A snack is a portion of food, often 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 midnight snack.

Healthy Snack Trend: Single-Serving Nut Butters

Justin’s Peanut Butter and Almond Butter Squeeze Packets

Come on, ’fess up: How many of you can’t buy peanut butter because you know that once you open it, you won’t be able to get your finger out of the jar?

I’m very guilty of the above-mentioned crime, so I was psyched to see that a new company calledJustin’s sells single-serving 100-calorie squeeze packets (.6 oz) of organic honey peanut butterand natural maple almond butter. Now I can have my much-loved healthy snack of peanut butter and pretzels or peanut butter on an apple without having to worry I’ll eat a whole jar. I suggest bringing a packet with you to school or work, along with a small bag of celery, whole-wheat rice cakes, pretzels, or apple slices, for a great mid-morning or late-afternoon snack.

Usually, I prefer almond butter to PB (peanut butter), but Justin’s 100-calorie almond butter is maple-flavored, and I’ve never been a fan of maple-flavored things (though I do like maple syrup on pancakes), so I prefer the honey PB packets. Peanut butter is not quite as good for you as almond butter, because it has less monounsaturated fat (good fat) and more polyunsaturated fat (bad fat), but both nut butters are great sources of protein, Vitamin E, and niacin. Plus, they help you feel full longer and give you long-lasting energy, which is why I particularly like to eat them in the morning (on whole-grain toast) or before I run. (See this Runner’s World article for more info on why PB is a good pre- and post-workout snack.) Also, Justin’s peanuts are USDA Certified organic and tested aflatoxin free, and the butters don’t contain any added oils or refined sugars.

 

If the 100-calorie packets aren’t enough for you, they also come in slightly larger squeeze packets of 1.15 oz each. These bigger packets come in more varieties—honey PB, cinnamon PB, and regular PB; or honey almond, maple almond, or regular almond (the last one is my favorite). Buy them on theirWeb site, or in some grocery stores such as New York’s Amish Market. (Justin’s Web site doesn’t have a store locator list yet, but the site promises that it’s coming soon.)

Jif’s Peanut Butter Tubs

A more familiar name in peanut butter—Jif—is now also selling single-serving portions of peanut butter in little cups that come in six packs.

Pros:

  • The Jif cups are easier to find at grocery stores than Justin’s.
  • Some people like the smooth, familiar taste of PB like Jif better than natural, grainier brands.

Cons:

  • Jif peanut butter cups are not as healthy as Justin’s packets. They’re not organic, and they contain fully hydrogenated vegetable oils. Fully hydrogenated oil doesn’t contain trans fat, but it’s still highly processed which is not necessarily good for you.
  • Jif’s single-serving packets are a bit too big! The cups contain 64 grams of PB, which has 390 calories, as opposed to Justin’s 100-calorie packets. That’s fine if you’re making a meal out of it, but too many calories for just a snack (and who has the willpower to only eat half of a tub that’s called a single-serving tub?). If you do buy them, my trick is to scoop one big tablespoon of it out into a small plastic container, seal it, and put it into the fridge right away. Decrease the portion a little in the beginning, or you’ll never do it later.
  • Tanya Taylor is a PhD and a food chemist for a food ingredients company. She also runs the excellent blog I Ate A Pie.net. She knows her stuff! (And she’s very nice, too.) In her review of Jif Creamy Peanut Butter To Go she says that "Jif To Go is an absolute no-no." Check out Tanya’s site – it’s really great.

Packaging Close-Up: Do the Justin’s Squeeze Packets Really Work?

I told you about the taste and nutritional value of Justin’s nut butters, but how easy are the squeeze packets themselves? Here’s my photo story review.

Introduction

I bought the 1.15 oz squeeze packets of classic almond butter (the .6 oz 100-calorie packs are just not enough for me), and I took one of them with me to work, along with a whole-grain roll. My plan was to make a little almond-butter sandwich.

Step 1

First, you’re supposed to knead the package. The natural oils in almond butter cause a little separation, and kneading ensures you get a well-blended product.

Step 2

Rip open the packet. (It was easy to open; no teeth or scissors required.)

Step 3

Once you rip open the packet, you’re supposed to squeeze out the almond butter and enjoy. HOWEVER, when I was done squeezing it onto my bread, I could feel that there was a bunch of it left that I couldn’t seem to get out. So I grabbed a knife and dug in to the package.

Step 4

I started getting frustrated. The knife method wasn’t working that well—I couldn’t seem to scrape out that last bit stuck in the bottom. And I am not one to waste delicious food! I was still hungry. I needed to get that last drop.

Finally, I savagely ripped the whole package apart with my hands. Victory! I got you, almond butter!

There was even more left in the package than I had realized!

I guess I hadn’t kneaded it as well as I thought. All the moist almond butter had squeezed out, and this drier stuff was left at the bottom of the package.

The remaining part may have been dry, but it was still tasty.

Of course, this is when my boss walked in to ask me a question, and there was almond butter all over my hands and keyboard…

Verdict

The packets aren’t perfect—they’re harder to use than a tub or jar—but they’re so small and they fit so easily into your bag that they’re worth it. (Plus they’re such a big help with portion control.) Just bring a small plastic knife or spoon with you to work, to aid your squeezing.

Enjoy!

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