Snacking vs Grazing … what’s the difference?


What is snacking?

Unlike grazing, traditional snacking is planned and isolated in nature. It is designed as a small meal in between the day’s main meals, to keep you ticking over and to prevent overeating.

It is recommended that snacks are consumed about two hours before or after a main meal. “Being a planned behaviour, snacks are therefore less likely to be in response to stress, boredom or excessive hunger,” says Ms Pirotta.

Dietary guidelines for snacking recommend nutrient-dense, low-energy foods and smaller portion sizes. Research shows that snacks from the core food groups – grains, meat or meat alternatives, fruit, vegetables, dairy or dairy alternatives – when eaten between regular, wholesome main meals (depending on your needs and exercise levels) promote a feeling of fullness and reduce the chance of you eating junk food, or overeating later in the day.

This results in a balanced daily energy intake, helping to support a healthy weight and overall well being.

So what can you do each day to reduce the chance of snacking turning into grazing?

How to reduce grazing

Ms Pirotta recommends these tips to ‘snack right’ and avoid ‘graze days’:

  • Don’t skip breakfast
  • If grazing is an issue,eat every two hours, whether it is a snack or main meal. Try not to eat in shorter time intervals, as this is more like ‘grazing’
  • ‘Sometimes’ foods,or‘junk’ foods can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet, but not as a main element, especially if you are often sedentary. You’re also more likely to enjoy them when you only eat them ‘sometimes’
  • Aimtodo30minutesofmoderatephysical activity on most days of the week
  • Listen to your body and know when to stop eating. Your energy needs can differ every day, and depend on several things, such
    as what you ate the day before and your physical activity levels. So, remind yourself that you don’t have to finish all the food in front of you
  • Try to eat larger meals earlier in the day and lighter meals later, so your body has time to digest and use the energy across the day, rather than go to bed with a full stomach
  • Practise mindful eating–are you really hungry or are you bored/stressed, or actually thirsty? What other things can you do other than snack?
  • Limit eating  after dinner. If you’re still hungry, have a protein-based snack – eg, nuts, carrot sticks and hummus – or a hard-boiled egg.

The best types of snacks

Ms Pirotta recommends snacks that provide
a protein base with some carbohydrates and healthy fats. Protein makes you feel fuller for longer as it’s digested at a slower rate than carbohydrates. Fat is also digested at a slower rate, but provides the highest energy content, says Ms Pirotta, “so you need to be careful”.

Protein sources throughout the day also help to break up overall protein intake, helping repair the body, especially after an exercise session (for both cardio and resistance-training).

Ms Pirotta’s recommended snacks include:
• Raw nuts(30g=1serve; about a handful)
• Legumes( eg,chickpeas)
• 120g natural yoghurt
• Fruits
• Yoghurt based dips
• Vegetable sticks
• Wholegrain crackers with reduced fat cheese • 1-2 slices of cured meats (eg, smoked salmon). Changing your behaviour may seem daunting at first, but the best way to start is to set small achievable goals, says Ms Pirotta.

“Over time, these small goals will make a big change in the right direction. Even if you don’t meet your goal one day, don’t worry! We’re all human, and it’s human and healthy to indulge sometimes,” she says.

“The key is not to indulge too much too often, and enjoy regular physical activity. But for individualised nutrition advice and professional health behaviour counselling based on your lifestyle, preferences and physical activity levels, it is best to see a dietitian.”



  1. Grazing commonly includes frequent eating of an undefined portion of food, during undefined periods of the day, with short intervals between each ‘graze’.
  2. Snacking is a healthier option. It’s planned and isolated in nature and designed to be a small meal between main meals.
  3. Snacks from core food groups – grains, meat, fruit, vegetables, dairy – help to reduce overeating later in the day.

To learn about healthy eating plans,

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VOLUME 2 2018

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