1 December 2013

GI News—December 2013


  • Give prime position on the buffet table to healthy dishes; 
  • Does replacing sugar with isomaltulose improve BGLs?
  • Lower BGLs, better memory;  
  • Prof Jennie Brand-Miller on getting kids to like good foods;
  • Dr Alan Barclay on festive drinks;   
  • Nicole Senior enjoys deliciously low GI dates;
  • For festive fare try: Spiced date, nut and pomegranate loaf; Moroccan-style BBQ or roasted turkey with date stuffing; Almond meringues 
GI News 
Editor: Philippa Sandall
Web management and design: Alan Barclay, PhD
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Food for Thought

Health-by-design at the festive table
The holiday season is rapidly approaching and chief cooks in households around the world are starting to think about what festive fare to serve family and friends (of course the better organised ones have already made the Christmas puddings, mince pies and cakes). Serving the special foods that are part of your cultural traditions is part of the ritual and something everyone looks forward to. In my family, ensalada rusa (Spanish potato salad) will always be on the buffet table along with other traditional Spanish and Aussie Christmas fare. It’s all so tempting, it's hard not to overfill your plate ...

The big problem these days with our festive fare is that the holiday season seems to have spread way beyond that special Christmas eve dinner or Christmas lunch with parties and celebrations galore, each vying for your eating affections. However each time you overload your system with excessive food, it’s akin to metabolic assault: your blood becomes milky with fat (post-prandial lipaemia); glucose, insulin levels and inflammatory hormones rise; your blood vessels become less flexible (called endothelial dysfunction) and your blood becomes more likely to clot (or pro-thrombotic). Unfortunately for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes, these adverse effects are worse.

ensalada rusa

And did you know that rather than signalling the body to ease-off at subsequent meals, huge meals can actually increase appetite for the next meal perpetuating a vicious cycle of overeating (people often say their stomach has stretched). It’s no wonder hospital emergency rooms experience a rush of cardiac patients on Christmas and Boxing Day.

Surely it’s time to move on? The planet can no longer sustain such excess and our physical health is suffering as a result. Not to mention the moral affront of gluttony in a world where there is so much hunger, plus the environmental disaster of food waste.

  • If you are catering, be bold in offering healthier options and cook the right quantities to avoid waste. Don’t pressure guests to eat more than they need.  
  • If you’re on the receiving end of pressure to eat more than you want to, be kind but assertive. Your health and comfort need not suffer to please others. 
Of course, many of the adverse effects of overeating can be reversed by exercise, but it’s hard to throw a ball around when you’ve fallen into a postprandial stupor and can’t get out of your chair. Perhaps the best test of eating the right amount is having some get-up-and-go a few hours after getting up from the table? Some research conducted by Professor Brian Wansink from Cornell University might help. He found that placing the healthy items first on the buffet table helped diners fill their plates first with these better choices. I’m sure we could all could utilise a little health-by-design at our festive table to steer our guests towards more of the good stuff as well.

Sincere best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy festive season.

Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author and consultant who strives to make healthy food taste terrific. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or checkout her website

News and Reviews

Low GI diet in pregnancy reduces risk of excess weight gain 
Researchers in Ireland have found that giving women advice on a healthy low GI diet early in pregnancy can reduce the risk of excess weight gain and improve nutrition. Compared to women who received usual maternal care, those who were educated on a low GI diet in the first half of pregnancy had a lower energy intake, a higher intake of fibre and protein, and reduced their intake of high GI foods. They were also less likely to exceed pregnancy weight gain recommendations. Read more about the study here.

Pregnant woman

What’s better for your HbA1c — sugar or isomaltulose? 
Isomaltulose is a sugar (a disaccharide) found in minute amounts in honey and sugar cane. Compared with sucrose (aka regular sugar), it has a significantly slower rate of digestion and absorption because the bond linking the glucose and fructose molecules is harder to break down and this shows in the respective GI values – the GI of regular sugar is 65 (average); isomaltose is 32. A dietary intervention study in Diabetes Care reports that replacing 50 grams of sucrose a day with isomaltulose for 12 weeks was not enough to significantly improve HbA1c in people with type 2 diabetes. Triglycerides, however, were significantly lower in the isomaltulose group.

