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Grazing vs Snacking – Bariatric Edition

Grazing vs Snacking

What’s the difference?


Hands up if you are guilty of grazing?  What even is grazing? 


If a snack is something that is “planned”, grazing is something that just happens.


This is a topic I like to discuss with all my post-operative bariatric clients.  It’s something that we need to take very seriously because grazing leads to plateaus and regains.


So, what does grazing look like?

I serve myself a plate of food for lunch.  I have restriction in my pouch so I can eat only half of what I put on my plate.  I hate to throw out food so I will just leave that plate on the stovetop or on the counter.  As I pass by the counter, I see the plate and I take another bite. An hour goes by, and I decide to eat a few bites more.  By the time dinner rolls around, my plate is clean. 


See how I did that?  I managed to eat a regular size portion over an extended period of time.  I never felt full or satisfied. That’s grazing!


If I had planned to have a piece of fruit or a hard-boiled egg, this would be considered a snack. I’ve planned for it.  I’ve allotted time for it.  I eat my snack and move on.


Grazing is mindlessly eating throughout the day. I can graze on popcorn, or my uneaten lunch, or with a box of cookies. Mash potatoes are the perfect food to graze on.


Let’s work very hard to break this habit.  That’s all it is.  It’s a habit.  I catch myself doing it all the time.


What can we do to prevent this behavior?  My favorite way – just to eat enough at mealtime.  Don’t walk away from your meal feeling less than satisfied.  Fill your bariatric tool.  If you don’t eat enough, you will continue feeling hungry and grazing can occur. 


If you feel you want to graze, have some water and then eat a proper snack that contains protein with a bit of fiber.  Close down your pouch with the proper foods.  If you eat a small piece of chicken, you won’t be likely to want to graze for the next few hours.  Take action.


I also find that many post-ops don’t like that “full feeling”.  They try to avoid it.  They choose foods that feel softer.  Guess what… softer foods stay for less time in the bariatric pouch.  That’s setting yourself up to feel hungry in an hour.  This is the perfect storm for grazing.


Try to get used to and enjoy the feeling of having your pouch “closed down” by eating dense protein – think chicken, beef, fish, eggs.  Sure, that warm bowl of creamy soup is terrific, but it is going to be digested rather quickly.  It slips straight through the pouch.  Have your soup but top it off with a few bites of chicken.  Shut down your eating window.  It works!


Do you love to eat a bowl of yogurt for breakfast, but you find yourself hungry by 10 am?  That’s because the yogurt is terrific and packed with protein, but it is a soft protein, and it slides quickly through the pouch.  If you eat two eggs, how does that make you feel?  More satisfied for a longer period of time?  Experiment with different foods to see how they make you feel.


A smoothie is a sure-fire way for me to feel exceptionally hungry an hour after I consume it.  My biochemical individuality does not consider a smoothie a meal.  I prefer to eat my calories and not drink them through a straw.  Others love smoothies and if fills them up for ages.  


Are you truly hungry?  Or are you just falling into grazing behaviors? Ask yourself. 


This is one of the things I want to stress.  I’ve said it before, but I am going to keep repeating it.  Grazing leads to plateaus and regains.  It’s a habit.  If we can acknowledge it, we can change it. 


I’m acknowledging my tendency to graze.  Are you?


Remember, perfection doesn’t exist.  We strive for improvement.  We strive to be better.  We strive to make better decisions.  If you find yourself in this grazing pattern, do me a favor and start a food log.  You will be very surprised by how powerful the food log can be.


If you need more support, step up.  Make the first move.  Talk to me.  I’m here for you, and I truly want to see you succeed. I’m always going to ask you for a food log.  I ask you for this because I care, not because I want to shame you.  If I can determine what you are doing right now, I can make supportive suggestions to help you move forward. 


I make suggestions and you make decisions. We are a team.


Healthy Hugs,



About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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