Eating healthy is a goal for many people. For some, altering what they eat is all it takes to shed those extra pounds and improve their overall health, while others find changing what they eat isn’t helping them reach their goals.
One option that has its share of supporters and detractors is grazing, which involves eating five or six smaller portions throughout the day instead of the more widely accepted diet of eating three square meals per day. Those who stand by grazing claim it keeps a person’s metabolism going all day, helping to burn more calories while encouraging men and women to eat smaller portions. Those who question grazing point to studies questioning its efficacy, namely that it does not have the calorie-burning effects its supporters suggest. In fact, researchers in the United Kingdom have said eating throughout the day (a standard grazing diet has men and women eating five to six meals per day, with three to four hour intervals between meals) undermines the body’s ability to burn fat.
The debate over grazing does not figure to go away anytime soon, as many people have found it a successful way to lose weight and get healthier while many others have found it ineffective. For those who want to give it a shot, consider the following advice.
* Choose healthy foods. Grazing can only be effective if you choose healthy foods. Snacking on foods like chocolate or potato chips every three to four hours is a recipe for disaster regardless of portion size. When grazing, choose foods that are low in fat and high in nutrients. Avoid sugary foods as well as those that are high in sodium. Foods that are strong sources of protein and complex carbohydrates, including chicken breasts, fish, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, will help you feel full and keep you feeling that way until the next time to eat rolls around.
* Don’t skip breakfast. A healthy breakfast is an essential element of successful grazing. If you skip breakfast, you’re more likely to overeat, which could establish a domino effect of poor eating as the day goes on. A simple breakfast, such as a bowl of cereal with fat-free or low-fat milk or some oatmeal with berries mixed in, is all it takes to start the day off on the right foot.
* Stick to a schedule. When grazing, meals should be eaten every three to four hours. If you stray from that schedule, you could wind up eating larger portions or more meals than you should be consuming. Stick to your schedule and remember the portions are supposed to be smaller, so you should not feel skittish about pulling a snack out at a meeting in the office or if you have company over at your house.
* Prepare meals in advance. A problem many people encounter when they first begin to graze is the lack of availability of smaller-portioned meals and snacks. Large portions and snacks with no nutritional value are the norm, so finding smaller meals and healthy snacks when you’re away from home will be difficult. The best way to counter that problem is to prepare meals in advance and take them with you. Cook enough food for the week over the weekend and store it in easily transportable containers. In addition, bring snacks with you to the office so you aren’t forced to eat unhealthy fare between meals.
* Recognize results aren’t immediate. No effective weight loss plan produces results overnight, and grazing is no exception. You will not drop 10 pounds in the first week, but you might notice heightened energy levels throughout the day shortly after you begin to graze, especially if you choose the right foods. Give grazing enough time to get going before judging if it’s the right approach for you.
The topic of grazing is one that continues to inspire debate, but men and women who want to lose weight and keep the weight off should consider grazing as a healthy and potentially effective option.
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