Lost your car keys? Lower BGLs and better recall 
A cross-sectional study in Neurology, has found that lower HbA1c and glucose levels were associated with better scores in delayed recall, learning ability, and memory consolidation. The authors conclude: “Our results indicate that even in the absence of manifest type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, chronically higher blood glucose levels exert a negative influence on cognition, possibly mediated by structural changes in learning-relevant brain areas.”

Make room for mushrooms on the buffet table
Mushrooms are one of the tastiest, nutrient-rich, low energy-dense foods around with some100 kJ/24 calories in a 100g/3½oz serving. They are packed with, minerals like selenium and B vitamins including folate. They also have more protein than most vegetables. The GI isn’t relevant because they have almost no carbs although they are a very good source of fibre. What’s more, substituting a cup of white button mushrooms for red meat in three meals a week could be a useful strategy for enhancing and maintaining weight loss according to the findings of a randomized clinical trial reported in The FASEB Journal. At the end of the one-year trial, participants who substituted mushrooms for meat lost seven pounds, showed improvements in body composition compared to participants on the standard diet, and they maintained the weight loss. Looking for inspiration? Try Ian Hemphill’s Roasted Mushrooms with Ajowan.


Ingredients: ½–1 tsp chilli powder; 3 tbsp olive oil; 8 large field mushrooms, stems removed; 2 cloves garlic, crushed; 2 tsp butter or margarine, cut into 8 squares; 1 tsp ajowan seeds; sea salt (optional); 4 handfuls wild rocket; cracked pepper, to taste
Method: Preheat the oven to 150°C (325°F) and lightly oil a baking tray or shallow ovenproof dish large enough to hold 8 mushrooms. Mix chilli with the olive oil and set aside to allow the flavour to develop while you prepare the mushrooms • Place a little crushed garlic and a tiny piece of margarine in the centre of each mushroom, then sprinkle each with just a pinch of ajowan and a little salt if using • Arrange the mushrooms face up on the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until heated through • Rinse the rocket well under running water; drain, gently pat dry and toss in the chilli oil. Place a mound of rocket on each plate, and serve with two mushrooms and cracked pepper.
What’s ajowan? These small, pale-brown seeds look like celery seeds and have a distinct 'thyme-like' flavour. Add them to vegetable curries, steamed cabbage, carrots, potato and pumpkin or use them in slow-cooked dishes when the flavour of thyme and a slight peppery spiciness is wanted. Want to know more? Check out Ian Hemphill’s Spice and Herb Bible.

What's New?
Produce pic 

Sweet red salad onions

Produce Sweet red salad onions
Pic Emma Sandall 
Purchased from Greg@Envy Horticulture, Bondi Beach Farmers’ Market
What to do? Slice and add to salads or gently caramelise in olive oil as an accompaniment or a filling for field mushrooms. How? Brush mushrooms on both sides with a little olive oil, place cavity-side up in a baking dish and bake in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 15 minutes. Serve warm topped with the caramelised onion, a dollop of labne (or a soft, mild feta), a sprinkle of lemon thyme and a scatter of chopped walnuts.
What makes them sweet? Catherine Saxelby says: 'Onions have a natural sweetness because they are high in natural sugars (around 5% – glucose, fructose and sucrose). They might make you cry, but they are a good source of antioxidants called flavonoids. There’s also some fibre and potassium but they are fairly low in vitamin C and minerals.'
Want to know your onions better? Penny Woodward is expert on all matters allium (garlic and onions).  

Soil sustainability matters 

Robert Edis

World Soil Day (December 5) recognises the benefits of healthy soil in sustaining plant life (and all life). In a recent terroir-for-produce series, “The good earth”,  Melbourne soil scientist Robert Edis profiled some of Australia's ancient soils and the flavours they bring to the produce table.

