The anatomy of the healthy snack

In the first week of April, the Uttar Pradesh government gave reason for the small, but arguably significant percentage of health conscious parents reason to celebrate — by asking schools to ban the sale of junk food within and outside school premises.

The letters addressed to the principals of various schools asked that the sale of carbonated drinks and snacks, including wafers and other “salted and fried” items be banned. The idea is to dissuade children from subsisting on a diet that is high in trans fats and sugars, so as to prevent the onset of lifestyle diseases including obesity, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure problems.

In what has been termed a “significant” move by the Secondary Education Council that was acting on instructions from the Union Health and Family Planning Ministry, both children and parents are being compelled to make more conscious decisions about their food choices.

“Children should be educated on what to choose, but it is also the responsibility of parents to make ‘good foods’ available and to teach children healthy eating habits,” says Dr Eileen Canday, chief dietitian with the Breach Candy Hospital Trust.
“Junk foods are habit-forming,” says nutritionist Samreedhi Goel, adding, “Parents need to buy fewer processed foods, including ready-to-eat noodles and potato-based smileys.” If you’re looking to de-tox your kitchen shelves of junk, but don’t know where to start, Goel’s rule is to “chuck everything that is fried or needs to be fried and has excess salt.”

Don’t deny yourself
Banning of certain foods, however, can be counter-productive, according to Canday.

“Food bans can lead to food obsession, diet myths and lack of pleasure in eating,” she says, advising moderation.

“Children should be able to enjoy different foods in moderation. We have to remember that eating is not just a biological event, it is also one of the life’s many pleasures,” adds Canday.

Goel too advocates moderation. “Teach them moderation from an early age, so that everything doesn’t feel like a compromise.” It helps too, if you practice what you preach. “If you’re eating high-calorie foods yourself, you can’t tell your kids not to eat it.”

Experts advise stocking up on healthy snacks like “hard fruits” (apples, pears or oranges), dry snacks (“bhel without sev or puri”, khakras, poha (beaten rice flakes) chiwda), a serving of dalia upma (see box for recipe), a brown bread or multigrain cucumber-tomato-lettuce sandwich with coriander chutney, high-fibre biscuits and low-fat yoghurts.

Banned for life?
But what about conventional wisdom that dictates that we rely on three square meals at regular intervals and avoid snacking between meals?

Dr Meena Mehta, an associate (Food Science and Nutrition) Professor with Dr BM Nanavati College of Home Science, says, “Eating throughout the day allows nutrients to digest gradually, providing you with more energy for longer periods of time.”

She adds, “Consuming large amounts of food in one or two sittings takes more time and energy to digest, and can lead to health-related issues including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, or weight gain.”

Time to bring out the multigrain loaves and low-fat sandwich spreads? Yes, provided, of course, you remember that a little (snack) goes a long way. 

Oats Pancake
1 katori oats
1 tsp wheat flour
3 to 4 tsp milk
1 to 2 tsp yoghurt
1 tsp honey
> Blitz the oats in a mixie.
> Take four teaspoons of the oat flour and add all the remaining ingredients, except honey to make a dosa-like batter.
> Pour one ladle of this batter on to a non-stick pan and cook the pancake on both sides.
> Dilute one teaspoon of honey with two teaspoons of water and pour this mixture over the pancake. Serve immediately.

Dalia Upma
1 katori cracked wheat (dalia/ lapsi)
1 katori water
4 to 5 tsp yoghurt
4 to 5 French beans, finely chopped
1/2 carrot, finely chopped
small onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (rai)
4 to 5 curry leaves
1 to 2 green chillies, finely chopped
salt, to taste
coriander leaves for garnishing
> Boil/ pressure cook the daliya and
set aside
> Heat the oil, add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the curry leaves and green chillies. Stir-fry for
a few seconds.
> Add the chopped veggies and cook till still a little crunchy.
> Lastly, add the cooked oats, yoghurt, adding a little water if the mixture is
too thick.
> Cook for a few minutes and serve hot, garnished with roughly chopped coriander leaves.
- Recipes courtesy nutritionist Samreedhi Goel 

Flax appeal
Bollywood actress Neha Sharma likes to snack on roasted flax seeds and black grapes. “Grapes take care of my sugar cravings and flaxseeds take care of my salt cravings,” says the actress who will soon be seen in the sequel to Kyaa Kool Hain Hum. The actress also swears by green tea and lemon water with honey, which she says helps cleanse her system.

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