Ideal Snacks that are Healthy

Can you kindly advise me on what are the ideal foods to snack on at snack times like 11am and 6pm or if I feel hungry late at night. What can I eat at 5am if I am up to study?

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 inside the fruit 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, orange, will give you 50-60 calories where as one medium samosa, vada, etc., are 150-200 calories. 10 pieces of chips are 110 calories, 2 good day cookies 150 calories and a piece of Indian sweet or cake is 150-200 calories.

Besides this there is some important chemistry to understand. Fruits are made up of 2 sugars – glucose and fructose. They are also called Monosaccharides. Mono – meaning one, single step of breakdown or digestion and it enters the blood steam as energy. This takes 20-30 minutes only. Therefore this is the best choice whenever one feels hungry, tired, low blood sugar, giddy or faint.

If we pop a spoon of sugar, a sweet, chocolate, etc., into our mouth instead of a fruit – the sugar in these is called sucrose, disaccharide, which takes 2 steps of digestion and 45 minutes to give energy. It will take a longer time to give relief.

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 of bread but don’t feel satisfied.

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. At 4 or 5 pm you may have a cup of skimmed milk/coffee/tea/buttermilk, with a couple of Marie biscuits, crackers or one or two slices of whole wheat bread.

Another good choice for a snack is milk, curd, lassi or buttermilk. 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 made from skimmed milk along with it. Please note it is preferable to have these from your home where the milk is skimmed. Milkshakes and lassis 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 at night.

Early morning if you are up at 5 am., the ideal would be to have a hot milk/coffee/tea with milk and a small banana to give you energy fast. Here a biscuit or toast may be added if necessary.

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