13 March 2007

How to snack and lose weight

I was exercising like a maniac, eating the right foods, no in between grazing and yet my weight refused to budge. Since I did not have too much to lose in the first place, it was all the more difficult. While I'd like to believe that I'm just a little short of a health freak, I didn't have a figure to match. When I went to a nutritionist with my concerns, the diet plan they drew out for me was so much more than what I was eating already. At least 4 meals a day, and the Ms. Cynical in me said - "Wow! That's generous! But will it work?"

Work it did and I am now almost close to the number I desire. And I not obsessed with it either. As a part of the weight loss tips that I plan to include here, snacking is one of them.

How snacking helps weight loss

A little something inbetween meals helps in two ways.

  1. Prevents your metabolism from dipping. A good BMR (basal metabolic rate) is very important to make sure your body keeps burning calories at its resting state. Prolonged periods for fasting (like skipping breakfast) will convince your body that something is wrong and it has to conserve as much as possible.
  2. Keeps your blood sugar at stable levels, hence prevents cravings.
  3. You are better prepared for dinner time. The 200 calorie odd snack will make sure you don't feel terribly hungry and ready to jump on everything on the table at dinner.

How snacking helps diabetics

Most busy executives start their day with hardly any breakfast, have a greasy office canteen lunch ( especially in India) at around 2 PM, some rounds of tea / coffee to sustain till they manage to get out and then prowl for some fried chips / munchies at around 9 PM with a heavy dinner at around 10.30 PM. The gap between 2 PM and 9 PM is the critical time where blood sugar takes a dive. Maintenance of sugar levels through out the day is essential to management of diabetes. Here's where snacking comes to the rescue. A fruit or a trail mix would be ideal to break the 2pm - 9 PM fast and stabilize sugar levels.

The snacker's grocery list

That's my secret list for you. Not too many exotic ingredients, nothing that you wouldn't find in your supermarket. If I get them in Mumbai, then you can find them in pretty much any other city.

Buy a pound of unroasted, unsalted peanuts. Roast them either in your microwave or stove top, cool and store in an airtight container. To snack on them, don't grab a bowlful. Take a handful, mix it with one each of finely chopped cucumber, tomato and onion (small sized). Squeeze half a lemon, sprinkle salt, cayenne pepper, coriander leaves and you have a crunchy, yummy peanut snack ready.

Do the same with the soy nuts and almonds, puffed rice or other soy products.

Any of the nuts can be bulked up by adding raw grated veggies and flavourings so that you don't eat too much of the high calorie nuts.

Snacking tips

The super-size culture is fast catching on in India too, and it started with the 2 Litre 2.5 Litre pet bottles of colas, never mind that the 500 ml is free! The Lays and the Kurkures followed suit and we are not surprised to see supersized people too.

No snacking from the bag

I'm sure if you are snacking for weight loss, you wouldn't even pass by the 'Chips' or 'Crisps' aisles. But this is true even for the healthy stuff like nuts or puffed soy snacks. Don't eat from the bag. Have the patience to remove it into a small bowl, mix it with the veggies & flavourings, keep it aside, lock /seal the bag, put it away, take your bowl to the living room and munch on it as if you would eat a gourmet meal. Savour, chew and eat. If quality of food matters, quantity matters even more. I was earlier of the opinion that if something is low-cal, healthy and good for me, quantities don't matter. I have been proved wrong entirely.

Don't get addicted to any one snack

Keep changing routines. Find newer healthy alternatives to add to your list of healthy munchies. And in my personal experience, munch on stuff you don't like too much. This might sound silly, but I recently read in a daily's Page 3 that a famous Bollywood star known for her fab figure, never hires good cooks. If the food is VERY GOOD, you automatically eat more. My best snack is roasted chana because I don't relish it too much. I'll lazily munch on a handful and say -Oh! I feel full! Or the ones that require a little more effort like grating or chopping veggies, because who'll want to do that all over for a second serving?

Take your own snack bag to the movie-hall

Any guesses why movie hall popcorns entice you? The smells beckon you as soon as you enter and the allurement wont stop until you rush to the counter, get your fill and finish the last morsel even before the trailers at the beginning of the movie are over. Why don't you feel the same about home-made popcorn from corn-kernels? Simple! You wouldn't dream to add that much butter. A large size popcorn probably has at least half a stick of butter and a bucket - well, I don't think you even want to imagine. So you can take your own little baggies filled with some nuts, dried fruits, something like a trail mix, that you'd chew and eat slowly. Focus on the movie so that you don't dip around into your partner's or your friend's goodies.

Like all good habits, this one takes a while to form. Whether you are a busy working person or a stay at home mom, you can make this work for you. Combine it with your tea-time ritual and watch your body thank you for it!

I'd love it if you shared your similar experiences with us. What is your idea of a healthy yet satisfying snack? Add to the list please!

