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Snack time!

The best way to stave off starvation without guilt is to snack on good food. Like fresh fruits, low-fat vanilla, lemon, or coffee yogurt, whole-wheat fig bars, bran muffins, raisins, unbuttered popcorn, raw vegetables, crackers with low-fat cheese, whole-wheat oatmeal cookies, home-made milk shakes (made with skim milk, fruit and ice), fruit and vegetable juices, low-fat cottage cheese…pudding to begin with. 

Hunger pangs for a snack can attack at any time, for no rhyme or reason! Well, it is alte afternoon, more close to the evening time but dinner is some way of. The need of the moment is a nice snack. And one would prefer to attend to this type of hunger pang oherwise the mind remains distracted by the thought of food.

But there is one small word of warning! No it is not a ‘high-voltage-keep-off’ sign but just a bit of advice: whatever be your choice for snacks, it had better be (at least) relatively good for you! This is the tough part. Nine out of ten humble human beings will bypass the carrots and apples and yogurt and reach out for a drink and burger!

It is one thing to be misguided about munching and another to tackle it with common sense. Our appetites for snacking in between meals have a wide range. Turning vegetarian is also on the rise so the need for a repertoire of vegetarian healthy snacks is always going to be there. I always advocate the importance of trying to cut down on the fat content in recipes yet keep them tasty. 

Tips for Healthy Snacks

  • Balance protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats in snacks to maintain steady blood sugar. For example, enjoy a few whole grain crackers or some nonfat yogurt paired with fresh fruit and a small handful of nuts such as walnuts or almonds.
  • Choose high fibre, whole carbohydrates, such as fresh fruit and whole grains whenever possible.
  • Adding some heart healthy fat to a snack is a good idea. Choose nuts.
  • Choose lean proteins for your snacks including: low fat dairy products, sliced lean meat, and soy-based products, such as roasted soy nuts.
  • Space meals and snacks about three hours apart. It is especially important to snack if your meals are spaced more than four or five hours apart.
  • Try to avoid sugary desserts and sweets. If you must have something sweet, make it as healthy as possible. A good example is an oatmeal raisin walnut cookie or non-hydrogenated peanut butter spread on whole grain bread and topped with your favorite jam or preserves.
  • Bring healthy, easy to carry snacks (e.g. apple or plain crackers) to school or high school or office instead of buying chips, sweets at the school shop or canteen.
  • Keep lots of fresh fruit at home so you can easily have at least two every day. (Buy more, eat more!)

Right way to Snack

It will be a good healthy tip to be  prepared for the snack attack. Now  that you know you are ravenously  hungry at a certain time of the day, keep those cookies hidden and also those high-sugar high-fat treats. Keep the fridge locked! But we can snack on healthy snacks like freshly popped popcorn or munch on an apple or carrot.

What follows now is a ready reckoner on how to choose a satisfying snack. If you want a salty snack then it is better to go in for that and just because the cookies are handy, don’t have them because you will not be satisfied. If we can understand the type of flavour or texture we want, we are more likely to be satisfied sooner rather than later.

When the sweet tooth awakens:

Have, fresh or dried fruit, a frozen fruit based sweet or a other frozen treats like frozen grapes and berries. Or have a cup of low fat flavoured yogurt.

When you want to have something crunchy:

Have freshly popped popcorn. They are plain and have less fat. Can sprinkle paprika for extra flavour. Pretzels and low fat crackers will also serve the purpose. Dig into some tortilla chips. They taste good especially when toasted. Also some carrot sticks and celery sticks can be added to this list.

When you want to have more protein:

A cube or a slice of low fat cheese, or a hard-boiled egg. Mix some fat free dressing on some boiled beans and enjoy.

If you want a drink as a snack:

Reach for the blender and make yourself a smoothie with skimmed milk, yogurt, fruits or fruit juice. Or have a cup of herbal tea. Or rather add a twist of lime and salt to chilled drinking water and marvel at the freshness you feel. Or heat up a cup of skimmed milk and add some sugar-free hot chocolate. This served two purposes: satisfies your sweet tooth and also provides you with calcium!

When you want to carry a snack bag:

Popcorn wins hands down. Even cereal bars with calcium. Or some baked potato chips. A bag of roasted nuts with handful of raisins also helps.

