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7 Questions for the GI Diet's Rick Gallop

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By Malcolm Jolley

Rick Gallop went from being a marketing and advertising man to president of the Heart and Stroke foundation of Ontario. While there he became increasingly interested in behaviour and lifestyle change. His series of books based on the GI Diet, developed by University of Toronto nutrition professor Dr. David Jenkins, are climbing the bestseller lists around the world, especially in Britain, where Gallop's books have become slimming gospel.

Gremolata: What exactly is a glycemic index?

Rick Gallop: The glycemic index as a medical term which describes the speed at which foods (carbohydrates) breakdown in the digestive system to form glucose which is the body's source of energy. Glucose has been set as 100 and all foods are measured against that.

The idea is to consume low GI foods which because they break down more slowly in your digestive system, thus leaving you feeling fuller, longer. This way you eat less without going hungry, which is the secret of any successful diet.

Unfortunately the glycemic index does not measure either calories or fat levels in a food. That is the reason why I decided to colour code all foods so people didn't have too bother about calculating GI ratings, calories, or fats.

Gremolata: In the past few years there have been a lot of popular diets that have come and gone (the Zone, Atkins, South Beach, to name a few), does the GI Diet have something they don't?

Rick Gallop: The principal reason that diets fail is that people simply can't stay on them. This is usually due to three reasons. First they go hungry or feel deprived; second, it is too complex and time-consuming having to weigh in measure of foods, count calories, points, etc.; third, is the concern about the impact of an unbalanced diet on their health. The GI Diet is unique in that it is the only diet which successfully deals with each of these three barriers.

Gremolata: You and the GI Diet are huge in Britain, why do you think it's so popular there?

Rick Gallop: The reason is partly due to my last point: that people find they can not only lose weight but are able to successfully stay on the Diet as a permanent way of eating. The word of mouth about successful diets is extraordinary. In addition the decision by Tesco to put GI ratings on their house brands has helped to raise the profile of the glycemic index.

Gremolata: A lot of the diet seems to revolve around making choices at the supermarket, do you need to bring a GI book around with you when you shop, or are there some basic rules that you can follow?

Rick Gallop: One of the principal reasons and I brought out the pocket "GI Diet Guide to Shopping and Eating out" was as a response to reader feedback. Some general guidelines for green light foods are that they are less processed, higher in fibre, lower in calories and fats, particularly saturated fats.

Virtually all fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and low-fat
dairy products are all acceptable green light categories.

Gremolata: What did you have for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday?

Rick Gallop: Porridge with low-fat fruit yoghurt, sliced almonds, an orange and a cup of tea. Lunch was an open faced sandwich on wholemeal bread with mustard, Black Forest ham, tomatoes, lettuce and a glass of skim milk. An apple for desert. Dinner was Mandarin chicken breast with sweet potatoes, green beans and a side salad. Desert was fresh berries with some no- sugar- added ice cream.

Gremolata: What about wine? Where does the GI stand on the sauce?

Rick Gallop: A glass of wine, preferably red, is recommended with dinner in phase 2 - the weight maintenance phase of the diet. Red wine is preferred because it is high in flavenoids (antioxidants). Try and avoid alcohol in phase 1 -- the weight loss phase.

Gremolata: You live in Toronto. Do you have any favourite food shops in the city?

Rick Gallop: Loblaw's (Canada's largest supermarket) have recently introduced a "Blue Menu" line of house products which are low in calories and fat and meet most of the criteria for a green light product. They are also very competitively priced.

The other store is Whole Foods which offers a broad range of healthy choices but due to their relatively high price point this is more an occasional than a regular choice.


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