To Graze or Not to Graze?

photo courtesy CC license via
photo courtesy CC license via

I can’t talk about my grain-free journey without talking about grazing. Grazing has received a lot of attention over the past several years, both positive and negative. In the past few years the idea of spreading food intake out to several times over the course of the day has taken some hits, with some “experts” even accusing the eating pattern of causing diabetes and rotten teeth!

Despite the sensationalist headline, the real truth of the problem is buried halfway through the linked article:

“Indeed, rather than stabilising blood sugar levels, snacking on sugary, high-carbohydrate foods is more likely to make them fluctuate wildly – which can make you feel more, rather than less hungry”…..”If you eat cake or biscuits, the high sugar content causes you to release too much insulin and your blood sugar ends up lower than it was before you ate, as your body tries to compensate for the sudden sugar intake.”

Well, DUH?! This, in my opinion, is the crux of the grazing issue. People typically don’t grab a piece of cheese or some nuts and an apple, they grab a sugary granola bar, crackers, or a bagel – and the difference in the effect on blood sugar is enormous.

That said, some people may do better on a few larger meals, and the most important thing is to individualize based on your own results and instincts, as fitness guru Jonny Bowden discusses here.

Esteemed pediatrician and author Dr. William Sears also has some thoughts on grazing that are worth the read, including touching on his experience with colon cancer.

Still, in my (albeit limited thus far) experience with eliminating grains, I think we may be barking up the wrong tree. Grazing may very well wreak havoc on blood sugar and weight control – depending upon your food choices. We already know that grains, especially wheat, cause blood sugar to spike.

There’s also the problem of the way our grains are produced now compared to 100+ years ago.

It’s not surprising, then, that apparently eating grains has an equivalent effect on your blood sugar as drinking a can of Pepsi.

So what do I do? My approach is simple: I follow my body’s cues. When I was eating a lot of breads and starches I had constant blood sugar spikes and crashes, followed by cravings, which led me to more starches starting the cycle all over again. Therefore, I couldn’t trust that these hunger attacks and cravings were the result of my body truly needing fuel, it was just a vicious roller coaster created by the ups and downs of the insulin cycle.

photo courtesy CC license via
photo courtesy CC license via

Since going grain free there are many times I forget to eat, and if I do get hungry it’s very mild, just a little physical reminder saying “hey, let’s grab a slice of cheese or a piece of fruit”. I do get hungry around lunch and dinner times, but I am satisfied by way less food. I would say I eat 6-8 times a day, with two of those usually being small “normal” meals and the rest being snacks or small appetizer type servings of food – almost all “real food”.

Although I don’t restrict myself intentionally with sweets or any food outside of grains, I find that I just don’t really need or want them often. I have not eliminated sugar – it would take a lot of kicking, dragging, and screaming to take away the sugar and cream in my coffee! 🙂

Getting back to the point, I think a grazing pattern, at least for part of the day anyway, is frequently a natural result of kicking grains because the body doesn’t get into that craving cycle. There are other benefits of grazing, but if three squares works for you, by all means carry on! This is just my experience with the grain-free journey so far.  Please share yours in the comments!


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