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A snack is a small portion of food generally eaten between meals. Snacks come in a variety of forms including packaged snack foods and other processed foods, as well as items made from fresh ingredients at home.
Traditionally, snacks are prepared from ingredients commonly available at home without a great deal of preparation. Often cold cuts, fruits, leftovers, nuts, sandwiches, and sweets are used as snacks. With the spread of convenience stores, packaged snack foods became a significant business.
Snack foods are typically designed to be portable, quick, and satisfying. Processed snack foods, as one form of convenience food, are designed to be less perishable, more durable, and more portable than prepared foods. They often contain substantial amounts of sweeteners, preservatives, and appealing ingredients such as chocolate, peanuts, and specially-designed flavors (such as flavored potato chips).
A snack eaten shortly before going to bed or during the night may be called a "bedtime snack", "late night snack", or "midnight snack".
In the United States, a popular snack food is the peanut. Peanuts first arrived from South America via slave ships and became incorporated into African-inspired cooking on southern plantations. After the Civil War, the taste for peanuts spread north, where they were incorporated into the culture of baseball games and vaudeville theaters.
Along with popcorn (also of South American origin), snacks bore the stigma of being sold by unhygienic street vendors. The middle-class etiquette of the Victorian era (1837–1901) categorized any food that did not require proper usage of utensils as lower-class.
Pretzels were introduced to North America by the Dutch, via New Amsterdam in the 17th century. In the 1860s, the snack was still associated with immigrants, unhygienic street vendors, and saloons. Due to loss of business during the Prohibition era (1920-1933), pretzels underwent rebranding to make them more appealing to the public. As packaging revolutionized snack foods, allowing sellers to reduce contamination risk, while making it easy to advertise brands with a logo, pretzels boomed in popularity, bringing many other types of snack foods with it. By the 1950s, snacking had become an all-American pastime, becoming an internationally recognized emblem of middle American life.
Main article: kue
Indonesia has a rich collection of snacks called kue (cakes and pastry), both savoury and sweet. Traditional kue is usually made from rice flour, coconut milk, and coconut sugar, and is mostly steamed or fried rather than baked. Traditional kue are popularly known as kue basah ("wet kue") that has a moist, soft texture because of rich coconut milk. Kue kering (dried kue) is the local name for cookies. Indonesia has several variations of kue, both native and foreign-influenced.
Traditional crackers are called krupuk, made from bits of shrimp, fish, vegetables or nuts, which are usually consumed as a crunchy snack or an accompaniment to meals. These crispy snacks are sometimes added to main dishes for their crunchy texture; several Indonesian dishes such as gado-gado, karedok, ketoprak, lontong sayur, nasi uduk, asinan and bubur ayam are known to require specific types of krupuk as toppings. There are wide variations of krupuk available across Indonesia. The most popular ones would be krupuk udang (prawn crackers) and krupuk kampung or krupuk putih (cassava crackers).
Other popular types include krupuk kulit (dried buffalo-skin crackers), emping melinjo (gnetum gnemon crackers), and kripik (chips/crisps), such as kripik pisang (banana chips) and keripik singkong (Cassava chips). Rempeyek is a flour-based cracker with brittle of peanuts, anchovies or shrimp bound by a crispy flour cracker. Rengginang or intip (Javanese) is a rice cracker made from sun-dried and deep fried leftover rice.
Main article: List of Japanese snacks
Japan has a very wide range of snack foods, some of which that are internationally popular, ranging from onigiri to Melon pan.
In the Middle East, one of the most important snacks that contains a huge amount of proteins is Lupin or lupini beans. Lupin contains around 33-40% protein. Another common snack in the Middle East is hummus made of chickpeas.
See also: Grazing (human eating pattern)
Government bodies, such as Health Canada, recommend that people make a conscious effort to eat more healthy, natural snacks, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, and cereal grains while avoiding high-calorie, low-nutrient junk food.
A 2010 study showed that children in the United States snacked on average six times per day, approximately twice as often as American children in the 1970s. This represents consumption of roughly 570 calories more per day than U.S. children consumed in the 1970s.
Further information: List of snack foods