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Turn Snacks into A Nutritious Meal

Nandita Iyer

Nandita Iyer
08 June 2020

This article is authored by Nandita Iyer. Nandita is the author of the book The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian and blogs at The Saffron Trail. She has studied medicine and nutrition.

We tend to treat snacks as a mindless open-the-pack and pop into our mouth exercise. It is understandable that after planning for and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, planning for healthy homemade low calorie snacks is an added effort and demanding on our time and resources.

Most of the things that fall under the term ‘snacks’ in the Indian context are some form of readymade namkeen, or farsan like samosa, kachori etc. along with a sweet of some kind of which there are so many varieties. Biscuits, different kind of chips and baked items are also very popular snacks, especially during teatime.

South Indian healthy snacks

Eat Breakfast

In South India, tiffin is often a word that is used for small in between meals. Varieties of idlis, dosas, upma, vadas are much-loved tiffin dishes. The best part about these dishes is how flexible they are. These can be had for breakfast, a good option for snacks (tiffin) or a light dinner. When paired with a sambar (or dahi) and chutney, they make for a nutritious and balanced meal.

Keeping some form of batter in the fridge is very useful to make nutritious low calorie snacks that can be steamed (such as idlis or steamed dosas) or pan fried (such as dosa / uttapam /paniyaram). Adding a handful of grated veggies and/or paneer to the batter makes a thoroughly filling and wholesome snack with minimal effort.

Quick to make ready mixes

Having a mix of flours such as semolina, besan, rice flour, sattu or ready mixes such as Tata Sampann’s Besan Chilla or Moong Dal Chilla Mix can also be used to prepare quick and easy nutritious low calorie snacks. A mix of flours can be combined into a batter with the addition of some yogurt and salt. Let this rest on the counter for the required amount of time for a light fermentation. Use this to prepare dosas or chillas. Serve with dahi or any pickle.

Sprouts and beans as healthy snacks

Radish

Another great ingredient to make nutritious snacks is cooked beans or legumes of some kind - such as green moong, rajma or kabuli chana. It does need a bit of preparation though. Soak and pressure cook the legumes until just done. Drain the cooked beans and save in the fridge in an airtight container. This can be tossed along with finely chopped onions, tomatoes, coriander, lime juice, chaat masala and a touch of mustard oil to make a super filling and healthy low calorie snack. A mix of soaked legumes can also be ground into a thick batter with chillies and used to prepare a dosa like dish from Tamil cuisine called ‘adai’. Adai is served with a piece of jaggery and some white butter.

Leftovers turned into healthy snacks

Leftovers from lunch or dinner can also contribute to some nutritious low calorie snacks. Use leftover chhole, paneer or dry vegetable dishes as a filling between two slices of wholegrain bread and toast it either in the old-fashioned stovetop sandwich toaster or on the tava until the outside is crisp and golden brown. A spoonful of grated cheese added to the filling makes it all the more delicious with a bit of extra protein too. Leftover rotis can be used instead of bread, with similar fillings as above on one half, folded over and toasted on the tava like a quesadilla. It is sure to be a big favourite among kids especially.

Snacks can easily be a nutritious meal with a little bit of preparation and creativity and so much more fun to make than just digging into a pack of chips!


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