Not eating between meals used to be one of the 10 diet commandments. While the rule hasn't gone away, various theories have blurred the line between 'do's' and 'don'ts', and comfort levels have risen with snacking. The more relaxed attitude towards afternoon snacks could be a result of longer working hours and the knowledge that energy dips are related to nutrient intake. It takes about three hours to digest a meal, so if you finish lunch at 2pm and don't eat again until 9pm, that's a four-hour fast you are forcing upon your system. If permission to snack is a lovely thought, this still does not, sadly, mean breaking out the Kit-Kat at the first sign of hunger pangs or low sugar levels. Even if chocolate's better qualities, such as its mood-enhancing properties, are enjoying their 15 minutes of fame, there are healthier, less calorific, alternatives. And, in true just-add-water modern mentality, the time lapse between desire and gratification in the new ranges of healthy fast foods is minimal. They also come in environmentally friendly cardboard containers, so there's no messing about with tins, tin openers, mugs or bowls. Ignoring the ubiquitous polystyrene on supermarket shelves for its non-environmentally correct properties, the sole healthy-ish offerings in plastic containers are by Britain's The Pot Noodle Company. For all of them, the most you have to find in the company kitchen is a spoon, and the biggest effort required is peeling back the lid, adding hot water, and carrying back to your desk. Add water, stir well, let it stand for a few minutes and you have a snack that will carry you through to dinner without ruining it entirely. The three best between-meals ranges with which to stock your desk's bottom drawer are Fantastic, President's Choice and The Spice Hunter. There is also The Pot Noodle Company's selection, which includes flavours such as spicy curry. All claim that all-important quality for inclusion in this culinary trousseau with which to greet the five o'clock blues: no artificial colours or preservatives. Even better if they are made with organic ingredients, such as Fantastic's hot cereals and couscous ranges. Some, such as The Spice Hunter's Szechuan Noodle Soup, even trumpet their exclusion of monosodium glutamate (MSG). All are low fat, with calories per serving ranging from 130 (The Spice Hunter's New England clam chowder) to 240 (Fantastic's organic black bean salsa couscous). Most contain less than 200 calories, including The Spice Hunter's Kasba Curry at 150 calories (with 10 of those from fat) and President's Choice Spicy Thai, which has 187 calories. The downside is that most of them have too much sodium, which is not ideal for those on a limited-salt diet. The hunt for healthier hot snacks in Hong Kong is, unfortunately, not a one-stop-shop experience, which makes it much more difficult to sample the full range than it does to prepare any of the meals on offer. ParknShop's upmarket branches offer a selection from all four ranges. Oliver's fills in the blanks with a few cereals and a smattering of couscous. Health Gate usually does a great range of instant organic mashed potatoes, along with a selection of noodles, curries, couscous and rice pots. The US-made Fantastic has the largest range in Hong Kong, and is most widely available. The selection includes everything from 'wheat 'n' berries' hot cereal and sweetcorn couscous to vegetable barley soup and black bean salsa couscous. Although Fantastic's hot cereals are a tried-and-trusted favourite, they are pushed into the background by the US-manufactured President's Choice instant-oats banana and pecan flavour. The mix is crunchy and wholesome, and redolent of fresh country cooking farmhouse mornings. Apart from being a great breakfast, the medium-sized serving gets top marks for filling the gap between lunch and a latish dinner. Another choice that will leave you with a smug low-fat-high-fibre feel-good glow is President's Choice apple and spice oatmeal blend. While expectations of fresh Mediterranean pleasures in a cardboard cup should be kept in check, Fantastic's couscous range gets the thumbs up. And that is not only because the selections are made with organic couscous. When done, the sweetcorn and the beans are soft and bear little of that dehydrated vegetable feel. Unlike The Spice Hunter's Kasba Curry, a spicy Indian soup that benefits from an abundance of rice and almonds. The carrots give the game away, making it difficult to conjure up more exotic pursuits than the reality: eating soup with dehydrated vegetables in a cardboard cup at your desk. Also, given the number of people who leave raisins in a little heap on the sides of their plates, they could have held the raisins. Of course, these add-water offerings are also viable alternatives to not eating at all on busy days. Or to a lunchbox or sandwich over your keyboard. What they will never be are substitutes for fresh food and balanced, cooked meals. Neither will they ever replace chocolate as a between-meals pleasure. But like the modern chocolate revivalists chant, there's nothing wrong with eating chocolate. As long as you don't do it all the time.