If you live in India, I can share with you some of the real low-cal and healthy products available in most supermarkets here। Leave a comment or mail me and I shall be glad to help!


junoesque said...

quite superb !!

a plate of cut fruit can be spiced up with nimbu and chaat masala and voila...fruit chaat rocks !!

pieces of grilled chicken / fish / paneer / tofu can be had with a dash of lime and seasonings of your choice..add roasted veggie pieces on satay sticks for exotica..

or whip up a low-cal bhel with all the baked, roasted snacks availaible off the shelf these days..

do go easy on the salt or use potassium salt instead !!

cheers to low cal snacking !!!

Nandita said...

Hey Juno,
Paneer / tofu does sound like a great addition, thanks for your ideas!

Meeta said...

Nice one Nandita. This will really be helpful for me too. Everyday I pick 3-4 different types of fruit and place it in a bowl. This bowl I then take to my desk and snack on this throughout the day. Your peanut snack is a great idea though and I think I'll give that a go.

Kalyn said...

Great post. I do think it's true that regular snacking can help lose weight, if you choose the snacks carefully. Good job. (You do look quite thin and lovely in your photo!)

Anita said...

Just the tips I can use! and I just finished my handful of peanuts too!! Will remember to make that a habit.

N said...

Meeta - fruits are also a great idea, however i was advised not to eat any high sugar fruits, rather hardly any fruits during the weight loss. They add more calories without filling you up. But once the desired weight is reached, you can slowly reintroduce.

Kalyn - thanks a ton for those compliments :) And also for supporting the snacking way to losing it!

Anita - did u dress up the peanuts or ate just peanuts?

Sig said...

Great post Nandita, just in time too...
One snack I love to munch on is par-boiled Edamame (whole soybeans)full of proteins and tastes great too..., and takes a while to shell and eat the pods, so easy not to indulge.Hope it is a healthy snack.

Arundathi said...

not sure how carb conscious you are, but one snack i love (which sometimes becomes dinner!), is cooked garbanzos with lime, chaat masala, onions, carrots and some chillies. Mmmmm maybe for dinner tonight... :)

starry nights said...

Thanks for all those wonderful tips.I love roasted peanuts with onions and green chillies.

Anita said...

Just plain peanuts...and I was still hungry so had a small katori of bhuna chana with a tiny twist of lemon, some chopped onions and coriander chutney. Thanks for the inspiration!

Nabeela said...

I generally blend a fruit(like peach or strawberry) and then mix it with fat free yogurt....and voila, I have a snack ready that's extremely tasty and quite filling even at half a cup of serving.
(but from your comment above, I guess its not a good idea when trying to lose weight)
Btw, do you have any tips on how to gain weight?

Nandita said...

Sig - par boiled edmame should be a great idea, for women especially as soy is the best plant source of estrogen we have, makes us feel good...however too much of soy not a great idea for our men!

Arundathi - I'm not into counting carbs at all, just make sure that whatever carbs I eat are loaded in fibre, no refined carbs for me...garbanzo beans is a great idea, i must update my post with all the super snack ideas coming in from the readers

Lalitha - glad you liked it...check out for the updated list in a while, with extra ideas coming from friends

Anita - This is turning out to be a fun discussion , plain peanuts are great for health too!

Nabeela - Haha girl why are you having 'fat free' yogurt in the first place, that should be for the weightier mortals! Your idea of peach and strawberry in yogurt is a great idea, both fruits rich in anti oxidants and not heavy on calories, could probably just add some oats into it to make it more filling!

Putting on weight could be the topic of a new post! WIll put in some points on that soon...

Jyothsna said...

Apart from fresh fruits, I do munch on nuts - almonds, pistas, cashews, raisins, walnuts, pine nuts..... dunno if they are rich in calories, but my weight hasn't increased and its done wonders to my skin!! :)

Nandita said...

Thanks for sharing Jyothsana. The healthy fats and omega 3 in certain nuts like almonds are known to be good for the skin....fish eaters generally have that glossy skin thanks to the Omega 3 fatty acids in oily fish.

Vaishali said...

Hi Nandita,
A wonderful post that you have come up with. And the responses are interesting too. As you have mentioned in your post, skipping breakfast is a really bad idea, I feel.
As far as snacks are concerned, I often mix a lot of lightly spiced Murmura with a little 'Farsan' mixture. That way it fills me up, and satisfies my tongue too.
Regarding the low-cal alternatives available on store shelves, could you please send me a mail on vaishalikamath@hotmail.com? Thanks.

Nandita said...

WIll surely mail you Vaishali.

Anonymous said...

Normaly I carry some sprouts in the box for the evenings, spice it up with lil lemon juice and salt from canteen before eating.

Are hi-fibre biscuits good for snacking times?

