Food and nutrition: snack, skip, starve or splurge?

Weight loss is broadly associated with our eating habits. Plenty of theories keep us wondering what is the right way ahead. Every new wellness fad diet promises results.

Recently the focus has been more on meal patterns, is how we come across plans that suggest, nibbling on to smaller meals throughout the day or skipping a meal altogether, going into a starvation mode for hours with a window to have meals or splurge into anything termed as healthy.


Smaller and frequent meals every 2-3 hours helps in improving the metabolic rate of the body and assists in weight loss is what many believe.

Snacks according to some is about having one plate of paani puri without that extra puri, one subway sandwich loaded with fat free sauces, a pack of roasted chips or digestive biscuits.

What you can follow:

Low carb small meals within the range of 100-150 calories. Choose an

unflavoured greek yoghurt pack with berries, have a fistful of nuts or a fruit.

Frequency of smaller meals again results in nibbling every hour. Whether is 2 cookies or a handful of peanuts, cheese cubes, a piece of cake, opening the refrigerator and eating some leftover pizza or burger.

What you can follow:

Having 2 snacks per day besides your 3 meals. Mid morning and an evening snack keeping in mind the portion size.

Liquid choices used as fillers. Fruit juices, aerated drinks, tea or coffee. Fresh fruit juices are considered to be a healthy option, aerated drinks to overcome the sweet cravings or tea and coffee to curb hunger pangs.

What you can follow:

To enhance the nutritional value of liquid calories having coconut water, a vegetable juice with some fibre added back, green tea, buttermilk, shikanji with chia seeds or kanji, prevents piling up those unwanted empty calories.


Skipping a meal, usually breakfast. Breakfast seems like the easiest meal to skip assuming it’s less time consuming to prepare and a lighter meal of the day.

What you can follow:

Contrary to this, breakfast has to be a healthier and balanced meal that can push you through several hours that require more physical activity, efficiency and alertness. Research findings indicate skipping breakfast could lead to higher intake of food by evening. Fatigue or hypoglycaemia can be a possibility.

Fasting: Following a fasting period of 14-16 hours seems to the new norm. In this state the body reserves are used to provide energy that have been stored in a postprandial period, that is after a meal. The understanding here is balancing the stored and burning capacity of reserves. It may help people to improve the metabolic profile, reduce inflammation due to diseases, yet may not be sustainable. In case of a medical condition, consult a doctor before starting it. People who train early in the day require energy for their workouts.

What you can follow:

By having an early dinner we can improve digestion, prevent acid reflux, sleep and wake cycles are balanced out and we get a natural period of fasting by breakfast time. Skipping meals will not be necessary.

Elimination of certain food groups. Another concept of elimination of dairy, having negligible carbohydrates, avoiding non vegetarian food is gaining popularity. It’s understandable when some have gluten or dairy intolerance or avoid non vegetarian food for environmental reasons.

What you can follow:

Eventually our system requires a balance of all nutrients as well as what we grew up eating and according to the regional food that we are accustomed. Unless nutritional requirements are not met with, deficiencies are likely. Fortified cereals,sprouting of grains or having more of fermented food are options for enhancing nutritional value.



Here’s when a person starves the body of carbohydrates as the primary fuel. Fats replace glucose as the primary energy provider. Keto acidosis can be complication among diabetics. Following diets that may not be in sync with your health parameters can be life threatening.

Having just one food group throughout the day and for a week. This deprives a person of a wholesome meal pattern. A severely restricted calorie diet cannot be sustainable and eventually when a regular diet replaces this, excess weight gain is likely. A fruit diet can be one such example. Limited calorie intake can lead to a decreased level of metabolism.

Liquid diet: Detox form of a diet when only liquids are the source throughout the day. This again cannot provide adequate calories and nutrients.


What’s termed healthy can have you carried away: Whether it’s fruits, nuts, a healthier grain option. This is when your weight loss journey can do a somersault.

What you can follow:

Having 2-3 fruits a day, a fistful of nuts, lesser fat consumption by opting for cow’s milk instead of buffalo milk, choosing homemade paneer over store bought as well as introducing locally sourced millets.

Not knowing when to stop: Portion control of meals is essential. Watching television, while working, having a drink, a celebration,all of this means lesser mindfulness of what is had.

What you can follow:

Allocate a fixed time for meals at the dinner table, do not wait till you are famished. Starting off with some protein based salad. Choose a smaller plate so it fills up faster. Wait for a while after your first helping, this helps you gauge whether the satiety levels have been achieved.

Misconceptions: Low fat, sugar free: Low fat may sound as a healthier option and associated with lower calories. Lower fat versions often contain more of sugar and are high in refined carbohydrates. It’s a substitute from one unhealthy ingredient to another.

Sugar free: Often in these products artificial sweeteners are added. Whether dates, honey or jaggery are used to make sugar free sweets, all of these are calorie dense.

The key to mindful eating is to get the daily required nourishment for overall wellness and renewed energy levels by having balanced meals and maintaining portion control of food.


Author: Komal Lala,


Komal Lala is a nutritionist and a health coach, certified in weight management and clinical nutrition from ACSM, a Diploma in health education DNHE, PG in Clinical Nutrition. She is affiliated to NSI (Nutrition Society of India) and IAPEN (Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition).You can contact her at [email protected]

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