - 17261
lily - 17261 2008-06-12 08:51:55 -0500 Report

Hi thats good information for to use. I didn't put notice about glycemic index.

morris.js 2008-06-13 06:53:43 -0500 Report

As I have said in other discussions, if I eat a breakfast that is high on the glycemic Index list, then I can be pretty sure I will have a low between 9:30 and 10:30. If I eat something low on the index, then I will have my "normal" blood sugar levels at my next snack/meal time.
kdroberts is correct in the fact that it can be misleading, but personaly for me, it is a good resource that helps me prevent those lows, or at least be prepared for them.
As I have also said before, everyone reacts differently to foods and medications, so you still need to do your own little "studies" on how things affect you.

Elfin 2008-07-04 03:39:28 -0500 Report

Amen to that Lily. There are no "magic bullets". A diabetic's food life is more like a puzzle of their own body. We can extract things that work for us in controling blood glucose levels. What works for one may not work for another. So let's just keep on looking for our own puzzle pieces…new ideas, using only whatt works for us. Many authors of popular diets are out to sell their single minded ideas…low fat, glycemic index, sugar free diets etc. Personal study moderation, variety and experimentation still win out over single ingredient or subject diets. A balance of what works for you puts your puzzle together.

kdroberts 2008-06-12 08:46:48 -0500 Report

I personally thing the GI is pretty much useless for diabetics. The numbers are worked out based on non-diabetics eating a serving of the food that contains up to 50g of carb and then measuring the response over 2 hours. It can also be measured on only 10 people. Personally, I'm not going to eat 50g of carb of one thing in one sitting and my carb reaction is not that of a normal person. If you are going to use the glycemic index, look at the glycemic load too which takes into account the carbohydrate content of the portion size you are eating.

One example of how different it can be is with watermelon. The GI puts it high with a value of 72 yet to eat 50g of carb from it you need to eat around 1.5lbs, not exactly an average serving size. A 150g slice (about 5 ounces), which is pretty reasonable, comes in at about 7.5 on the glycemic load which is low. To get the load you divide the GI value by 100 and then multiply it by the carbs in the serving. under 10 is low, 11-19 is medium and 20 or over is high.

If the GI works for you then great and you should keep using it. I just feel it's very misleading, especially where diabetics are concerned.

Dancehawk 2008-06-13 04:55:00 -0500 Report

It helps when your struggling to see why you spike up, I started looking at it cause I sat in the 150s all week long and did nt change anything but brands of pasta and a few things,
every thing helps when trouble shooting. lol



Next Discussion: type 2 diabetes »