Sunday, November 25, 2012

After-School Snacks for All

Ruma asked for ideas for make-ahead snacks, saying, "We get back home at 6 but don't have dinner right away....that leads to major bad decisions ;) Anything that can be made in a batch, or quickly conjured up is appreciated."

Er, I might know a little something about those bad decisions. In a typical scenario, we're an hour or two away from dinner when hunger gets the better of me and then the rickety wall of willpower standing between me and a party-size bag of chips comes crumbling down. You don't have to go to school to need an after school snack.

So I've made it a habit to eat a hearty snack right around 4:30 PM. For me, this time is right because it is an hour before I start making dinner and two hours before we actually eat dinner. I'm not really eating 3 big meals a day, but more like 6 small meals, and this snack is one of those meals. These smaller frequent meals seem to keep my blood sugar on a more even keel, which makes for all sorts of better decisions and a sunnier disposition, believe me. 

My six rules for "after-school" snacking:
1. Eat before you get ravenously hungry. The hungrier you get, the poorer the decision about what to eat. So schedule the snack into your day.
2. Portion out the snack before you sit down to eat. This is for those of us who have problems with portion control. You know who you are.
3. Even if you're still hungry after eating your portioned out snack, don't go get seconds. Wait for 20 minutes after eating the snack- that's how long it can take for the brain to register satiety. Distract yourself with something else meanwhile.
4. Drink a couple of glasses of water. A lot of times what you think is hunger is really thirst.
5. On that same note, a hot drink can be wonderfully refreshing in the afternoon. I need a cup of caffeine in the form of chai at this hour or I'll be dragging all evening. If you're not one for caffeine, you might enjoy a warm cup of apple cider, or cocoa made from a homemade mix using skim milk or almond milk.
6. Plan ahead and have good snack foods handy. I've listed some of my favorite ideas below. 

Snacks that can be made ahead in a large batch, perhaps on the weekend:

1. Vegetable patties: I know I mention these puppies in every other post, but everyone really always loves them. You can mash all sorts of vegetables, form them into patties and fry them up (only a few drops of oil needed) into delectable snacks. I made a batch of the mix this long weekend and we enjoyed patties several times for snacks. This one had potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, onions and cilantro with plenty of zing from ginger and garlic. You can make the patties ahead of time too- they reheat beautifully in the skillet or microwave.

2. Chivda or trail mix: My personal snack craving is for crunchy, salty, spicy foods. This evening, I made this big batch of baked cereal chivda: In a large bowl, mix your favorite unsweetened cereal (I used cornflakes and chex) and all sorts of nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts). Heat some oil/butter and make a tempering with mustard seeds, fennel seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, chilli powder. Add the seasoning plus some lemon juice to the bowl and mix well. Pour into a baking sheet, spread out and bake at 250F for an hour. Add raisins/dried cherries/cranberries. Cool and store for snacking.

There are at least eleventy billion versions of chivda and chex mix on the internet or you can invent your own house mix. This can be made in a microwave, oven or stove top.

3. Dips and crudites. On the weekend, cut up a big container of veggie sticks- cucumber, carrot, celery, bell peppers, beets and place in the fridge. Some people like raw cauliflower and broccoli too- I don't particularly. Then, make a dip or two and stick it in the fridge. My three favorites dips are yogurt dip with herbs (drain yogurt to thicken it), sweet potato hummus, bean dip with Mexican flavors.

4. Boiled edamame or boiled peanuts. Make a big batch and store in the fridge.

5. Fruit salad: Fruits get eaten if they're nicely cut into bite size cubes and are ready to eat. Make a big fruit salad and enjoy a bowlful, sprinkled with chaat masala if you like.

6. Sprouts bhel: Make a big batch of moong or matki sprouts, steam them and mix with cubes of cucumber, tomato, boiled potato. This would be fine in the fridge for 3 days or so. I would add salt and chaat masala just before eating. Date chutney can also be stored in the fridge for weeks to be spooned over chaat.

7. I rarely crave sweet snacks, but for those who do, one idea would be to make a big batch of granola bars, or oatmeal cookies or peanut laddus.

For those who eat dinner late, here's an idea: Make a big batch of soup on the weekend, brimming with vegetables and beans. Eat a bowlful a couple of hours right when you get home, as a first course, then eat the rest of the meal at your usual dinner time.

Snacks that can be quickly conjured up:

Stock up your pantry/fridge with any or all of the following: nut butters, whole grain crackers, whole grain pita bread and tortillas, fruit (bananas, grapes, apples, pears, oranges), cheese, boiled eggs, jarred salsa, jarred pasta sauce, roasted nuts.

Then you can quickly mix and match to make snacks like apples with almond butter, grapes and cheese, mini pita pizzas. One of my favorite childhood snacks was peanuts with bits of jaggery. A sort of deconstructed laddu.

Got any brilliant snack ideas to share? Speak your heart out in the comments.


  1. This post is just what I needed to strengthen my resolve to eat sensibly.
    When pregnant, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, as a result, I ate 6 small meals with protein in each, later everything went awry and i let myself go. I regret it and now want to pull myself out of this sad stage.
    It was just today that I was planning how to go about it all and now this post! It's a sign :)

    Some standard snacks I make-
    'kurmure chiwda', I find that a bowl of this is good to fill me up, fortified with peanuts (just to give it a small amount of nutritional value)

    Popcorn- NOT microwave popcorn, one you can pop in a thick bottom pan / pressure cooker.

    I love peanuts and jaggery too.

    'dadpe pohe'/ dry bhel- easy and quick and satisfying

    Cutlets. many a times, I have a left over methi or daal paratha from lunch, I heat it and much on that with my cup of adrak chai.

