Meal Plan Created By: Amanda Kostro Miller
About a quarter of Americans say they snack multiple times a day.1 We do this for many reasons—out of hunger, boredom, or food insecurity, to name just a few.2 If you’re more of a grazer, sticking to three square meals a day can be difficult. However, there are ways to keep grazing healthy—snacking on low-calorie, nutrient rich foods and exercising often, for instance.3 But where should you start when it comes to creating a healthy grazing diet?
Related: 12 Months of Healthy Eating: Anti-Inflammatory Meals
This month, we’re talking about snacking smartly as an alternative to a traditional three-meal diet. A Registered Dietician built out a whole week’s worth of 4 delicious and nutritious mini-meals per day. Ready to get started? Try our 7-day meal plan for grazers today!
Download The Printable Meal Plan
What is a Grazing Diet, Anyway?
A grazing diet consists of several smaller meals taken at regular intervals throughout the day. Instead of the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner, grazers snack throughout the day on healthy options like small salads, fruit, lean meats, nuts, and other nutrient-rich foods. Often, those who snack a lot during the day suffer from low blood sugar or tend to worry about where their next meal is coming from4—but by adopting a grazing diet, they can turn these problematic behaviors into a force for supporting the heart and overall health. By focusing on consuming healthier snacks throughout the day,5 you can unlock certain heart health benefits that correlate with eating meals more frequently—and curb hunger in the process.
Benefits of a Grazing Diet
It goes without saying that all of the possible benefits of adopting a grazing diet come from keeping your snacks healthy and low in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. Snacking on potato chips, candy, or fast foods that are highly processed6 and full of fat, especially saturated fat, sodium, high fructose corn syrup, or other problematic ingredients is associated with negative effects on heart health. With a grazing diet, it’s more about focusing on adding in more nutritious foods that are high in fiber to fill you up when hunger strikes. While a grazing diet often leads to a higher caloric intake on the whole, most grazers end up eating a wider variety of healthy foods on a grazing diet.7 Be careful that you don’t snack on unhealthy options and focus instead on low-calorie, natural foods like fruits and veggies. Also, it has been reported that eating more frequently can lower levels of LDL cholesterol,8 which may reduce your risk of heart disease.
Related: 6 Easy Food Swaps to Be More Heart Healthy
Disadvantages of a Grazing Diet
If individuals following a grazing diet plan are not careful, this type of diet can become unhealthy pretty quickly. The focus here needs to be on finding low-calorie, healthy, and nutritious options to snack on during the day, so that although you are eating more in terms of volume, your caloric intake is similar to that of a regular, more traditional, three-meal diet plan. Resist the urge to turn to fatty, sugary, high calorie foods like potato chips, candies, and ice cream. The good news is that there are plenty of nutrient-dense foods with similar qualities to these snacking staples—for instance, why not try low fat greek yogurt topped with blueberries when you’re craving a bowl of ice cream? Or reach for crispy roasted and seasoned veggies (like these kale chips with lemon pepper seasoning) when you’re hankering after those potato chips. Fruit is always an excellent substitute for candy and sweets. It can also be difficult to maintain a grazing diet if you often go out to eat socially with those who are not on your more idiosyncratic diet. However, proper planning can go a long way toward keeping this diet flexible and adaptable to your lifestyle.
Healthy Recipes for the Grazing Diet Plan
Think grazing is right for you? Power up your snacking with our week-long meal plan developed by a Registered Dietician. Built with nutrition in mind, this month’s meal plan features a week’s worth of four “mini-meals” that will help start you off on a grazing diet. Each recipe is full of good calories, snacky satisfaction, and solid flavor. Start your day with a festive tropical oatmeal topped with fresh pineapple and papaya chunks, or fill up quickly with the bright and tasty Summer Farro Salad. With recipes like these, there is all the more reason to snack healthily!
Looking for more heart-healthy meal inspiration? Take a look at our heart-healthy cookbook for some quick and easy dinners to try on the days you’re feeling a little less snacky than usual.