  • Boneo Leptic Tenosol and parsnips
  • Jasmine rice and Leeton Red Sodosol
  • Clare Hypercalcic Calcarosol and durum wheat
  • Green lentils and the Wimmera self-mulching Grey Vertosol
  • Thorpdale Red Ferrosol and chip potatoes
  • King Island cheese and Currie Yellow Kurosol
  • Buderim Red Ferrosol and ginger
  • Peaty Black Vertosol and asparagus
  • Kensington Pride mangoes Darwin lateritic Red Kandosol
  • Coonawarra Red Dermasol and cabernet sauvignon. 
Wine makers have long been telling us about the importance of terroir and the relationship between the flavour of a wine and its origin. In a new book, Barossa Shiraz (Wakefield Press $39.95), Thomas Girgensohn explains terroir – the concept of the vineyard’s site to the quality of the grapes and wine produced from it – in easy-to-understand terms.

Philippa’s bookshelf 
#1 You can’t turn a page in Rob and Sophia Palmer’s Colour of Maroc (Murdoch Books) without feeling the terroir. It’s very much a gift book, but you probably won’t want to give it away. Low GI picks for the buffet table? Try Barley and vegetable pilaf with cumin dressing; Roasted cauliflower salad with saffron and currant dressing; Fennel and blood orange salad; and Spinach and preserved lemon salad.

Colour of Maroc

#2 I heard Bruce Auld talking about A Traveller’s Flora recently. It’s his self published A to Z guide to familiar plants along roadsides, in fields and forgotten places in south-eastern Australia. It includes common roadside plants, crop plants, native plants and weeds. Many edible, it you know what you are looking for. I’ll never look at the ubiquitous canna (Canna edulis) the same way again. I discover it’s long been cultivated (dating back 2500 years in Peru) for its edible tubers which are usually baked. Here's what Crops for the Future have to say about it. ‘Never write off a minor crop! Once a staple in prehistoric Peru but going nearly extinct there because of the inconvenience for direct use (in particular extremely long cooking time), this root crop has bounced back in the last 50 years – not in its native range, but in Vietnam and Southern China. Gels made from canna starch have extraordinary tensile strength, making it the preferred raw material of popular transparent noodles. Currently grown on some 50,000 ha of marginal land in Vietnam and China, canna allows poor farmers to derive profit from minimal investments and from land unsuited for food crops.’ We guesstimate that those noodles will be low GI.

Canna edulis

Photo: Michael Hermann, Crops for the Future

Nicole's Taste of Health

It’s a date!
A friend brought along fresh dates to snack on the other evening and said they were as good as chocolate – high praise indeed. They were fabulous and had come all the way from California; my friend believes they grow the best she’s found. Food miles aside, I had to agree with her. I’m sure this will offend many other places that might lay claim to having the best dates, but speaks to the wide appeal of this fruit. Fresh dates have the perfect balance of flavour and sticky chewiness that really hits the palate ‘sweet spot’. And they are a fascinating fruit to boot.

The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is one of the few plants to thrive in the hot dry conditions of the Middle East and North Africa where it has been cultivated for at least 6000 years. Known as ‘the bread of the desert’ and ‘cake for the poor’, its fruit has long provided a local staple. It’s not surprising that date palms and hold religious significance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This ancient fruit denotes victory and peace and is included in Palm Sunday festivities celebrating Jesus’ triumphant return to Jerusalem. It is commonly the first food consumed for Iftar, after the day’s fasting during Ramadan. There must be nothing better than dates after a day of hunger, much like a cool drink after walking through the desert.

There are many varieties of dates in three main categories based on water content. The dates I know as ‘fresh’ are also known as soft or Medjool dates. Then there are semi-dry varieties such as Deglet Noor, and dry dates like Thoory. You’re probably more familiar with the dried version that is much easier to export around the world in this shelf-stable form. In early times dried dates sustained Arab sailors during their long voyages of trade and discovery.


Photo: Ian Hofstetter, The Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook (Hachette Australia)

As well as being a key ingredient in the popular sticky date pudding, and date and nut bread Americans enjoy over the holidays (try Anneka’s recipe below), dried dates are very versatile and can be added to cakes, loaves muffins, cookies and scones (the English kind traditionally eaten with jam and cream). They’re also delicious added to breakfast cereal, muesli and in a nutty trail mix. I’ve even been known to throw a few on a peanut butter sandwich-yum. They also provide a lovely balance of flavours in savoury dishes together with meat and spices in tagines and other slow-cooked casseroles. Fresh dates are so good they need no accompaniment, although they enhance a cheese platter beautifully.

