Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Beyond Glycemic Index and Radical Diets This New Year.

Besides amazing pastries, I do love their tag line!
"You guys eat a lot of pastries", she noted, commenting to my husband, her brother. Not a strange observation, I might add. After all, there were the baked goods from the gourmet shop, purchased Thursday, the croissants—chocolate, sweet-cheese topped with plum, and raspberry-filled, fresh from the St. Lawrence market, and finally the long awaited Dufflet Bakery Dacquoise. Oh, and as blogger NewMe can attest to, part of a slice of a disappointing layer cake on Friday afternoon, which my sister-in-law didn't even know about (until reading about it now, that is). 

I think we were a bit of a puzzle to her. We appeared the same sizes we had been last we saw her, about 5 or 6 years ago. Well, I’m projecting now. We are the same sizes we were then, although I can’t exactly say that’s how we appeared.

Like the rest of the world, she gives a fair amount of thought to food, eating and weight. Expression of guilt regarding her carbohydrate consumption combined with questions about glycemic index of sweets engaged me in conversation, and got me going. I do wonder if I will be invited back!

An endless assortment of breads and croissants--
and happy customers!
I corrected the misinformation that carbohydrate is the culprit in weight gain. As for glycemic index (GI), I shared that a food’s GI has rather limited value in weight control. Defined as the impact of a carbohydrate-containing food on blood sugar, as compared to a standard food (typically sugar or white bread), this value was designed as a tool for helping with blood sugar control. 

GI may impact one’s sense of fullness—generally less processed, higher fiber items have a lower GI and tend to help us feel more satisfied. Yet focusing on GI for weight management has its faults. If anything, taking into account the portion of carbohydrate, a calculation known as glycemic load (GL), would be a lot more useful. Otherwise, foods like carrots come out looking like items to be avoided—which would be quite idiotic, if you ask me.

But truthfully, the GI and GL are overrated for weight management. Why? Because we don’t eat foods the way they are evaluated in the lab, as single items, by themselves. Rather, we eat foods as part of mixed meals, which alters the impact on everything from blood sugar rise, to how quickly food empties from our gut, and our sense of fullness. Perhaps that's more than she, or you, cared to learn about glycemic index.

While staying with my sister-in-law and enjoying having her cook for me, I encouraged using less saturated fat than she would otherwise use. I recommended brushing the homemade blintzes with melted butter, then baking, as opposed to frying them in a pan with a more generous amount of fat. And she did. And everyone loved them. I suggested (only when prompted for my input) use of a non-stick pan for scrambling the eggs—topped with a quick shmear of butter for some flavor; combined with the sautéed onions, the reduced amount of fat in the pan was clearly not missed.

Among the many overwhelming sights at the
St. Lawrence Market, Toronto
I discouraged sweetening the fresh and ripe berry fruit salad—neither with sugar or Splenda—as it struck me as unnecessary.

As for those pastries I mentioned above? I had a sampling of the three croissants, amounting to one whole one, for my breakfast the next morning. Was I tempted to consume them, all three of them, while strolling around the market Saturday? Of course! But was I hungry then? Absolutely not! And I knew I’d enjoy them all the more when I was hungry, and not overwhelmed by the sights and distractions, so that I might savor them.

Our first night, when my sister-in-law served some pastries she selected for dessert, I just wasn’t hungry. After our fashionably late dinner, it was easy to pass them up. Of course I knew it wouldn’t be my last chance to enjoy such delectable items.

Am I treated like royalty or what?
Saturday night, however, I looked forward to, even longed for eating the hand-picked baked goods. Think macaron layers (meringue with ground nuts), filled with buttercream, flavored with hazelnut or cappuccino, covered with chocolate ganache, and topped with a French name I can't begin to appropriately pronounce. It met my expectation, as I vividly remembered these delights before their reincarnation from raspberry buttercream, 6 years back.

Admittedly, I worked out when visiting in Toronto, although I did less than my usual workouts, as we had other things on our agenda to accomplish. And Mica wasn’t there having to be walked.
And no, I don’t typically eat pastries with such frequency in the course of a week. But I can trust that it’s not my only chance to include these delights, so it’s easy to have just as much as I need, and only when I really care for them. 

Remember that carrot cake? Believe it or not, there are still a few pieces remaining in the freezer. Really.

 So don’t be pulled to extremes this time of year, lured by food rules, diets, and radical eating. The New Year shouldn’t mean the end of what you enjoy—be it high glycemic white breads, or great tasting pastries—but a new way of embracing what you truly desire, regardless of your weight. Just do so with respect for your hunger and your fullness, with the trust that it’s not your last chance to eat.


  1. It is interesting how so many (all?) of these measures that we cling to so hopefully (GI, BMI etc) were developed for a specific use and have been unquestioningly adopted by the wider community for a use for which they were never intended. I think even as adults we look for rules and guidelines to provide us with answers and safety rather than trusting ourselves - perhaps it gives us someone to blame when it (the rules)inevitably doesn't work? Who knows.
    But I can at least now say I have actually tried macarons.
    I didn't like them! But I tried them!!

  2. I love your blog, and I love that you visited (and enjoyed) a trip to our fair city of Toronto! Happy new year.

  3. It was great meeting you Lori, even though that cake you had was not all that tasty. My scone was...a scone. And in keeping with our shared philosophy ("you can eat it later when you're hungry"), I wrapped up part of it and ate it the next day with coffee.

    I'll have to tell Dufflet about your excitement at trying her Dacquoise!

    As usual, a great post. Thanks for the explanation of the GI and why, like so many other "magic" numbers, it's not half as useful as we think! (Yes, Cate, we do like our clinging!).