Add snacks to minus kilos!


Add snacks to minus kilos!

I can still remember clearly my days from boarding school where everyday at 11 am and 4 pm in the afternoon, we were given a small nibble; from a serving of seasonal fruit to sandwiches, dried fruits and nuts, the list was endless. I never realised, however back then, the value of these mini snacks till I actually commenced my Public Health Nutrition degree. The wonderful thing was that the snacking routine rubbed off on me so well, that having a snack at 11 am and 4 pm became second nature to me. I would, and still do, instinctively get up to have something small to eat at these in-between meal hours. This not only helps me keep fuller for longer but also prevents me from over indulging at any particular main meal.

Munching between meals can actually reduce your overall caloric intake by curbing overeating at your next meal. By controlling later binging, snacking can help you stay on track. You can actually use this to your advantage. If you know you are going out to a big dinner with friends later, for example, make sure you have a healthy snack before you head out so you're less likely to order (and finish) a large entrée.

How you snack

There is definitely a wrong way and a right way to snack. You should avoid sugary items like candy and soda, and shouldn't be consuming enough calories to constitute a meal. Instead, steer towards foods that will satisfy you and keep you feeling fuller longer.

Fruits and vegetables are always a safe bet because they are low in fat and calories. (Just be sure to avoid high-calorie dips.) Yoghurt, fruit smoothies, even a slice of whole-wheat toast all make great snacks during the day. Combining lean protein, some healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates will help you feel fuller longer.

Healthier versions of traditional snacks: Try experimenting with the ways you prepare traditional snacks. For instance:

Samosas — instead of deep frying them, try baking them. Baking will save you heaps of oil and fat deposition in the body!

Mathries, theplas Aloo Tikki, Sev, Bondas, Kachori, too can all be baked, and trust me, they taste just the same, if not even better. Try and avoid using oil as much as possible. Line the baking tray with some baking paper or foil wrap, this will provide you the non-stick surface that is ideal for baking conditions.

Also, if items need to be kept moist during the baking period, use an oil spray can.  Remember that salt and sugar should be kept to a minimum; Flavour can come from herbs, spices, garlic cloves, cinnamon sticks, basil, oregano and dill leaves.

Mini meals

Many experts are recommending several smaller meals throughout the day instead of the usual three. By eating at regular intervals, your blood sugar levels (and therefore your energy levels) remain stable. So, instead of that mid-afternoon crash, you'll be full of vigour through dinnertime! Eating every few hours (especially if you chew on fruits and veggies) can also help add extra nutrition that might be missing from other meals.

Snacking isn't grazing

Mindless eating is often the downfall of many snackers. You may start with only a handful of your favourite crackers, only to finish the entire box, without even thinking about it. Obviously, this example isn't the healthy snacking that can help you reach your weight loss goals.  To avoid grazing: Fill a small plate with your snack, and leave the kitchen. Just walk away. When your plate is empty, snack time is over. 

Never bring the entire container with you in front of the television or computer. Enjoy your snack without distraction and you won't be tempted to reach for more.
If you stand around the snack table chatting at a party, you may find yourself reaching for food when the conversation lulls. This can often lead to an unintentional binge because you simply aren't paying attention to what you are eating. 

Limit yourself to a single serving.  Plan out your snacks just like you would a meal. Is one cookie worth the calorie cost, when you could eat a plate of fresh fruit instead? 

Practice moderation

As with the rest of your diet, moderation is crucial when snacking. Make sure that you are adding every snack to your Nutrition Tracker, along with the larger meals you eat during the day. If you don't keep track, you might add excess calories and fat to your diet without realizing it.

Don't sabotage your diet with unhealthy nibbles throughout the day; stick to nourishing foods whenever possible. If you know you have a weakness for junk food, do yourself a favour and don't purchase these items next time you are at the grocery store. Then you won't have to fight the temptation of ice cream or potato chips when hunger pangs hit.

Healthy snack ideas

When you want something sweet, try
*  Fresh seasonal fruit
*  ½ fist of dried fruits and nuts
*  Low-fat yogurt and banana
*  Fruit smoothie
*  Slice of wholegrain fruit loaf
*  Peanut butter and banana sandwich
*  Dried figs and apricots
*  When you want something savoury, try
*  1 idli topped with tomato chutney
*  Dhokla with mint chutney
*  4-5 baked rice crackers topped with hummus
*  Wholegrain rusk with tea and a fruit
*  ½ cup of Nachos with tomato salsa with a light drizzle of cheddar cheese
* ½ cup of baked corn chips with salsa
*  ½ cup of Popcorn and a fruit
* Small veggie pizzas (if pizza bases are not handy, try wholegrain bread) seasoned with oregano, and garlic 
* Wholegrain crackers topped with sliced low fat cheese and tomato
* Carrot, cucumber and capsicum sticks with low-fat yoghurt dips.

In order to make your snack healthy, ensure that it has atleast one to two vegetable or fruit components in it or served along side. Experiment with what you have, mix and match ingredients.

Parents can be fantastic role models in encouraging children to snack and eat healthy. Preparing those fun time snacks or even the evening meal at home is best done if children are involved in the preparation process.

This helps immensely in inculcating healthy positive eating behaviours amongst the children and the family as a whole.  In order to sustain this behaviour even outside the home environment, it would be encouraging to see school canteens and college cafeterias offering healthier versions of traditional snacks or even better pure healthy snacks.

A small change in the way we snack could just about salvage the health profile of our future generation and bring it back to the path of amelioration. Snack on! 

The author is a member, Health Professions Council, UK

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