I was amazed at the myriad of ingredients formed from the humble date: a syrup (dibs), which is used as a sweetener similar to honey, powdered sugar, paste, sparkling juice, vinegar and wine; not to mention the creative stuffings used inside stoned (pitted) dates including cream cheese, nuts, candied citrus peel or marzipan. A healthy oil can even be pressed from the seed. What a clever fruit.

Dates are sweet, so it’s not surprising to learn they contain 70% sugars: a varying combination of sucrose, fructose and glucose, depending on the variety. All are low GI. They are high in fibre and also contain vitamins A, thiamine, niacin and riboflavin, and some iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. They even contain selenium thought to be important for reducing cancer risk, and fluorine for strong teeth that resist decay – both elements are not found in many foods.

Dates are also high in natural sorbitol (a sugar alcohol or polyol) which makes them excellent for promoting bowel regularity, although those with an irritable bowel and sensitive to FODMAPS (certain sugars that can be poorly absorbed by the body) may want to give them a miss (poor them). The rest of us can make a date with dates over this festive season and rejoice in how sweet life has been to us this year. Season’s Greetings!


Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author and consultant who strives to make healthy food taste terrific. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or checkout her website

In the GI News Kitchen

Family Baking, Anneka Manning, author of Bake Eat Love. Learn to Bake in 3 Simple Steps and founder of Sydney’s BakeClub, shares her delicious ‘better-for-you’ recipes for snacks, desserts and treats the whole family will love. Through both her writing and cooking school, Anneka teaches home cooks to bake in practical and approachable yet inspiring ways that assure success in the kitchen.

 Anneka Manning
Spiced date, nut and pomegranate loaf 
This moist, fragrant date and nut loaf is studded with dried cranberries and hazelnuts. It has a little crunch and is mildly spiced to go perfectly with an afternoon coffee or pot of tea shared with friends. It is also great toasted and spread with fresh ricotta. The smell of the warm fruit and spices baking in your oven will get you in the festive spirit! Preparation time: 20 minutes (+ cooling time) • Baking time: 50–55 minutes • Makes: 1 loaf (Serves 20)

1¼ cups (300ml) freshly brewed black coffee
1 cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup currants
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (see Baker’s Tips)
2 tbsp honey
slightly heaped 1/3 cup (90g/3oz) Logicane or raw sugar
1/3 cup sunflower oil or 75g (2½oz ) butter
1 orange, zest finely grated
2 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs, lightly whisked
50g walnuts, coarsely chopped, plus an extra handful, coarsely chopped, to decorate
50g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped, plus an extra handful, coarsely chopped, to decorate
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1½ cups wholemeal plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp pomegranate molasses
2 tsp honey
1 tsp water

Spiced date, nut and pomegranate loaf

Preheat the oven to 180°C350F. Grease a 21 x 10cm (base measurement) loaf tin and line the base and two long sides with non-stick baking paper.
Combine the coffee, dates, cranberries, currants, pomegranate molasses, honey, sugar, butter or oil, orange zest and mixed spice in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Remove immediately from the heat and set aside to cool.
Stir the eggs, walnuts, hazelnuts and sesame seeds into the cooled date mixture.
Sift the flour and baking powder together, returning any bran to the flour. Add to the date mixture and use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir gently until just combined.
Pour the mixture into prepared tin and use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface. Sprinkle with the extra nuts, pressing into the mixture slightly.
Bake for 50–55 minutes, or until the loaf is firm to the touch on the top and cooked when tested with a skewer. If it is browning too quickly, cover with foil after 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and stand in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack.
To make the glaze, combine the honey, pomegranate molasses and water in a small bowl. Brush over the top of the hot loaf. Set aside to cool before serving.

