The glycemic index (GI), developed in 1981 by Dr. David Jenkins, is a system that describes the rate at which carbohydrates turn into glucose after consumption. Jenkins' primary purpose was to help diabetics make safer food choices, though the GI has been used by many to promote weight loss, as well. The glycemic index scale runs from 0 (low) to 100 (high). Foods that quickly convert from carbohydrates to sugar are rated high, and those that convert slower are rated lower. People wishing to dine out and still adhere to a low to moderate glycemic diet can find restaurants with a variety of food choices that fall within that category.
Find a good steakhouse and you will have many delicious selections that have low or no glycemic score at all. Protein, such as steak, has no GI rating because it contains no carbohydrates in itself. If marinated in a sauce that contains a sugary base, carbohydrates have been added and must be considered. Stay with unsweetened proteins and enjoy a big salad on the side. Better choices of salad dressings would be blue cheese or those that are vinegar-based. Potatoes and bread, including croutons, are moderate to high on the GI.
Choose a seafood restaurant and the main fare will be carbohydrate-free and, therefore, a zero on the GI scale. Load up on fresh steamed veggies, salad with oil-based dressings. and steamed or grilled shrimp, scallops, lobster or crab. Some recipes will include cream sauces, batter or breading, which are carbohydrate-rich. Tartar and cocktail sauce also have carbohydrates. Use them sparingly, or not at all. When eating rice, select brown or wild rice over white.
Greek and other Mediterranean restaurants offer dishes rich in the use of olive oil, greens, olives, avocado, feta and other cheeses, and eggplant. All of these are low to medium on the glycemic index. Add some lean meat and you have a healthy, low GI meal.
Go Mexican and you can find low to medium GI entrees, but be very selective. Steak or chicken fajitas and other dishes loaded with protein and green veggies fit well. Enjoy the cheese, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. Tortillas are mid-range on the glycemic scale, so use moderately. Chili, rich in beans and meat, is another GI-friendly selection.
Chinese, Japanese and other Asian restaurants have many choices that will come within a low to medium glycemic range. When consuming rice, keep the portions small and select brown rice over the sticky, white rice or fried rice, which are both high on the GI scale. Brown rice digests more slowly and has less impact on blood sugar. Many Asian dishes contain a variety of proteins such as beef, chicken, pork or shrimp, with little to no batter or breading, combined with vegetables. They would be good GI choices.