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Snacking vs Grazing – Bariatric Edition

I really like this topic as I think it’s important to discuss the difference between “what is a snack” and “what is grazing”. 

When talking about the first year post weight loss surgery, all of the bariatric protocols and post op guidelines have some things in common – there is a time for drinking liquids, a time for eating, a time to take supplements and a time to eat snacks.  Clients are easily satisfied with small meals and snacks and with this in mind, we want to have them adapt to a an organized meal plan and away from any disorganized habits.  

Snacking is something we do with a purpose, to provide ourselves with healthy nutrition to keep us satisfied between meals.  Grazing is very similar to mindless eating.  A lot of the time grazing choices lack any real nutritious value.  If you nibble, this can be equated with erratic eating habits.

When comparing snacking and grazing, we can say that a snack is something that we plan as a part of a nutritious dietary plan.  Snacking is a positive thing and we need to eat smaller, frequent meals to keep up energy levels and not allow long periods of time between meals.  Grazing lacks any real structure and is constant eating without any plans in place.  Grazing is what we do when we choose things that are only convenient.  We also have a hard time counting calories and nutrients when we graze because they are unplanned and not counted in our daily food plans.

Processed snack foods are so readily available today and this could be a big factor when discussing the obesity problems we are faced with today.  Labels are full of slogans such as gluten free, sugar free, fat free, high in protein, low in carbs, etc. etc.  These types of snack foods are mostly empty in nutrition and fill us with unsatisfying, and empty calories.  When we eat these foods, we are seldom satiated and we tend to reach for the next snack to help fill the void.  This is when snacking can turn into grazing.  We plan a snack but the snack is lacking nutrients and it just ends up making us feel more hungry than we were prior to that snack.

A habit that many bariatric clients have is the action of taking a few bites of something and feeling like it is fine to go back to that meal over and over again until it is finished.  This is exactly what sets the stage for grazing. It is better to set a time where you sit down and eat your meal very slowly.  Give yourself 20 to 30 minutes and concentrate on the action of chewing and enjoying your food.  If you do not finish the meal and you decide to eat it later on, put it away and eat in again but at your next meal time.  Do not leave it out and just continue to pick and pick and pick at it as the day continues.   

Grazing can result in weight gain and it can affect goals in the long run. If we focus on filling the pouch with nutritious food we set ourselves up for success.  Stay away from grazing.  If we do not fill the pouch with good choices and sufficient food, we will feel very hungry again after a very short amount of time.  When we graze we never fill the pouch and it begins a bad cycle of eating constantly.  Try to have structure when it comes to eating and designate time and energy into planning your meals and taking the correct amount of time to eat them.

If you are concerned about your grazing, reach out to me. I can offer more suggestions and solutions to break the habit and also to create new healthier habits.

I salute you on your journey to wellness!

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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