Food for Thought

How low should a low GI diet go?
Prof Jennie Brand-Miller and Diabetes Australia's Alan Barclay believe there's a real need to define the numerical difference between a low GI diet and a low GI food. Because a low GI food is defined as 55 or less, people have made the reasonable assumption that a whole diet that averages less than 55 is 'low enough'. In fact the AVERAGE Australian and American diet already has a GI of 56 to 58 because we all eat low GI fruits and dairy products and of course sugar (GI 60). So to reduce the risk of chronic disease, a low GI eating pattern/diet must have much lower number.

What we now know from observational/cohort studies is that the GI of the diet of the people in the lowest quintile (20% of the population) is about 40–45. Since this reduces the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease and people can achieve it in real life, we think it's a reasonable definition of a low GI diet (i.e. less than 45). How do you achieve this? Substitute low for high GI foods in your everyday meals and snacks, especially in the breads you choose. Breakfast in particular is your opportunity to go for gold by selecting a low GI breakfast cereal. Don't assume that adding milk to crispy flakes makes it a low GI meal. If you don’t eat breakfast cereal, make sure you choose a low GI bread for your toast, and of course low GI breads are a must for those sandwiches at lunch.’


Seven secrets to making healthier eating a habit
Now that a large US study published in the April edition of American Psychologist has come to the obvious conclusion that (fad) diets don’t work, GI News asked Nutrition for Life author Catherine Saxelby what sort of eating plan helps people lose that excess and keep it off.

‘Well, the best way of eating if you are overweight, is a diet you enjoy and can stick to for more than a week. It has to be sustainable – it’s not about dropping a dress size, it’s about healthy eating for life! Cut down the fat, especially saturated fat. Eat protein at each meal for satiety. Choose high fibre or low GI carbohydrates to slow digestion and absorption. Cut down, but don’t cut out! Eat a large salad a day. It fills you up for few kilojoules. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. But food aside, you need to adopt some healthier eating habits. Remember, although motivation may get you started, it’s habit that keeps you going and keeps the kilos off.’

Catherine Saxelby
  1. Listen to your stomach. Your stomach is only the size of your fist clenched. Imagine this and you’ll soon realise that it doesn’t take a lot of food to fill that volume. Aim to eat only when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re comfortably full – not stuffed. I believe this notion is so important, I created a ‘Hunger-Fullness Log’ where you can plot your hunger rating over the day (peckish, hungry, ravenous, running on empty, starving or too weak to chew). You can download it at
  2. Think long term. Think weeks or months, not one week. Your excess weight crept on gradually and that’s the best way for it to come off – slow and gradual. That way, you won’t trigger your body’s ‘fast and famine’ mode.
  3. Eat small. It’s now clear that the bigger the portion in front of you, the more you’ll end up consuming, as Prof. Brian Wansink has amply demonstrated in his new book Mindless Eating. Watch your portions. You can still enjoy a treat as long as it’s small. Don’t let waiters and fast food chains upsize your portions for very little more money. It’s a trap – if it’s not waste on your plate, it will end up around your waist!
  4. Practise mindful eating. Eat slowly, savouring each mouthful and enjoying the different flavours and aromas. Focus on the food in front of you. Put your fork and knife down between bites. Sit down to eat, even if it’s only for a snack. Turn the TV off and don’t read. Check in with your stomach every so often – it takes the stomach 20 minutes to signal the brain that it’s FULL! Before you start to eat, take a long breath in and out to trigger the start of your mindful eating.
  5. Plan meals ahead.
    Have something in the fridge or freezer that you can defrost and cook when you come home tired. If you’re going out, take a salad box or sandwich with you so you don’t have to buy fast food.
  6. Use the 90/10 rule. If 90% of your intake is healthy, then the remaining 10 per cent of an occasional treat won’t derail your efforts. And the odd treat will stop you feeling deprived and less likely to pig out and binge. One chocolate won’t spoil a healthy diet – but the whole box will!
  7. Think positive. Don’t dwell on what you CAN’T eat! Think of the good things you CAN enjoy from a bowl of hearty chicken and vegetable soup to good Greek yoghurt.
And finally, be active – just walking more helps! ANY exercise is better than none!


Catherine Saxelby’s most recent book, Zest, The Nutrition for Life Cookbook, includes 120 ‘real food’ recipes for vitality and good health that will help you achieve and maintain a weight that’s right for you. For more information about Zest, check out Catherine’s website: