Some people never munch in-between meals. Many however need to eat or snack frequently. The big question is whether there is any food that is absolutely safe to snack on. Fruits are the best foods to snack on. There are many reasons for this choice. Firstly they are fresh and full of vitamins and minerals. They are eaten in the natural state without much cutting, keeping or cooking and therefore without much nutrient loss. So besides filling your stomach and giving you energy you get a quick dose of vitamin, mineral, some fluid in the juices and also some fiber. So it not only fills you but also refreshes you.
In terms of calories or energy fruits are very low as compared to other foods. An average size apple, pear, guava or orange give you 50-60 cals. Where as one medium samosa, vada, etc. are 150-200 calories, 10 pieces of chips are 110 calories, 2 good day cookies 150 calories, a piece of Indian sweet or pastry is 150-200 calories.
Besides this there is some important chemistry to understand. Fruits are made up of 2 sugars – glucose and fructose. These are also called Monosaccharides. Mono – meaning one, single step of breakdown or digestion and it enters the blood steam as energy in 20-30 minutes. Therefore this is the best choice whenever one feels hungry, tired, low blood sugar, giddy or faint.
If we pop a sweet or chocolate, etc. into our mouth instead of a fruit – the sugar in these is called sucrose, disaccharide, taking 2 steps of digestion and 45 minutes to give energy i.e. it will take a longer time to give relief. Also these contain fat which will make your weight go up as well as make you feel sluggish.
Some prefer biscuits, bread or snacks. These contain mainly starch, which is a poly saccharide, many steps of breakdown, which takes 1-2 hours before energy is made available. This is dangerous because you keep eating biscuit after biscuit, slice after slice but don’t feel satisfied.
Sometimes we come home from work very hungry, thinking I want to eat 5 chapattis today instead of 2 or 3. At this time if you eat a fruit before you start your meal, we find that it gives energy fast and cuts down the great hunger and we are able to stick to 2 or 3 chapattis instead of 5.
The ideal is to have a fruit daily at about 11am or 12 noon and at 6 or 7pm when you get back from work.
Another good choice for a snack is milk, curd, lassi or buttermilk (all skimmed or cream removed of course). Milk contains a natural sugar called lactose, which is disaccharide and takes 45 minutes to be digested. Milk/buttermilk gives fluid as well and this is both filling and refreshing, so if just a fruit is not enough have, a buttermilk, cold coffee or milkshake along with it. Please note it is preferable to have these from your home where the milk is skimmed. Milkshakes and lassi from restaurants and café’s usually have additional cream or ice cream added to it, which is fattening. Regular coffee or tea too may be consumed. They are safer than eating oily snacks or sweets.
Late at night too a fruit or hot skimmed milk are the safest choices. Try to avoid eating bread and biscuits late at night as they cause the weight to go up very easily.