Baker’s tips 

  • Pomegranate molasses is available from specialty food stores and delicatessens. 
  • This loaf will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Serve at room temperature. 
  • If honey is firm or crystallised, heat it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften before using 
Per serve 
785 kJ/ 188 calories; 3 g protein; 8.5 g fat (includes 1 g saturated fat; saturated:unsaturated fat ratio 0.13); 24 g available carbs; 3 g fibre

American dietitian and author of Good Carbs, Bad Carbs, Johanna Burani, shares favourite recipes with a low or moderate GI from her Italian kitchen. For more information, check out Johanna's website. The photographs are by Sergio Burani. His food, travel and wine photography website is photosbysergio.com.


Almond Meringues
Northern Italy, where we have our home, does not have the best sweets, in my opinion. Meringues, however, is a dessert that everyone seems to enjoy. They show up in bakeries more than in homes. Makes 30 meringues.

4 egg whites at room temperature
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp almond extract
½ cup (60g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
30 cocoa roasted almonds

Almond Meringues

Preheat oven to 250F (120 C) Place parchment paper on 2 cookie sheets and set aside.
Add the egg whites, cream of tartar and almond extract to the bowl of a stand up mixer. Mix the ingredients on low speed for 1 minute. Start adding the sugar, 2 tbsp at a time, and gradually increase the speed of the mixer. The egg whites will start forming soft peaks. Continue to mix at the highest speed until the peaks are stiff and glossy. Total mixing time will be 8-10 minutes.
Using 2 tablespoons, drop the meringue into 30 mounds on the parchment-paper-lined baking sheets. Place one almond in the center of each meringue.
Bake for 1 hour or until the meringues are set and dry. Turn off the oven, leaving the meringues there for 1 more hour. Meringues may be stored in airtight tins for several days.

Per meringue
Calories: 18 (75 kJ) Fat: 0.5 g Saturated Fat: 0 g Saturated:unsaturated fat ratio: 0 Carbohydrate: 2 g Protein: 1 g Fiber: 0 g

Moroccan-style barbecued turkey 
This recipe and photo, kindly supplied to GI News by Steggles, can be adapted for oven roasting. Simply follow the same directions, but roast on the lowest shelf at 180C/350F (fan forced) preheated oven. Remove turkey from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. They have turkey roasting tips on their website. Preparation time: 40 minutes • Cooking time: 3½–4½ hours (plus resting time) • Serves: 10 (depending on turkey size)

1 small turkey (2.8 kg)
¼ cup honey
5 small lemons, halved
2 tbsp dukkah
bay leaves, to garnish

1½ cups chicken stock
1¼ cups instant couscous
¼ cup olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1½ tsp Moroccan seasoning
¾ cup chopped pitted dried dates
½ cup coarsely chopped parsley leaves
½ cup coarsely chopped coriander leaves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 egg, lightly beaten

Moroccan-style barbecued turkey

Heat a hooded barbeque, hood closed, using indirect heat on medium setting. Or preheat oven. Remove neck from inside turkey. Pat turkey dry, inside and out, with paper towel.
Make stuffing. Place stock in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in couscous, then cover and stand for 10 minutes. Fluff grains with a fork. Meanwhile, heat half the oil in small frying pan and cook onion until soft, stirring occasionally. Stir Moroccan seasoning, dates, parsley, coriander, pinenuts, onion and remaining oil through couscous. Stir in egg.
Loosely fill turkey with about two- thirds of the stuffing (this will depend on size of the turkey). Do not overstuff, as stuffing will swell. Close rear cavity with metal skewers. Tie legs together with kitchen string. Bend wings back and tuck under turkey.
Place in a large roasting pan. Cover completely with a foil tent. Place in the centre of the barbecue and roast, hood closed. • 40 minutes before the end of cooking time, open hood and remove foil. Cover ends of turkey legs with foil to prevent burning. Brush turkey with 1 tbsp honey. Place lemon halves around the turkey and close hood. Continue cooking for 40 minutes. Brush turkey with honey twice during this time. If the turkey appears to brown too quickly, loosely cover with foil. • 5 minutes before the end of cooking time sprinkle turkey with dukkah. Test the turkey is cooked by piercing the thickest part of the thigh – between the thigh and breast. The juices should run clear. If the juices are pink, cover turkey with foil and continue to barbecue until cooked.
Remove the turkey from the barbecue and cover loosely with foil for 20 minutes. Place turkey on a platter, reserving pan juices. Place lemons and bay leaves around turkey. Carve and serve.  

