Graze Vs. Meal: Which Is Better?

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Are you a meal person or a grazer? I never really gave it much thought until someone mentioned that they cook three meals everyday. I’m the opposite! I cook one, occasionally two meals a day. The rest of the day we either eat left overs, snacks, or things that the kids and I can make quickly.  I usually cook meals that will have left overs that way I can skip cooking the next day. Cooking isn’t my favorite thing to do. Plus, when I cook more I feel compelled to eat more and usually end up over-eating. I really want to teach my kids the importance of eating when they’re hungry and stopping when they’re full. Enforcing meal times doesn’t support that lifestyle.

Well, when I told them that I only cook once a day, they were surprised. And in turn asked, “well what do you guys do then?” I was thrown off guard by this question. Like I said, we do eat and I always have plenty of easy healthy foods for the kids to grab. But, it made me wonder if it would be better if we had scheduled meal times? I’m sure many of you would say yes. There are benefits to having a proper sit down meals such as ensuring a well balanced diet and spending family time together.  However, isn’t it possible to do those things without the traditional full sit down meals or am I kidding myself?

Since this gave me an existential crisis, I decided to do some research on the topic. Here’s what I found:

The Pros & Cons Of Grazing

Cons:

  • Increases circulation of insulin throughout the day
  • Could cause you to over-eat if you’re not careful with your portion size
  • You’re more likely to be hyper focused on food making you hungrier ( I disagree with this one, I personally feel it depends on the person. I don’t get hyper focused on food, but I can see how others could especially if they’re on a reduced calorie diet)
  • You really have to be careful and make sure that when you’re eating it’s not driven by your emotions or social setting
  • More likely to eat non-whole foods (could be avoided by simply preparing veggies and fruits for easy snacking and not stocking too much junk food)

Pros:

  • Less colon cancer
  • Less likely to develop diabetes (to me this is seems to contradict the con about insulin, however this came from a physician so you’ll have to decide which you believe)
  • Stable mood (I definitely agree with this one. I don’t usually get hangry, but my husband does)
  • Stronger immune system
  • Leaner body
  • Less likely to gorge yourself at a meal

The Pros & Cons Of Eating Larger Meals

Cons:

  • larger spikes in blood sugar (but it also says that overall levels are much lower)
  • Some people will over-eat (this is me)
  • More time spent cooking meals (this I try to avoid)
  • Higher cholesterol levels (I think this only applied to those who over-ate though)
  • Potential increase of cardiovascular disease (again this had more to do with over-eating)
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes (this was for men who only ate 1-2 times per day, so not exactly what we’re talking about here, but something to think about)

Pros:

  • Feel fuller for longer
  • Overall lower blood sugar levels (I wonder how the types of foods eaten affects this)
  • May be more likely to really experience hunger (this could help with my whole eat when you’re hungry stop when you’re full. However, that’s only if you don’t have scheduled meal times)

Ultimately, I think the best approach really depends on the person. There are numerous diet plans ranging from intermittent fasting to frequent eating. Each plan claims to be better than the others. Realistically, each plan has pros and cons. Keep in mind, what works for one doesn’t work for all. When choosing which plan works best for you and your family, I think it’s important to really be honest with yourself about your’s and your family’s eating habits. If you know you’ll over-eat if you have bigger meals, than maybe that type of meal plan isn’t going to work for you. For those who will over-eat if they eat more frequently, then grazing isn’t going to be your friend. Frankly, the amount of contradicting articles I came across while researching this made my head spin and I now need a nap!

https://amyhusain.com/screw-the-statistics-8-tips-to-smash-your-fitness-resolutions/

https://amyhusain.com/easy-weight-loss-tips/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6520689/

https://www.webmd.com/heart/news/20170131/timing-of-your-meals-might-reduce-heart-risks

https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/nutrition/overeating-and-your-heart

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/expert-answers/fasting-diet/faq-20058334

https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/eating-right-for-your-heart

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/meal-irregularity-and-cardiometabolic-consequences-results-from-observational-and-intervention-studies/1969DB83C64B09E221A4B8929B7D8A8C

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