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Stamford: ‘Grazing’ for meals a matter of personal preference

In my two-part column about my experiences cruising in Alaska, I emphasized my overeating at first, then my return to a more typical eating pattern of grazing for most of the day. This inspired several e-mails inquiring about what that means and how I go about it.

I use the term grazing to mean eating that is not part of a formal meal, and eating only when I’m hungry. My grazing habits vary depending on whether I’m at home or at school. If I’m going to school, I’ll start the day lightly, with a grapefruit and some raw almonds and walnuts. This is a good jump-start at about 7 or 8 in the morning. At about 10, I’ll feel the need to eat something, and a likely choice is a nutritious bar of some sort. This keeps me going until I drink my blend.

The blend

My colleagues at Hanover College eat lunch in the dining room at noon or so, and the food is delicious. It’s also laid out like a smorgasbord, which means you can eat as much as you like. For these two reasons, I avoid the dining room unless it’s a special occasion.

My weakness is, I still do not do a great job of portion control. So, instead of joining my colleagues, I stay in my office and drink a blend I conjured up at home and carted to school in a thermos bottle. I don’t drink my blend at any particular hour, only when I’m hungry.

My friends, of course, tease me about my blends, turn up their noses and make disparaging comments. I invite them to take a taste, but they refuse and claim they would rather be boiled in oil. To each his own.

The blend is somewhat similar to the one I have described in the past that I used to make for my mother when she lost her appetite, except my blend doesn’t have all the high-calorie goodies that made hers taste great, or the supplements. Even so, mine still tastes pretty good.

My blend contains one large or two small apples, a banana, two servings of Egg Beaters and a large scoop of protein powder, and then I fill up the blender with soy milk. This provides a significant portion of the protein I’ll need for the day, plus two or three servings of fruit. This is very filling, and I won’t need to eat again until dinner, which is usually at 7 or so.

I’ll end the day with a bowl of high-fiber cereal, typically a combination of All Bran and Shredded Wheat or some other choice, plus fruit. I’ll douse it all with soy milk.

At home

When I’m at home, my eating is less structured and is more of a true grazing. I’ll get up and grab a cup of coffee or green tea and go to my study to begin work on whatever is demanding my time. I realize that eating breakfast is important, and, in one form or another, I always do eat breakfast, but when I eat it may vary greatly. I believe in eating when I’m hungry, and when I’m working at home, I may work several hours on a few cups of coffee or tea before I eat anything. I’m not advocating this, just being truthful.

When I decide I’m hungry, I’ll probably eat a grapefruit, then go back to work. Later, I’ll eat a bowl of high-fiber cereal with fruit. Then periodically, I’ll drift into the kitchen for a handful of nuts, or a whole-wheat English muffin, or a slab of whole-grain bread with natural peanut butter. I may eat soy cheese on whole-wheat Triscuits, or something that was left over from dinner the night before. Then later, I’ll have dinner.

Eat to live

I was raised in a household where food was not important. My mom worked hard and rarely cooked meals. That left us kids pretty much on our own, and we ate what was available. I hated it at the time, but now I see it as a blessing.

I eat to live, rather than live to eat like those who were raised on gourmet meals. They have much greater expectations of food and approach eating, no doubt, with more gusto. Thus, it’s easier for me to appear highly disciplined when in fact I’m just doing what comes naturally for me.

Bryant Stamford is professor and chairman of the department of exercise science at Hanover (Ind.) College. Address questions or suggestions to “The Body Shop,” The Courier-Journal, P.O. Box 740031, Louisville, KY 40201-7431

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