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The GI diet made easy

Antony was shocked into losing weight when he was told he had a pre-diabetic condition.

Being overweight is seriously unhealthy, yet adult obesity rates have almost quadrupled over the last 25 years and two thirds of adults in the UK are now considered overweight or obese, according to NHS figures.
We have witnessed changes in our lifestyles, from the family orientated routines of the 1950s and 1960s to the more frenetic pace of the 21st century. Gone are the regular outdoor activities and meals eaten around the table – prepared with fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and accompanied by the sound of relaxed conversation.

You may be skipping breakfast, snacking on sweet foods and filling up on takeaways or readymade, microwave meals loaded with fat. One meal may supply nearly enough calories for the whole day. Add to this the sweetened drinks and you end up with too many calories together with a constant flow of excess sugar into the bloodstream.

The total effect is exhaustion and weight gain, contributory factors to what’s known as Metabolic Syndrome, also known as Syndrome X. Your doctor will tell you that it this is a pre-diabetic condition often accompanied by raised cholesterol and high blood pressure. Metabolic Syndrome is not uncommon – it affects 25% of adults over 20 years and about half of adults over 50.

Antony Worrall Thompson was told by his doctors that he was suffering from the condition – so he’s been taking the issue particularly seriously. He realises how easy it is to slip into the ‘rushed life, no time to exercise, eating on the hoof’ way of existing, and is now passionate about the simple practice of healthy eating to guide you back to good health.

Your 5-step action plan

STEP 1

UNDERSTANDING GI
The combination of eating more fruit and veg, plus foods rich in fibre and low in fat and processed sugars, is the basis of Antony’s low glycaemic index (GI) diet – ‘not so much a diet, more a way of eating.’ The glycaemic index is a measurement of how quickly carbohydrates release their sugars. By measuring the rise in blood glucose after eating different foods, their GI is established.

If pure glucose is eaten, the glucose levels in the blood rise to a level that is given the value of 100. All foods can then be given a rating in relation to this. Foods with a high GI score more than 70; a medium GI is 56-69 and a low GI is 55 or less.

The body digests carbs with a low GI more slowly and this helps keep the level of blood sugars steady, leaving us satisfied for longer and less likely to eat sugary snacks.

Foods with a low GI include those carbs that release their sugars slowly into the bloodstream and other foods – proteins and fats – that don’t contain sugars at all.

Foods with a low GI are: pulses of all types including beans, peas and lentils, whole fruits, oats, grains, bran cereals and multigrain breads, milk and milk products, sweet potatoes and pasta.

Foods with a medium GI are: pitta breads, couscous, boiled potatoes, ice cream, Weetabix and basmati rice.

Foods with a high GI are: white and wholemeal bread and flour, biscuits made from them, easy-cook white rice and glucose-based products.

STEP 2

FATS AND PROTEINS
Fats and proteins do not contain sugars or starches, therefore their GI is nil. The good news is that, by adding fat or protein to a meal, the GI total is reduced. However, calories need to be taken into account too, and fats contain lots of these.

It’s worth remembering that alcohol supplies calories (7 calories per gram), hence large amounts of it can pile on the weight. And there is a link between obtaining too much energy from fat and getting coronary heart disease.

Nonetheless, it is good to mix fats, proteins and carbohydrates to keep the glycaemic load low. Using small amounts of fats and oils for cooking and for spreading on bread can be helpful as well as adding extra flavour. Similarly, a portion of meat or eggs, which supply protein, will also reduce the GI of
a meal.

STEP 3

A HEALTHY DIET
Antony Worrall Thompson’s GI Diet, has been developed by Antony in conjunction with nutritionists. The recipes in his book are designed to carefully balance long-acting carbohydrates with high fibre. It also counts calories and is low in saturated fats and ‘trans fats’ also known as hydrogenated fats.

At the same time, attention is paid to the importance of certain types of fat in the diet, known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in some oily fish and vegetable oils respectively.

Keeping up with your fluid intake, while being measured about drinking alcohol and keeping excessive quantities of salt out of your diet all add to the value of your low GI diet. Leave your fruit and vegetables as whole as possible – the more you have to work to release the glucose from a food, the lower the GI. Don’t always peel or purée your foods – enjoy the chunky textures!

STEP 4

Measuring weight
A useful way to measure weight is to calculate your BMI, or body mass index. To work out your BMI, take your weight in kilograms and divide it by the square of your height, measured in metres.

