While evening is the time when our metabolism begins to diminish, it is also the time when our chances of snacking or eating a cheat meal are more than any other point of the day. Many of us follow our diet religiously till lunchtime, but somewhere around 4pm, the munchies strike and we are tempted to dig into junk or unhealthy foods because of easy availability, to seek comfort in the calorie-laden food after a hectic first half of the work day or out of sheer boredom. So, for many of us, what we eat in the evening could have a major impact on our weight loss journey and the reason for that unexpected weight gain even though one is eating healthy meals in breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Also read: Work-from-home snacks: Popcorns to roasted chickpeas; 7 healthy recipes for mid-meal cravings)
“A common problem faced by most of my clients is that they can follow the diet very well up to lunchtime but at 4 pm snacks is the time usually when they go tend to go off the board and the entire day’s effort seems to go to waste,” says Avantii Deshpaande, Gut health expert and nutritionist in an interview with HT Digital.
WHY WE BREAK RULES AT 4PM
Avantii says one of the many reasons why 4 pm snacks are unhealthy is due to boredom especially when you are in the office and yummy food seems to be a perfect break and many times sensible food choices might not be available while choosing unhealthy food or junk becomes easier.
“At times you might end up feeling very hungry at the 4 pm snack time and this can be a time when you eat a big meal keeping the dinner light,” says the nutritionist.
Avantii also suggests 3 worst and 2 best foods that one can have as an evening snack when you are troubled by hunger pangs.
EVENING SNACKS TO AVOID
1. Junk food or high carbs food
Junk food like samosas, puffs or any other bakery items are easily available at the tea stalls along with high sugar tea or coffee. If you are at home too, you tend to pick fried snacks or empty calories foods at 4 pm. Bakery items contain trans-fat which will increase the triglycerides and the bad cholesterol and potent carcinogen, not to forget the high calories coming from saturated fats with practically no nourishment. Even the fried snacks like namkeen, wafers, or biscuits which are consumed with tea is practically devoid of nutrition and in fact high in empty calories and fat. It’s best to avoid these at the 4 pm snack time.
2. Just fruits or fruit juices
Of course, fruits are nourishing and rich in vitamins and minerals. But we cannot forget that fruits are high in simple sugar fructose. High fructose is known to affect the digestive system and also could result in high levels of uric acid in the body. It’s best to combine fruit with nuts or nut butter. This way the fructose will be absorbed slowly as protein and good fats from the nuts will slow this process. Another way to consume fruit is to make a nut milkshake or then have fruit with unsweetened yogurt.
Many times people consume only fruit juice at 4 pm as it’s easily available or then it’s a replacement for tea. Fruit juice will spike sugar levels in the blood instantly and they are devoid of fibre. Also, fruits like watermelon have sugar in them. So, it’s always better to have a whole fruit with vegetables and then make a juice like carrots, watermelon, and spinach juice with chia seeds.
3. Only tea and coffee
A lot of people consume plain tea or coffee at 4 pm. A lot of times it could cause acidity, especially if it’s strong. Another thing is that if tea and coffee have added sugar that could be one more reason which will spike the insulin levels. In that case combine the tea or coffee with healthy snacks like makhanas, khakhras, and nuts, or then have a roll of chapati with nut butter or just an open sandwich with this.
EVENING SNACKS TO EAT
1. Protein-rich snack
Many people feel extremely hungry at 4 pm and would love to have a major snack and keep the dinner light. This is actually a brilliant idea. You can choose to have a small meal or repeat the breakfast choices at 4 pm. Make it a point to consume a protein and carbs combination or just a protein snack. For example, consuming egg sandwiches or rolls, oats or breakfast cereal and milk, idli, dosa, or dal dosa. A paneer paratha or sandwich will also be a good idea.
This works well if you are not able to have a salad portion at lunchtime or going to miss it anyways at the dinner time. Make sure that you add a protein portion along with the vegetables in the salad like paneer, eggs, soy nuggets, nuts, chicken, or fish. Have about 250g to 300g of the salad portion.
HOW ABOUT SKIPPING EVENING SNACKS?
“A lot of people have been doing this. There is no right or wrong when you want to follow this. Just keep these things in mind – keep the lunch well balanced and see that the dinner is not too late which might lead to hypoglycemia or eating extra at the dinner time. A lot of people eat lunch and have an early dinner without having a 4 pm snack which is a good idea in itself. This ensures that you have an early dinner two hours before bedtime. But see that the dinner is not very late,” says Avantii.