Sandeepa said...

Hey My comment got lost, left it here yesterday :(

Nandita, I liked this post and the tips a lot and was thinking it would be nice if you could suggest low carb, balanced Indian lunch, dinner etc. too

AlwaysJoy said...

Thank you for a great post. I lost 102 pounds snacking all day! I eat breakfast, then a snack, lunch, then a snack, dinner, and sometime a little something later but not always. My current favorite snack is mini banana breads. I make a bunch toss them in the freezer and then on a night that I know I won't be home at a reasonable time I grab it out of the freezer and leave it in my car to thaw all day and then when I get to wherever I am going I eat it up. I make it with just egg whites and no oils so there are no added fats and it is quite filling. If I need more protein I just toast it and add peanut butter. Also my husband and I go to the drive in movies so that we aren't tempted by all the foods (and the encourage bringing your own foods - so we have a great salad while we watch)

Nandita said...

Anon - sprouts are a great addition to the list, I cant chew them raw so may be steaming them for a couple of minutes would be a good idea. Hi-fibre biscuits are very good too, they are generally low in fat and the fibre keeps us filled up, not to forget the many benefits of increasing our fibre intake.

Sandeepa - Sorry abt that, looks like blogger still has some issues...will surely work on some low-carb Indian lunch / dinners. AS Ive mentioned in the earlier comments that Im not an absolute low carber but eat hi fibre and good carbs. I truly blv that carbs are very essential to our body, we just have to watch what we choose.

Alwaysjoy - Thanks for the great tips. Could you please share with us your egg-whites only banana bread? I love your idea of thawing it in the car...the kind of heat we have in Bombay, I could even bake in the car LOLLL
And we don't have any drive ins in Bombay, not any that I know of...but you guys are doing great, salad in the movies is just super and losing 102 lbs you sure are an inspiration...hope to have you here in all our weight loss/ health - related discussions.

bugs said...

Great!I love your blog generally and this post in particular.
My case is the same as yours.I hit the weight loss threshold and havent been losing after vigorous exercise!
I was looking around for healthy food options.Now I know!
Thank you


shub said...

Hi Nandita, been a regular at your blog for a while. This post and the general focus on nutrition and health is really good to see...looking forward to more!

bluespriite said...

Yup fruit is also a good replacement. But i tend to snack on fruits and biscuits (so try and get more fibrous kinda biscuits)

The whole nuts with chopped veggies is difficult to do in office as if one cuts its all up from morning.. till u get to it in the late afternoon.. it lacks the crunch.. and if you decide to do it in office.. honestly..one or two days max.. cutting up tomatoes and tossing salads.. is not something u can do regularly in office. :)

But yes the tips are great so please do keep them coming.

Aparna said...

I am curious if you can tell us what your general routine and food habits were like when you were trying to lose weight. What kind of exercise did you do, how often, what diet, etc? Thanks! Great blog!

Nandita said...

Bugs - Glad you found something of help on this post

SHub - Sure, the focus is shifting to wards a healthy mind and body, so that will be reflected on my blog too :)

Janani - I understand your concern and Im sorry I didn't think of this particular problem for people who go out to work. May be you could make a salad in a small box and then mix in the peanuts (from your office drawer ;) just before you want to eat. Or else, eating roasted chana / soya nuts as it is, is a good idea. The high fibre biscuits or a small tub of dahi with a fruit is also do-able i guess

Aparna - I shall be doing atleast one such post a week now on and will be covering many aspects of diet in losing weight. These of course will include personal experiences so you'll surely find out more on that soon! :)

Manisha said...

So I sould eat more, you say? Will try it. But how do you handle sheer laziness, usually disguised as lack of time, when it comes to cutting and chopping cukes, cilantro, etc? I always have a stock of dried druits but you have to be careful with some of the dried fruits you get here. They have corn syrup or fructose as an additive to keep them moist and make them sweet. :(

Peanuts, we love!

desigirl said...

you are the desi answer to the firang diet doctors that are the bane of my existence! I have to keep tweaking them to suit the desi diet.
I am scouring your site and bookmarking the pages most suited for me. I soon hope to be able to follow the Nandita Diet!
Do you have any hints / suggestions to desify the GI diet?

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gemini said...

i recently started a snack diet which includes chopped carrots, cucumber,apple,almonds and dates with a little salt,lemon juice and olive oil... what do u think about this snack for losing weight?

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kunal said...

hi.. can you suggest some more alternatives to raosted chana(chick peas) while munching in office. my email id is sikri.kunal@gmail.com

saffrontrail said...

Alternatives are roasted peanuts, a few healthy biscuits that come in packs of 3 so that you don't overeat (Brittania Ragi cinnamon), a bowl of watermelon precut and kept in the fridge, soymilk in small tetrapack, sesame chikki, are all good options

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