BMI LEVELS
BMIs are categorised into groups, which show the level of associated health risk:

20 signifies being underweight
20-25 is the normal weight range at which there are few health risks
26-30 is ‘overweight’
30-40 is regarded as obese, with numerous health risks
More than 40 signifies severe obesity, with a strong risk of serious health problems.

Losing weight
Calories measure the energy content of foods and energy expended in activites. In general an adult man needs about 2,500 calories a day, a woman needs about 2,000 calories a day.

1lb of fat contains about 3,500 calories. By cutting back 500 calories per day (or 3,500 calories per week), at the same time as increasing your exercise and fitness levels, you can realistically achieve a steady weight loss of 1lb each week.

To increase your exercise levels, do simple things like using stairs instead of lifts and walk rather then drive.

STEP 5

KEEPING IT SIMPLE
The less obsessive you are about losing weight, the more likely it is that you will succeed. Keep it simple. The following dishes are healthy, low-GI suggestions:
Main meals

Curries made with chickpeas and lentils
Pasta dishes with sauces containing meat or beans plus lots of vegetables and tomatoes (instead of cream)
Stir-fries with lot of beans, vegetables, and peas
Serve with basmati rice
Use beans in as many dishes as possible eg with chilli Puddings
Chunky fruit salads
Compotes made with dried fruits
Crumbles that include oats

The calorie values of carbohydrates, proteins and fats: (per gram)
Carbs provide 3.75 cals
Proteins provide 4 cals
Fats provide 9 cals

KEEPING THE GI LOW
By adding low GI foods, which slow the digestion and the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, you can reduce the overall glycaemic index of your meal. Here are some examples:

Serve baked beans with a jacket potato
Eat peanut butter on a slice of wholemeal toast – the peanut butter reduces the GI
Eat oat biscuits with cheese instead of crackers
Serve more pasta dishes – pasta has a low GI
Add lentils, barley, butter beans or split peas to soups
Make a risotto with basmati rice rather than Arborio rice
Have a snack of dried apricots to replace sweets

By cutting back 500 calories per day (or 3,500 calories per week), you can achieve a weight loss of 1lb a week

Antony Says
‘Like a lot of men, I had let things slip. I would look in the mirror and think: “I’m not so bad” – but, deep down, I knew I was not just chunky, but fat. A healthy diet is a way of life, so it’s important to plan ahead. It doesn’t have to be particularly time consuming. You can buy packs of stir-fry vegetables in any supermarket, for example. And, if you get an oil spray, you’ll use just enough to coat the pan and no more. Just as quick but much healthier than resorting to processed meals.’ Tuscan tomato and bread soup
SERVES 6
A rich, rustic Italian soup, where the bread reduces the GI of the overall meal. This is actually a meal in itself, so serve as a main course rather than as a starter 1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1kg ripe tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
4 thick slices wholegrain bread, roughly broken
Bunch of basil
Ground black pepper Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the finely chopped onion and crushed garlic cloves and fry gently until the onion is soft but has not changed colour. Add the freshly peeled and chopped, ripe tomatoes and cook for 1 minute, Add the tinned tomatoes, roughly broken bread and basil, reserving a few basil leaves. Simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally, adding up to 600 ml water to give a ‘sloppy’ consistency. Just before serving, season with ground black pepper and fold in the reserved basil leaves.

* PER PORTION:
146 cals, 4g fat, 0.6g saturated fat, 0.22g sodium

Lentil soup
SERVES 6
Like tapenade, this Mediterranean soup is made with olives and capers and will keep for 2-3 days if stored in an airtight container and refrigerated. Serve with crostini or bruschetta 250g Puy or continental lentils, rinsed
300ml vegetable stock
2tbsp chopped garlic
2tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1tbsp chopped sun-dried peppers
2tbsp capers
3 anchovy fillets
3tbsp chopped black or green olives
1tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2tbsp lemon juice
4tbsp chopped parsley 1 Cook the lentils in the vegetable stock with the garlic, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and chopped sun-dried peppers until just tender, about 20 minutes, adding a little extra stock if necessary, to prevent sticking. 2 Put the contents of the pan in a food-processor and whiz briefly with the rest of the ingredients to make a coarse spread. Add extra stock to soften the mixture as required.

* PER PORTION:
187 cals, 6g fat, 0.6g saturated fat, 0.55g sodium

Recipes selected from Antony Worrall Thompson’s GI Diet, by Antony Worrall Thompson with Dr Mabel Blades and Jane Suthering, published by Kyle Cathie Ltd 2005.

photos Shutterstock/Freshfoodimages.com

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