Per serve
1145 kJ/ 274 calories; 6 g protein; 11 g fat (includes 1.3 g saturated fat; saturated:unsaturated fat ratio 0.13); 36 g available carbs; 3 g fibre

We Are What We Ate

The New World bird that took over the Old World table 
Christmas – our biggest annual celebration – may seem like an age-old tradition, but travel back in time, and you will find it was typically a modest event for most people and, at times, a non event. England’s Puritan government cancelled Christmas in 1647, forbidding traditional expressions of merriment, ordering shops to open, and churches to close. The Plymouth Colony Pilgrims worked in the fields on their first Christmas day; while over in Massachusetts Bay, Puritans outlawed Christmas 1659–81, fining anyone caught celebrating it five shillings.

Today’s Christmas with its trees, cards, crackers, carols, decorations, gifts, feasting, entertainments, and wishes for peace on earth and goodwill to all men and women comes from Victorian England. 1843 is something of a seminal year with Henry Cole launching the world’s first commercial Christmas cards and Charles Dickens publishing A Christmas Carol and putting turkey with the trimmings in prime position on Bob Cratchitt’s table.


Turkeys have been domesticated for some 2000 years or more. In America’s First Cuisines (written to highlight and celebrate the contribution made by the original inhabitants of the New World to the world’s food supply), anthropologist and food historian, Sophie D. Coe, tells us that the Aztecs had five domesticated animals: the turkey, the Muscovy duck, the dog, the bee, and the cochineal insect. By the sixteenth century, the number of turkeys the Aztecs raised was phenomenal. She quotes MotolinĂ­a, a Franciscan missionary who arrived in New Spain in 1524, who reports that “the market of Tepeyacac, just one of several suburban markets around Tenochtitlan, sold eight thousand birds every five days, and this all year round.”

According to Coe, the first actual evidence of turkey raising however, is in Maya territory. “The earliest bones of turkeys that could be considered domesticated were found in Tehuacan and date from between 200 BC and AD 700,” she writes. “Their use must have spread rapidly, because by the time the Europeans came exploring, turkeys seem to have been available beyond their natural range. Columbus may have brought them back from the islands on his first voyage, or perhaps he first saw them when he landed in Honduras on his fourth voyage. By 1511 the king of Spain was ordering every ship returning to Spain to bring back ten turkeys, five males and five females. It was one of the most rapid successes as far as the adoption of New World foodstuffs goes, speedily replacing the tough, stringy peacock as a spectacular dish for banquets.”
America’s First Cuisines, University of Texas Press, 1994.

GI Symbol News with Dr Alan Barclay

Alan Barclay
Dr Alan Barclay

Festive occasions tend to involve feasting. And when we eat, we tend to have something to drink. But apart from water, drinks usually come with calories. Research shows that on average, overweight adults in the US pack on and extra 5 pounds (2.3 kg) over the six-week Thanksgiving–New Year period.

But the temptation to over-consume as we stand around chatting is a considerable challenge. To minimise weight gain, we really have to plan ahead to make sure we balance healthy food with festive fare along with ensuring we maintain (or increase) physical activity. And we all have to watch what we drink. It’s not just alcohol that’s the problem; many festive beverages are high in calories.

The soft stuff Water is best and although not festive, it is a great in-between-drinks-drink to help you pace yourself on a night out. It doesn’t have to be Chateau Tap. Soda water, mineral water, diet soft drinks, and diet cordials are useful “watery” choices for special occasions with little or no carbohydrate or calories, so they won’t spike your blood glucose or contribute to weight gain. Vegetable juices are tasty choices with few calories and loads of nutritional goodies. Fruit juices are another story, being rich in carbs (natural sugars) they come with plenty of calories. You are better off enjoying them watered down with mineral or soda water. Most regular soft drinks have even more calories and carbs than fruit juice; the diet or reduced-sugar versions are better choices if you want something sweet.

The hard stuff Keep it moderate – no more than two standard drinks on any day. It takes the liver about an hour to metabolise a standard drink, so don’t down them too quickly. It’s also wise to have at least a couple of alcohol-free days each week (that’s where the planning comes in during the festive season). What’s a standard drink? It is much less than you imagine.

