Open Feedback Dialog

When Snack Time Never Ends

By Jessica Charbonneau, LCSW

What’s the difference between grazing and snacking?


I find that many bariatric patients, both pre and post-surgery, worry about snacking and often confuse this behavior with grazing. Snacking and grazing are NOT the same things.

Snacking has a healthy purpose. It is one of the many ways that we take care of ourselves.  We snack because we need a short supply of energy for our bodies. A snack is planned and purposeful, including the quality of the food, the quantity, and the timing. Grazing, on the other hand, has no purpose other than to maladaptively manage our emotions. Taking an honest self-assessment can help us determine whether we are snacking or grazing. It is important to be aware and practice compassion with ourselves.


Most people struggle with the urge to graze at some point in time. We can all learn strategies to control grazing. Here are some important distinctions: A snack is food eaten between meals or can even be a light meal. Grazing is ongoing, continuous consumption. A snack should be, when possible, planned, executed, and completed with mindfulness to nutrition and calorie intake. Grazing is constant eating or nibbling but our stomachs never feel full. A well-chosen snack will boost energy, satiate appetite, and fuel the body. Grazing is most often void of nutritional, emotional, or satiating value. Grazing is a mindless endeavor. A well-chosen snack will not defeat your weight loss goals. Grazing CAN defeat your weight loss or maintenance by allowing too many calories to be consumed.


Don’t be afraid to have a snack if your body needs it. Snacking is a part of practicing good self-care. Remember, if you are struggling, don't keep it a secret. We are all different. Ask a professional to help you develop strategies that will work for you.