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Chicken Noodle Lunch

Image of  Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
By Dennis Linden

Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness.

However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we are all in total control of our own weight. One simple way to take that control is to start making decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index GI and glycemic load GL.

Quickie Glycemic Primer:
  • The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
  • The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
One needs to pay attention to both glycemic scores. While a food may have a high glycemic index number, if very little sugar exists in a typical serving size then its glycemic load can be quite low. For instance, most store-bought whole wheat breads average about 71 GI, but score a low 9 GL based on a serving of one slice.

Since being diagnosed with Diabetes-2 some twenty years ago, these two scores have become the rudder that guides my own meal plans. It is hoped that the dishes featured in this month blog will inspire readers to develop the habit of checking the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load scores of a recipe’s main ingredients before preparation. This can be done easily either with a quick Internet search of any food’s glycemic characteristics individually or referring to one of the many lists of food groups rated by glycemic scores, which can also be found all over the Internet. Here is one very basic list that I reference regularly.

Last month I presented a complete low glycemic breakfast. So let’s continue through the day to a tasty lunch-in-a-bowl that uses ingredients that will not generate either a mid-afternoon carbohydrate crash aka: naptime or a craving for a salty, calorie-rich snack food. With just a little planning ahead, making this soup at home will take just a few minutes; at the office, two minutes in lunchroom microwave will produce a hot meal that is designed to satisfy for the rest of the workday using a few culinary tricks.

Noodles in a low-carb kitchen? Sure, just not pasta noodles. Cellophane noodles, also marketed as glass noodles or bean thread noodles, are made from the mung bean. While the mung bean is considered a starchy vegetable (starch = sugar) and seemingly high in carbs, the Glycemic Load or impact of one serving of these noodles on the body is very low. These noodles resemble an angel hair pasta before soaking (not cooking) in boiling hot water, which turns them beautifully translucent.

While cellophane noodles actually have very little flavor of their own, they act as sponges soaking up the flavor of all the other ingredients in the dish. Nutritionally speaking, cellophane noodles are gluten free, fat free and a 1/2 cup serving provides 8% of your daily requirement for iron. Plus, and here’s one of those culinary tricks, glass noodles expand to about three times their original size during the soaking process, which contributes to a full, satiated feeling when consumed! This is simply done with plain water, something most of us do not drink enough of anyway.

The other appetite quenching “trick” in this recipe is the heat of Thai chile pepper and equally spicy garnish of Sriracha sauce. A study conducted by researchers at Purdue University showed that the consumption of just one gram of spicy hot pepper reduced the cravings for salty, sweet and fatty foods and raised the body temperature enough to increase energy expenditure! So adding a little spice to your mid-day meal will boost your energy and keep you away from that tempting bag of potato chips!

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 2-4

Image of Ingredients for Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
1 ounce Cellophane Noodles GI=28 / GL=7
8 ounces Chicken Breasts, boneless and skinless GI & GL = less than 15
1 Tablespoon Peanut Oil GI & GL = 0
2 teaspoon Fresh Garlic, minced
2 teaspoon Fresh Ginger, minced
1 Fresh Thai Chile Pepper, seeded, minced
32 ounces Chicken Broth
2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, chopped
2 Tablespoon Green Onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped


Image of Place noodles in a pot of boiled water, soak for 20 minutes off the flame
Place noodles in a pot of boiled water, soak for 20 minutes off the flame.
Image of Drain noodles, cut into lengths of about 1½ inches long and set aside
Drain noodles, cut into lengths of about 1½ inches long and set aside.

Image of Julienne chicken into thin strips
Julienne chicken into thin strips.

Heat oil in deep skillet over medium-high heat.
Image of Add chicken, garlic, ginger, pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute
Add chicken, garlic, ginger, pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute.
Image of Add broth and fish sauce, bring to a boil
Add broth and fish sauce, bring to a boil.
Image of Reduce heat, simmer until chicken is done, about 8 minutes
Reduce heat, simmer until chicken is done, about 8 minutes.

Image of Arrange strained noodles in the bottom of a large soup bowl
Arrange strained noodles in the bottom of a large soup bowl.

Ladle soup over the top.
Image of Sprinkle with cilantro, onion, and basil
Sprinkle with cilantro, onion, and basil.

Garnish with a squirt of Sriracha.
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