Why grazing can give you more energy
Grazing has been around for a while, and is most confusing to us as the term that has been applied to all sorts of eating.
My first experience with it was at the now closed Italian eatery Tucchetti in Fox Valley. The Italian red sauce place boasted “grazing stations,” where one could help himself to favorites like Baked Ziti or Bruschetta. This seemed more akin to stuffing than grazing.
These days, grazing has evolved to become another facet of the healthy eating trend. The idea is that instead of eating three large meals, we should eat less and more often, consuming small amounts of food every couple of hours. Grazing, we are told, helps us to regulate our blood sugar and avoid energy slumps, as well as being better for our digestive systems.
Of course, it has to be done well. We can’t be allowed to reach into the desk drawer and munch cookies throughout the day. The idea is to eat a small breakfast, say yogurt and fruit or a slice of avocado toast, then have some nuts and cheese mid morning. A light lunch, some veggies and dip for the afternoon and so on. The freedom to eat this way requires a few concessions. It may be a tougher sell to a meat and potatoes hubby or growing kids. Grazing is ideal for those who don’t have time or don’t like to cook.
I tend to do more grazing when my husband is on business trips. He is fairly married to meals, and I am not. I often eat some small thing every couple of hours: toast, fruit, cottage cheese, a can of tomatoes or tuna, or a leftover chicken thigh or pork chop. I don’t feel the need to fill a plate, or even use one. I find that eating this way does keep my energy level up, and I rarely feel full or weighed down by a meal.
Grazing is a tad harder to do in restaurants where gargantuan portions are the norm. But it can be done by ordering side dishes or lighter appetizers. Keeping a supply of grazing foods at home is very easy. Just prepare the food for the coming week, so it is handy and quick. Here are some of my favorite things to have on hand for grazing. One or two of them may seem odd.
PICKLES: Cucumbers, peeled, sliced and ready to eat are the simplest and perhaps healthiest form. But I also keep sweet gherkins and dills for TV snacking. My dinner is sometimes a dill pickle and peanut butter sandwich.
CHEESE: Cottage cheese with lots of black pepper, cheddar with apple slices, Gouda with salami and fruit, and soft, ripe cream cheeses with figs or apricots, walnuts and crackers are divine small meals. Buy the salami sliced and prep the cheese for the week and you are ready to enjoy.
VEGGIES: Roasting a small squash and a large beet provides us with some tasty treats. Just add a touch of butter, salt and pepper. I cut bell peppers into strips and prep bags of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots to be quickly steamed for dinner. Cherry tomatoes are a must. I keep Cherubs on my counter all winter for a sweet snack.
POTATOES: Fewer things are more fun and satisfying than a baked potato. I rub a few bakers with olive oil, salt the skin generously and bake them all at once. They can easily be reheated and topped with just about anything, but I love them with just butter and sour cream.
CANNED FOODS: Tomatoes that are cooked are actually more nutritious, and I love to eat a simple bowl of canned tomatoes for lunch. Likewise with a small can of drained tuna or a can of green beans. Nothing is easier.
NUTS: We keep peanuts in the shell for TV snacking. Cans of smoked almonds and bags of pistachios are found in our family room. In my freezer I have pecans and walnuts for pairing with certain cheeses and fruits. Nuts are also great to keep in the car for road trips.
FRUIT: Apples, bananas, pears, grapes and citrus fruits are a must. Try keeping the fruit bowl in the family room for late night snacking. It may keep you from grabbing the chips.
POPCORN: We buy our popcorn in 13 pound jugs (not even kidding) and pop it in ghee (clarified butter). Both are affordable at Costco, which is good because we eat it several times a week. Microwave it if you must, but popcorn is great grazing.
EGGS: Boil a half dozen eggs for the week, peel them and seal them in a bag. You can then make deviled eggs (even with just one egg), eat them on a salad, chop them into a sandwich or just enjoy one salted and peppered for a great protein boost. (See instructions below.)
MEAT: Cold cuts are good, but I like cooked meat, so I prepare two things frequently: pork tenderloin and chicken breasts. I buy large bone in, skin on breasts, season them heavily, roast them to 165 degrees in a 400 degree oven and let them cool. The entire piece of breast meat can then be cut off and bagged. I use these to make small dishes of chicken salad, sandwiches, small stir fries and to eat sliced with some steamed vegetables.
A single pork tenderloin is genius for one or two people. Coat one in a dry rub, roast it to 145 degrees in 400 degree oven on an open sheet. Let it rest for an hour and slice. It can then be served with any side dish or sauce. I also cut them into two inch medallions, pan sear them and cook them to 145 degrees, then use the pan drippings to make a simple sauce. (See instructions below.)
BREAD: Bread isn’t a big part of grazing, but keeping a small stash of 6-inch flour tortillas can make grazing easier. Use them to make little wraps from lettuce, mustard and leftover chicken, fish or beef. Keeping a tub of hummus is nice too, to smear on a wrap with veggies.