A snack can be a bag of chips, a fruit or a bowl of nuts. With more of us finding it hard to manage cooking our major meals, we have delegated the snack department to supermarkets which sport rows and rows of heavily processed snacks that are high in salt, sugar, unhealthy oils and other, far more complex ingredients, that have no business being in the food we eat! Since most of us don’t even realise the snacks we eat, it is time we pay attention to those silent fillers.
Let’s hear more about snacks and how we can choose snacks for our children from a Mamma of an adorable three-year old from Chennai.
Hi Hamsika, tell us about yourself and your family.
Hi, I am Hamsika, a working mother. I live in Chennai, India with my husband Lalith , our 3-year-old daughter Naabhya and my parents-in-law.
What are Naabhya’s meals like? Tell us a little about how you plan and prepare these meals.
Naabhya has a very regular meal pattern. I don’t prepare anything specifically for her. She eats the menu of the day at home.
Breakfast – A glass of porridge and a banana – I should mention here that the porridge powder is made from multi grains such as black urad dal, moong dal, roasted gram, wheat, sago, peanuts, almonds and cashews. When Naabhya turned two, I started adding millets such as fox tail, horse gram and pearl millet. This is prepared with milk and jaggery and is a wholesome breakfast.
Mid-Morning Snack at School – I usually pack biscuits or fruits, boiled vegetables and nuts.
Lunch – Rice with ghee and vegetable with an option of Rasam or Dal or Spinach and definitely a cup of curd.
Evening Snack – Banana chips or Peanuts or Puffed rice or Papad with a glass of seasonal fruit juice or tender coconut. I would like to mention that in our family, we use gingelly oil for our regular cooking and prefer either groundnut oil or refined oil for fried snacks.
Dinner – I usually give her options – Roti, Dosa, Pasta or Poha and give her what she asks for. I also offer her a glass of milk before bed.
When I was a kid my grandma used to give me lunch before I rushed to school. She wouldn’t mind compromising on the last spoon of food, but not on the ghee and curd which I believe are important to making the meal wholesome. So, I hold on to this for Naabhya. One specific thing that I have followed since she was a baby is I don’t give her white sugar. Instead, I replace with jaggery or palm sugar.
How do you define snacks and how big a role do they play in Naabhya’s daily life?
Snack for me is a simple quick food, very easy to prepare and less messy to eat. Snacking helped me bring in the “eating by herself” habit with Naabhya. I usually choose something dry and easy to pick, so she can have it by herself. She has two parts for snacks in a day, her mid morning snack which is at school and thankfully, they have a set pattern. The evening snack is where she eats what she likes and it is between her juice and dinner.
What kind of snacks do you offer Naabhya?
I usually buy biscuits made from a local bakery, carrot cake or banana walnut cake, homemade fries (வடகம் in Tamil, पापड़ in Hindi) masala peanuts, puffed rice, roasted gram(chickpeas gram) banana chips, peanut & jaggery chikki, rusk, popcorn or nuts.
Tell us about the snacks you definitely stay clear of and WHY?
I would say no to any snack that is vacuum sealed like chips, fries that have a lot of salt and oil and anything with artificial colour and sugar like gems, jelly etc. I also say no to aerated drinks and flavoured, colourful drinks and prefer fresh juice or tender coconut to it.
I am completely open to store-bought snacks as long as they are freshly made and have a very short shelf life.
Everywhere around us, we find heavily processed snacks that are high in corn fructose syrup, sodium and oil. How do you choose snacks from all these options?
Snacking can be healthy if we make a little effort. My husband snacks more than me but ever since Naabhya has started eating, we both choose snacks with a lot more care. Children learn a lot from us! We always make sure to have a couple of options of what she likes (that are also healthier) at home. It is very easy to buy something off the shelf but takes a little more effort and planning to make something simple at home.
As parents, how do you create awareness in Naabhya on snacks and how to choose wisely?
We simply don’t introduce them to her in the first place. We took it as a task not to buy the heavily processed snacks, so now she knows the real taste and doesn’t like the salty or sugary stuff. There are mothers who tell me, “Oh!! Sad you are not giving her anything” but trust me she wouldn’t say no to cup of ghee dripping badam halwa from her grandmother or freshly made murukku (twisted gram flour crisps that are popular in South India) from a local store.
A request to share with us three simple and healthy snacks that you make at home?
Puffed rice : You get plain puffed rice in the store and I just roast it in a heated pan and add salt and chilli powder to taste. You can also add a garlic pod for flavour.
Roasted Gram Laddus : You can dry roast one cup roasted gram, grind it along with one cup of jaggery in the mixer. Then, transfer the mixture to a tray and add ghee and make small laddus. They can be stored in an airtight container. This laddu works very well when Naabhya has a cold since it helps remove phlegm.
Raw banana chips : Just heat oil in a pan and fry the sliced raw banana and add salt and spice.
Can you share a note to other Mammas on the importance of choosing healthy snacks and some tips on how to make it possible in their busy schedules?
Snacks can actually play an important role in managing kids hunger. Always give a small quantity so that the snack does not become their meal. I find that the young kids derive great satisfaction in finishing their bowl of snack. I have also observed that avoiding artificial flavours and preservatives have a lot of impact on their behaviour. A snack can be as simple as a roasted papad from the tava and does not have to be anything fancy.
I also generally follow the traditional method when it come to food because it is already tested by our ancestors.