Navigating Snacking: Healthy Alternatives to the Usual Suspects

By Lavanya

May 13, 202420 mins read

Navigating Snacking: Healthy Alternatives to the Usual Suspects

Snack time is most everyone’s favourite time of the day, isn’t it? Nice hot masala chai or filter coffee, piping hot crunchy stuff and that hits you right on the spot. The mini samosas you get from the local tea chain is my guilty pleasure. Last year at The Hindu Litfest, there was a shortage and I bonded with a fellow book lover by sharing my largesse.


Snacks: making community happen.


More often than not, our favourite snacks tend to be on what the Brits coyly term as “naughty”. Deep fried in oil, stuffed with potatoes or some other car-by veg and topped with a gravy that is heavy on the salt/fat/sugar scale.


What if we can come up with healthy snacks? Is that possible or is it an oxymoron?


Let’s face it, no one voluntarily stated their favourite snack is a plate of veg. But there ought to be plenty of wiggle room between deep fried oily stuff and veggie sticks now, right?


Steam it!

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Different ways of cooking ought to do it. Rather than deep-frying our veg, what if we resorted to steaming our foods instead? Steaming doesn’t require any added fat for cooking and ensures that  the nutrients in our foods are not lost in the cooking process.


Indian foods have plenty of steamed foods: idli, dhokla, momos, kozhukattai - you name it, every part of the country has its own special item ready to be steamed, tossed in with some veg or podi and eaten at leisure. A friend recently shared her cook bhaiyya presented them with his latest creation: idli 65!


Why not, I ask! Steam your carb base, add whatever fresh veggies you want, some seasoning, some fresh garnish and you are on your sneaky way to a well-rounded and dare I say it, healthy snack?


Boil it!

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Another popular cooking option and a welcome change from our evil deep fryer is the boiler. Boiling does leach the ingredients of its goodness so we need to be clever about this. Timing is key, as boil something for too long, you may as well throw it all away with the water, as there will be no nutrients left.


Eggs are an excellent option for boiling. Boiled eggs, cut and served with a simple sprinkling of salt and some freshly cracked pepper is the most simple and wholesome snack there is. Plus, as pure protein, it has the added benefit of keeping you full for longer. Zhuzh it up by adding some grated veggies - carrots, spring onions, beetroot - as garnish. You can even top up with some roasted peanuts for added crunch.


Which is another great boil-worthy snack: groundnuts. Whole groundnuts in their shell in salted water can be boiled or pressure cooked, making for a very wholesome snack. Again, add some oomph to them by making them into masala peanuts: sliced onions, carrots, cabbage, salt, chilli powder, some coriander leaves for garnish and a squeeze of lemon to finish it off. What more can you ask for?


Roast it!

No visitors to the beaches of India can get away without tucking into an ear of roasted corn (or bhutta). Roasted over hot coals, served with some salt, butter and a squeeze of lemon, they are the ideal thing to tuck into when you are on the park or the beach. Way better than the sugary drinks or cotton candy and the rest of over-processed foods out there.


At home, roasting veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, baby potato and serving them with different dips like hummus, barbecue sauce, tomato relish etc makes for a very healthy and more-ish snack option for Match day parties. This is proof positive that a snack doesn’t have to be greasy and unhealthy for it to be interesting and fun.


Grill it!

Though not as popular in India, barbecue grills are really popular abroad. At the first hint of the sun, out come these R2D2 lookalikes, ready for their usual burgers and chips and whatnot. Closer home, the tandoor does the same job, though demanding more expertise to wield.


But this does lend itself to a great option while ordering in or eating out: items that have been cooked in tandoor such as paneer tikka, chicken tikka etc are a lot more friendlier to your waistline and your arteries. Just keep an eye on the sauces they come with as this is how you lose track of your sugar and salt intake.


Air-fry it!

The latest party gadget is the air-fryer. Smaller than an oven and coming with pre-programmed timings for the uninitiated, air fryers make a simpler option to making a snack. Be it your favourite chicken drumsticks or even pooris, the air fryer can tackle them all! All, like the name suggests, without resorting to a vat of oil! What more could you ask for?


Well, a little bit of caution. Sometimes, it is the fact that something is not a very healthy food item that causes reason and caution to kick in and stop us from overdoing it. No one grabs 10 murukkus at one go as we well know it is deep fried and hence, moderation is key. What items such as air fried this and baked that do to us is give us a false sense of “healthy”. And give us a license to overindulge. Whichever way you slice it, too much of anything is bad. So it is best to be wary and not fall prey to the latest fad.


Pop it!

To end on a positive note, here’s a fun snack that never goes out of style: popcorn! Movie theatres added a whole new dimension to them by ushering in a whole world of condiments to douse them in. So much so, I cannot even remember the last time I had plain popcorn!


Giving the humble popcorn company is the makhani. Roast in a kauai with a smidgeon of ghee, top up with your homemade idli molaga podi and you are sorted. No mistake.


Sometimes, it is the thought that something is “not allowed” or “forbidden” that makes them terribly appealing. By eradicating such thoughts and words from our minds, we can very easily make healthier food choices for us and our loved ones.


So tell us, what are your favourite healthy snacks? And how do you prepare them?