  • 100ml wine
  • 285ml regular or low carb beer 
  • 425ml low-alcohol beer 
  • 250ml cider 
  • 30ml spirits 
  • 60ml fortified wine 
Which alcoholic drink is best? Along with the taste, the amount of alcohol, carbohydrate and kilojoules/calories in alcoholic beverages are all important factors to consider when choosing a drink. Check out our at-a-glance tables to make better choices in the festive season – and throughout the coming year. (We have rounded all figures up/down.)

Drinks table

Drinking and diabetes If you are taking medication for your diabetes, alcohol can interact with the medication and cause hypoglycaemia. Either make sure you eat some carbohydrate foods while drinking to reduce your risk of a hypo, or have the drink just before a main meal (which includes some carbohydrate). Here are some good choices for snacks:
  • Low GI bread (e.g., Burgen) or grainy crackers with cottage cheese or hummus or salsa or dips 
  • Mixed nuts and seeds (not salted)
  • Fresh fruit platter 
  • Dried fruit 
  • Fruit and nut mix 

The GI Symbol, making healthy low GI choices easy choices

New GI Symbol

For more information about the GI Symbol Program
Dr Alan W Barclay, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Glycemic Index Foundation (Ltd)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Mob: +61 (0)416 111 046
Fax: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Email: alan.barclay@gisymbol.com
Website: www.gisymbol.com

GI Update with Prof Jennie Brand-Miller

Prof Jennie Brand-Miller answers your questions. 


I watch my sister struggling to get her almost 3-year-old son to eat fruits and vegetable, or any healthy food really. I am just about to introduce my baby to solids. I don’t want to go through what she is dealing with. Have you any tips to help me? 
Children have evolved to mimic their parent’s behaviour, and they are watching you more carefully than you would ever know. If you eat it, they will want to too. If you eat a balanced diet, they will too. Being a good role model applies to eating, exercising and all aspects of your behaviour, and food habits that are adopted early on, are difficult to alter later. If you flavour everything with salt, they will grow to prefer salty food. If you over-sweeten, then they expect food to taste extremely sweet. If you expect them to eat everything on their plate, then they learn to ignore internal satiety signals. They will learn to eat until they feel uncomfortably full. 

But it’s not easy in today’s world to confine your children’s food intake to only the healthiest foods. Children’s parties are common, family celebrations are occasions that call for special foods. The best way to handle these situations is not to deny your children, but to teach them that ‘party foods are for parties’. They should not be part of your normal pantry. Ice creams, soft drinks, cakes and biscuits, French fries and potato crisps are all indulgence foods. A little indulgence is a good thing, but make sure it’s just that – a little indulgence. 

Children cooking

One of the best ways of teaching your child to love healthy foods is to involve them in the preparation of the meal and even growing them in your garden. Young children can tear up various types of lettuce (and a little food sampling won’t hurt), and when they are old enough, they can help you draw a funny face with carrots, raisins and apple slices. Books dedicated to cooking with children can be a real delight. You’ll find it one of most enjoyable and rewarding ways of spending quality time with children. By the time they are old enough to be safe in a kitchen, you could insist that they prepare at least one family meal a week.

This is an edited extract from my latest book (with Dr Kate Marsh and Prof Robert Moses), The Bump to Baby Low GI Eating Plan for Conception, Pregnancy and Beyond (Hachette Australia) and in the US and Canada:  The Low GI Eating Plan for an Optimal Pregnancy (The Experiment). You can visit us HERE.

GI testing by an accredited laboratory
North America
Dr Alexandra Jenkins
Glycemic Index Laboratories
20 Victoria Street, Suite 300
Toronto, Ontario M5C 298 Canada
Phone +1 416 861 0506
Email info@gilabs.com
Web www.gilabs.com

Fiona Atkinson
Research Manager, Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service (SUGiRS)
Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences
Sydney University
NSW 2006 Australia
Phone + 61 2 9351 6018
Fax: + 61 2 9351 6022
Email sugirs@mmb.usyd.edu.au
Web www.glycemicindex.com

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