Snacking v grazing: Which is better for you?

Is it healthier to grab a quick bite between main meals, or to nibble on a few smaller snacks throughout the day?

Are you the kind of person who always has three meals a day and slips in a regular snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon?

Or are you more likely to hover around the pantry and fridge throughout the day, picking at this and nibbling at that?

There’s no hard and fast definition, but if you fall into this latter category then you’re more likely to be a “grazer” than a “snacker”.

So what’s the difference, and is one better than the other?

What is snacking?

Snacking is eating a regular and controlled portion of food between meals, explains Kim Menzies, dietitian at national women’s health organisation Jean Hailes.

“For many people, a snack is an important part of their eating plan across the day,” she says.

“It keeps hunger levels from dipping to a point where you get to a ravenous state.

“A nourishing snack means energy and blood sugar levels don’t fall so far that we need a quick energy fix – usually high sugar or high fat foods.”

What is grazing?

While snacking is eating a controlled amount of food between meals – usually mid-morning and mid-afternoon, grazing is more mindless and uncontrolled.

“Grazing is eating when you feel like it – or more, it’s eating when you don’t feel like it, but you are bored, stressed or uptight,” says Kim.

“It can lead to unintentional eating. A grazer might have breakfast and then a little later eat a yoghurt, and then some nuts and then a biscuit or two.

“By lunchtime they’ve had more food than their body needs and that can lead to unintentional weight gain.”

Snacking or grazing: Which is healthier?

If you are grazing, it may be a sign that the meals you are eating are not nourishing enough.

“Perhaps you need to add some more protein, fibre and carbohydrates to your breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says Kim.

Grazing may also indicate you’re not listening to your body before raiding the pantry.

Are you hungry – or are you upset, angry, frustrated, bored or distracted?

So, opt for a snack, and break the mindless grazing habit.

Healthy snacks

  • A tub of yoghurt
  • A piece of fruit
  • A small handful of nuts and seeds
  • Some carrots and cucumbers with dip
  • Crackers with cheese
  • A small homemade muffin made with seeds, nuts and fruit

For more healthy snack ideas, head to our Eat section. Here are just a few:

Written by Sarah Marinos.