Low Glycemic Diet for Kids | 8 Tips from a Dietitian

8 Practical Ways to Start A Low Glycemic Diet for Kids

There is certainly no shortage of dieting, health, and nutrition advice out there today.  Making sense of it all can be challenging.  As a parent, when you decide you want to start adopting a healthier diet for your kids, where do you begin?

Following a Low Glycemic Diet Can be Simple and Effective

We’ve discovered in our Center for Better Health and Nutrition that following a low glycemic eating plan is simple and effective. The glycemic index (GI) ranks foods based on how fast they are digested. High GI foods digest quickly and are less filling. Foods with a low GI will take longer to be digested. Therefore, eating lower GI foods can help kids feel fuller longer, and ideally help them moderate their total intake.

The glycemic index only ranks foods that contain carbohydrates, like grains, dairy, fruits, beans and vegetables. Each food is assigned a number on a scale from 1-100.  Foods on the scale are categorized as low (55 or less), medium (56-69), and high (70 or greater). Follow this link to view a table of the most commonly eaten foods and their GI value. 

Choosing Low GI Foods Can Help Keep Blood Sugar Steady

Choosing low GI foods and limiting high GI foods can help keep kids’ blood sugar steady and help them feel fuller longer. Examples of foods with a low glycemic index are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. On the other end of the spectrum, foods with a high glycemic index include many cereals, chips, crackers, candy, and fruit snacks.

When thinking about adopting low glycemic eating, there are a few things to keep in mind. While foods with low GI tend to be healthy choices, this is not always the case. In addition, the glycemic index does not offer guidance for foods that do not contain carbohydrates, such as meat and oils. We recommend an adapted version for families, which includes lean cuts of meat and heart healthy oils such as olive or canola. Finally, the combination of foods eaten at a meal and how much is eaten play an important role. Food choices should be made in the context of an overall heart healthy meal plan.

As a general rule, changing certain habits in your daily meal plan can steer you toward lower glycemic eating, and thus, help manage hunger. Here are eight practical ways to start a low glycemic diet:

8 Practical Ways to Start A Low Glycemic Eating Plan for Kids

  1. Choose more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  2. Limit highly processed grains such as snack chips, cereal bars, white flour breads and crackers
  3. Include a lean protein source at each meal or snack: low-fat dairy, beans, poultry, fish, lean meat or nuts
  4. Eliminate all sugar-sweetened drinks
  5. Limit 100% juice to no more than one 4-6 ounce serving per day
  6. Limit foods with added sugars, such as desserts and sugary cereal
  7. Instead of dessert, offer fruit
  8. Use a vinaigrette for salad dressing


The glycemic index should be thought of as just one eating plan option. However, the guidelines above represent what we typically recommend to all families whether or not they choose to follow a low glycemic diet. It is also in line with the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines.  Essentially, it places an emphasis on healthy, whole foods and limits highly processed foods, added sugars and unhealthy fats. In conjunction with other healthy lifestyle changes, this plan has proven very effective for many of our families.

Regardless of weight, we believe all children should learn healthy lifestyle habits that will promote long-term health. If you have any concerns about your child’s weight and nutritional needs, we recommend discussing them with your child’s medical provider. 

For more information about our HealthWorks! program, please visit our website or call 513-636-4305. 

Subscribe today for more stories, tips and updates.

Barbara Lattin MS, RD, LD

About the Author: Barbara Lattin MS, RD, LD

Barbara Lattin, MS, RD, LD is a clinical dietitian with the Center for Better Health and Nutrition and the HealthWorks! programs at Cincinnati Children's Heart Institute. Barbara has been providing pediatric weight management services at Cincinnati Children’s for 5 years.

Write a comment


  1. [...] 8 practical ways to start a low glycemic eating plan | Cincinnati … [...]
  2. Rhonda Lorenzini February 03, 10:26
    Thanks! This a awesome web page!
  3. Liz Tuller April 23, 01:46
    I think this is a very important point to note for many parents out there. As a parent myself, I have to be more conscious of what I feed my kids. It's easy to just dump on them unhealthy carbs high in sugar but in the long run, it can lead to obesity and many bad eating habits. For example, these days for breakfast my kids have oats instead of cornflakes and they have learned to like it with yoghurt and honey. Small dietary changes go a long way with kids and sometimes adults too :) Best regards Liz
  4. JohnFox August 21, 07:39
    Fruit is most certainly not low glycemic. It should always be eaten with a meal. And no child should ever drink juice -- it's a sugar bomb.
  5. Jenny Butler March 02, 03:41
    Will this great if we can implement it. Kids just love sweets and chocolates but this is also important. It will be a huge plus for the kids to start eating healthily. This will ensure their future health. thank you very much for writing this.