New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children's Hospital About the Low-Glycemic Diet

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Low-Glycemic DietOver time, both children and adults are often unable to follow weight-loss diets that are low in both calories and fat—and they tend to regain lost weight, too. Frequently, that's because they feel deprived by the limited amounts and types of foods they can eat. 

The Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program uses an approach known as a low-glycemic diet. This diet: 

  • combines natural carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, all nutrients that help you stay full longer after eating
  • is based on whole foods that digest slowly, helping blood sugar and hormones stay under control

Research has shown that the low-glycemic diet has many benefits, including lower risk for heart disease and fatty liver, which are growing problems in overweight children and adults. A low-glycemic diet can also help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. Most importantly, it can help control appetite, encouraging and supporting a healthy weight in both kids and adults.

What is the glycemic index?

CelmentineThe glycemic index is a way of ranking carbohydrates from 0 to 100. The ranking refers to how high a given amount of food containing carbohydrates raises blood sugar (glucose).

What determines this? One important factor is how quickly it gets converted into sugar. The slower a carbohydrate gets converted into sugar, the steadier it keeps the glucose level.

What does a steady glucose level have to do with losing weight?

Two things:

  1. It's easier to control hunger (and, ultimately, body weight) when your blood sugar level is steady, not changing quickly from high to low and back again. 
     
  2. A steady level of blood sugar level also helps you shed excess body fat more effectively. 

What foods help keep the blood sugar levels steady? 

Foods with a low glycemic index help keep the blood sugar levels steady. Examples are most fruits and non-starchy vegetables.

On the other hand, foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread, chips and prepared breakfast cereals, cause the blood sugar levels to spike.

How do I follow a low-glycemic diet?

Maryland crab cakeFollowing  a low-glycemic diet is easier than it may sound. You don't have to memorize the glycemic index or count grams of carbohydrates in foods. Instead, you can:

  • Choose fiber-rich, natural carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits and legumes, and eat them along with a source of protein and a healthy fat.  
  • Eat grain products in their least processed state possible (for example, stone ground whole wheat bread rather than white bread).
  • When you have a sugary treat, do so only in moderation and after a balanced meal.
  • Limit fruit juice, avoid sugary soda and drink mostly water. 
The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
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