    On days I do not feel like making anything, I like to eat a banana, it is filling and I follow one rule, eat fruit before a regular meal, never after. This is not restricted to banana- any fruit, presimmons ( a fall favorite), pear, apple, a small 'vati' of berries.

    Crackers with a bit of cheese.

    Dates and nuts ladoo (no added sugar, of course) or just 5-8 almonds and walnuts.

    I am now eager to see what ideas others come up with so I can try some out!

    1. Don't beat yourself up! Every day is a fresh start. I love your ideas- and yes, a paratha is a favorite snack for me too.

  2. great ideas as always nupur. I have stopped walking into the readymade/ fried snacks aisle and avoid all the little hot chips shops that abound in india because that is my curse.

    I keep lots of fruit at home, buy khakra and have with dips, use puffed rice to make a quick instant bhel using bottled tomato chilli sauce.

    soup is something i want to cultivate more of as a habit.

    cutlets/ patties too is a top favourite at the Escapades household!

    when feeling picky but not usually hungry, i reach for a drink of home made buttermilk, which i make in large amounts and store in bottles for 2-3 days, or milk/ chai

    1. Oh those hot chips shops are ridiculously tempting! Khakra has got to be one of my all time favorite snacks, especially smeared with ghee and peanut chutney powder. I love the idea of keeping buttermilk handy during summer too.

  3. Great post! I love all your ideas. Here's what we do after we come home from work:

    1) Make popcorn from scratch (as Manasi mentioned above). hubby likes his 'spicy' using indian spices while I love it very very lightly sweet (cinnamon + brown sugar). We add these spices after hearing 2-3 popcorns pop.

    2) Baked sweet potato fries with greek yogurt dip : Again made from scratch, we like our 'fries' spiced with curry powder and fresh rosemary and dip flavoured with some garlic powder, cilantro, sumac and salt

    3)Boiled edamame or peanuts are my favorite snack, if I have them at home. :) We also like cucumber rubbed with black salt as a light snack or string cheese in different flavors (check Aldi or Trader Joe's).

    4) Spicy dry roasted peanuts = Rub a few drops of peanut oil on dry roasted peanuts + spices (red chilli pwd, chaat masala)+ salt, black salt and some sugar. Rub everything together, microwave for 1 minute and munch on 'after it cools down'.

    5) In corn season, we fire roast a corn indian style and drench it in lime juice and spices (slurp!) when the craving hits in winter we thaw some frozen fire roasted corn (homemade or store bought) and make a corn chaat!

    6) Cereal! I might be the only person doing this; I love a 'warm' bowl of very lightly sweetened milk + cornflakes/ cereals as an evening snack. I don't have cereals in the morning. :P

    7) Dadpe pohe/ kachcha chiwda: Hubby does this when I have my cereal. We also make bhel sometimes or munch on 'bhadang' if there's some.

    - Priti

    1. Thanks for all the ideas! You're not the only one- I enjoy cereal as a snack but never as breakfast :) And yes, corn on the cob is a wonderful snack.

  4. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing! Do you freeeze your cutlets or just store them in the fridge?

    1. I store cutlets in the fridge for 4 days or so. They never last long is the problem- I mean we eat them up :)

      They freeze well too. Here's a post with details:

    2. I revisited the post about the patties!Thanks!

  5. Weather is cold in Bangalore and it calls for evening snacks. Thanks for your ideas. We usually do these:
    1) Full corn, boil, add butter, salt, pepper, lime and enjoy...
    2) Sweet potatoes, boil, peel and munch..
    3) puffed rice (sauted in oil with garlic, curry leaves, red chillies, turmeric)
    - Vidya

    1. Love the ideas! Sweet potato as a snack is something I'd to try. And corn when it is in season.

  6. Here are some ideas.

    Sliced apple/pear slathered with almond butter
    Masala ginger chai with a rusk or two. Or a Methi Khakra. Or a small bowl of chivda... you get the drift!
    1 - 2 Medjool dates
    Half a Larabar

    All that being said, I am working on keeping my snack intake to a minimum, chai being my biggest concession.

    1. I'm working on increasing my snack intake :) because then I don't overeat during meals. Thanks for the ideas!

    2. Actually, I have come to realize that I don't need a lot of food to feel satisfied. When I eat slower (I tend to eat rather fast), I am able to chew better, savor each mouthful, and the quantity is just perfect. But it takes practice because I have gotten so used to rapid-eating, rapid-speaking, rapid-thinking... sigh. But I am getting there, I know!

  7. This post seems like telepathy ! I just just returned home from work, was really hungry and munching mixed nuts when I saw your post.

    One snack that I love is making a simple upkari with canned chickpeas, ginger, onions, tomatoes, corriander, green chilly , and lemon juice. Its healthy, low in carbs and keeps your filled for long time.

    Thanks for the brilliant ideas Nupur. I am going to try making a batch of snacks.

    1. Oh the chickpea upkari sounds wonderful!

  8. Great ideas Nupur! Excited that you're back to blogging regularly. How do you do it all!

    I lived abroad in Turkey for a year when I was in college, and loved the tradition of eating chestnuts in the wintertime. When I come home, I roast a handful directly on top of my induction stove, and when it cracks you know it's meaty middle is nearly ready for primetime. Yum!

    1. Mmm- chestnuts- wonderful snack in winter!

  9. I love the veggie patty idea! Yum - those look delicious! So you cook up veggies then mash them together then make the patties?

    And sweet potato hummus? That sounds great, too!

    Great ideas - thanks!


    Book By Book

    1. Yup- cook veggies (boil or steam or saute) and mash them together. Let me know if you want specific recipes and I'll dig them up for you.

  10. Thanks Nupur. Returned from vacation to a lovely well-thought post.

    - Ruma


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