Some home made traditional snacks

  • Include khakhras, these crisp avatars of masala rotis have high visibility these days. But be careful. The ones with layers are cooked using a lot of ghee. Safer to stick to the thin crisp ones made at home, not bought. The variety keeps on increasing as the mind gets innovative. Try the ones with flavour of your choice, maybe garlic or onion, or even palak paneer flavour! There is no dearth of variety.
  • Another good thing to have is low calorie chiwda. This is roasted version of the chiwda and tastes good because of the addition of curry leaves and peanuts. It is lesser in calories than the oily version. If you want more from it, mix in some finely chopped onions, a dash of lemon juice and enjoy and instant bhel. Talking of bhel, how about tossing some puffed rice with chopped onions and tomatoes and cucumbers, some coriander leaves, some crushed khakhras and serving it up instantly with a dash of lime. The taste is superb and even with tea it is wonderful.
  • Another good idea is to start baking traditional items like chaklis and puris at home. Instead of deep-frying chaklis have you ever tried baking them? It works and now that it enters the non-fried category, you know you can eat them without guilt. Another good idea is to bake the crisp masala puris that you normally fry and store in snack tins. Add some chopped spinach and fenugreek to a mixture of flours like jowar and bajra and wheat, some oil, ginger green chilli paste and salt. Knead dough using a little buttermilk and roll into small 2 inch diameter puris. Prick with fork and bake in a greased tray for ten to twelve minutes. These too can be stored in airtight tins, that is, if there are any left once you finish serving the family!
  • More good snacks would be brown bread toast with hung yogurt topping. Or spicy potato topping on canapés or salty biscuits. Remember, having coriander chutney and date and tamarind chutney handy is a saviour sometimes. Because these two relishes add tremendous flavour to any snack you present.
  • Of course, dhoklas and steamed muthias are also good tea time snacks. You can sometimes crumble the dhokla and serve it with chopped onions, coriander leaves, and sev. Tastes very good. Even idlis steamed with some toppings of choice make a healthful and fulfilling snack.

Low Calorie Snacks

Snacking will not make you fat, only a high calorie intake will. In fact, a hundred or two hundred calorie snack eaten two to three hours before a meal can take the edge off your hunger and keep you from overeating. And don’t think of snacks as extras. Make them a part of your food plan for the day.

I have always been the one for snacks. But right now, right here I have some ideas for low calorie snacks that can totally satisfy you with their variety as well as the fact that though low in fat they are high in taste.

Bhel: What a nice crunchy medley! Puffed rice, chutneys,null onions, tomatoes, potatoes… all together a healthy snack. I would recommend that you keep a tin of lightly roasted puffed rice in your snack bin. As now we are calorie conscious skimp on the sev and puris otherwise it is a perfect dish. Even dry bhel without chutneys and a dash of lemon is enjoyable. Play with ideas: add sprouts, fresh pomegranate pearls, cucumbers, peanuts…mix up the bhel and make it as colourful as you can.

Baked karanjis: A traditional snack with the smack of modernity! I have tried these and are unbelievably good. You can even make the stuffing healthier by including dates and anjeer. So give the ghee a glad miss and let the oven do the cooking.

Corn: Corn niblets make a kingly snack. Just boil for three to four minutes and serve warm with a little knob of butter and a dash of lemon. Add salt and a pinch of red chilli powder. I can suggest a corn bhel with boiled niblets, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and chutneys and you can top with crushed cornflakes and give sev a miss. Corn with tomato salsa also tastes excellent on plain wheat khakhras.

Idlis: When you make idlis try different toppings so that they become a handy, tasty, spicy snack that is low in fat.

Fruits: A whole fruit - be it an apple, a banana, an orange or some plums or pears, are unmatched in their nutritive properties. To make things different cut some up and sprinkle with chaat masala. A fruit chaat like this can be quite filling and of course, quick and low calorie! Fruits can also help make smoothies that are easy to make and easy on the palate too

Quick and easy snacks

The three-meal-a-day concept to keep healthy is now being overtaken by the 5-6 small meals a day thinking. But what does one eat every two to three hours! It certainly has to be something that is no fat or low fat, not too salty, not too sweet and that is a long list to fulfil. We suggest that you look at healthy snacking by first balancing protein and carbohydrate. This will help in maintaining steady blood sugar. This in turn will keep extreme hunger off the edge so that you never overeat or binge. To keep snacking you need have to the provisions handy.

In case it is not possible to have a cooked snack, try these:

A whole fruit: banana or apple or orange 10-12 almonds with a few raisins A piece of whole wheat bread with peanut butter A slice of paneer with some chutney One hard boiled egg A small bowl of muesli A milkshake Cream crackers with baked beans Cucumber and tomato slices with no oil dressing Freshly popped corn A glass or two of water

These suggestions come in handy at any time. And when you can cook we have a lot of recipes in store for you.

 1. Poha idli

2. Dahi Poha tadka

3. Grilled sprout sandwich

4. Pita sandwich

5. Cucumber dip with pita fingers

6. Instant egg uttapa

7. Steamed egg katori

8. Apple and cheese toast

9. Beet and carrot salad

10. Healthy wheat salad

11. Fruit chaat

12. Bhuna Bhutta

13. Dhokla chaat

14. Egg Chaat

15. Healthy cornflakes bhel

16. Moongphali aloo chaat

17. Sprout bhelpuri

18. Chutney Lassi

19. Melon and mango smoothie.

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.