I touched on this when talking about breakfast in Tip #1: The idea of eating a lot of sugar, getting a surge of energy, only to start yawning and reaching for caffeine within a couple of hours. I’m sure many of you have heard about the glycemic index whereby foods, mainly carbohydrates are given a score depending on how slowly their sugars are released into the bloodstream. It’s not always the best marker however. It doesn’t rank foods by how healthy they are so a lot of processed foods have a low glycemic index, such as Peanut M&M’s and Snickers bars. Potato chips and ice cream rank better than a baked potato.
The best gauge is to look at how close a food is to its natural state. Let’s take freshly harvested wheat which still has its bran coating, or rice kernels that also have their bran intact. These natural foods still contain the nutrients in their outer layers. This is important. It’s the difference between eating a whole food that is full of nutrients and a ball of starch that has been stripped of anything worth eating. That’s basically the difference between brown rice and white rice; and whole wheat and refined flour. Nutrients or sugar. One kernel of brown rice has over 100 nutrients and anti-oxidants. It’s considered to be a perfect food. White rice, by contrast, brings little more than starch to the game.
So how does this affect you? Well, if you’re loading up on white pasta and white rice in the middle of the day thinking that the carbs will give you the energy to get through the afternoon, you’re very wrong. You’re going to be crashing and burning by 4 PM, then reaching for caffeine and cookies to get you through the last few hours.
If you order a sandwich at lunch, most places will offer you whole wheat bread. As long as it’s really whole wheat and not just white bread that has been dyed brown, it’s okay. If you really want to get through the afternoon, order a salad and an olive oil based dressing, and a piece of fish or lean meat. Be sure to eat the salad dressing so you’ll feel sated and have had a serving of good fat to help your brain function more efficiently. Skip the bread basket.
The same applies to pasta, unless you like whole wheat and it’s available. A bowl of white pasta is going to send your blood sugar soaring, then crashing. Brown rice is a little easier to find, especially at Asian restaurants. If I get to pick where I’m taking a client, I’ll often pick a Thai or sushi restaurant because I can get brown rice with a Thai curry, or with sashimi, or I can get brown rice sushi rolls most of the time. Not all sushi lends itself to that however, but tuna rolls, salmon rolls and veggie rolls work great.
If you have no option but white rice, having it with some form of legume will help counter the effects of the sugar. Rice and beans are a great way to go. They’re high fiber and the beans have a host of nutrients.
The effect of the protein is to contain the blood sugar and keep you off the roller coaster for the afternoon.
Let’s look at snacking. Full disclosure: I hate energy bars and sports drinks. For all their nutrition claims, be it high protein or low sugar, energy bars are a fabrication that’s made in a lab, not a kitchen, and replicates a candy bar. In my book, that’s not food. To give you way too much information, I have to confess that I haven’t eaten one since my husband said they look like dog turds. That did it for me and hopefully it’ll have the same effect on you too.
Most energy drinks are nothing but sugar. If you want electrolytes, drink coconut water. It’s natural and you can buy it readily in supermarkets now. Watch out for some of the weird artificial flavors.
So what are good snacks for taking on the road? My absolute favorites are seaweed snacks. They are small sheets of roasted nori, have very few calories but are the best food for balancing blood sugar. At over 60% protein, they contain more than any other food. That’s right, more than meat or fish. You can easily fit a package in your handbag or suitcase for emergencies.
I was craving sugar the other day and did a quick inventory of what I’d eaten. I realized that I’d hardly had any protein so I had a packet of seaweed snacks and the craving went away.
Natural popcorn is another good choice. The less on it the better. Watch out for microwave brands that contain trans fat (you’ll see it in the ingredients as hydrogenated oil). The fewer ingredients, the better. Some of the popcorn snacks out there are really not too bad. Read the ingredient list. Hummus and veggies work great. I’ve even seen them in airport shops lately.
A baggie with almonds should be in everyone’s purse or briefcase. Portion them out though in case you find yourself mindlessly consuming an entire bag of nuts. Trail mix that isn’t full of candy is good.
Good quality chocolate is great. Yes, I just said that. If you are not looking to lose weight, you can eat a credit card sized piece of good quality chocolate every day. By good quality, I mean 80% cacao or higher. Chocolate is a sacred food. It’s full of antioxidants, it tastes good and it makes you feel good. Go for it! Again, watch for portion control. The size of a credit card and no more.