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A snack is a portion of food, smaller than a regular meal, 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 in the home. Often cold cuts, fruit, leftovers, nuts, sandwiches, and the like are used as snacks. The Dagwood sandwich was originally the humorous result of a cartoon character's desire for large 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).
Beverages, such as coffee, are not generally considered snacks though they may be consumed along with or in lieu of snack foods.
A snack eaten shortly before going to bed or during the night may be called a (mid)night snack.
In the United States, the first snack food was 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.
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