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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.

Dried Cherries Are The Best In-Flight Snack...

Traveling somewhere this winter? Don’t take off without reading this…

Whenever you fly, it’s a good idea to pack your carry-on bag with a healthy snack. Flights usually don’t serve real food anymore, and those little free cocktail nut or snack mix bags they give out are usually too salty or just too darn unsatisfying. You could wait and pick something up at the airport, but then there’s a chance you won’t find anything particularly healthy, and you may end up impulse-buying a candy bar (which will give you a short-lived sugar high instead of real sustenance). Flying is definitely one area where planning your snack ahead of time is key. (See Chris’s post on the importance of deciding your snacks in advance.) 

So what should you bring? I suggest dried cherries. That may seem like a random choice, but they’re a super flight food because they not only help stave off hunger (fruit has fiber that helps fill you up), but—get this—they may also help stave off jet lag. Yep, jet lag. According to a New York Times article I came across a while back, cherries have melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland. Russel Reiter, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at the University of Texas Health and Science Center, is quoted in the article as explaining that melatonin is absorbed into your blood stream and helps regulate your biological clock; thus, getting a little extra melatonin from cherries can possibly help you feel more awake during, and after your travels.


Additional health benefits

Cherries have other health benefits besides melatonin. They’re good for your heart: According to a study by the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine Program, the antioxidants in cherries are a type of flavonoid, which lower blood lipids (blood fats like triglycerides and total cholesterol levels), which in turn can help reduce the risk of a heart attack and can also possibly help with diabetes control. There was also a study done that shows cherries can help reduce inflammation (though this study was done with fresh cherries, not dried; not sure if dried ones would have the same effect).

Now, I am not saying that cherries cure heart disease and arthritis, or that they’re a replacement for a good night’s sleep. I’m also not saying that people with sleep disorders should start taking melatonin supplements. Don’t do anything without talking to a doctor. All I’m saying is that if you need to bring a snack anyway, why not try something that will delight your taste buds—and possibly give you a little energy jump-start and health boost?

How to enjoy them:

Try dried cherries plain right out of the bag (you can find them at most supermarkets and health food stores). Or combine them with nuts and put your mixture in a little Ziplock for easy transport. (Dried cherries are on the pricey side as far as dried fruit is concerned, so mixing them with other things will make your supply last longer.) I particularly like the way they taste with pecans or almonds (and those are quite good for you—stay tuned for my next post on the health benefits of nuts). For those of you with a sweet tooth like me, cherries are also great with plain dark chocolate (which is also good for you—yet another post coming soon!). If you want a more substantial snack, you can also mix them with granola, or dry cereal like flakes or O’s. Or, try them with some mini-pretzels. Then you’ll get the in-flight benefits of cherries and the in-flight benefits of salt from the pretzels. (A little extra salt can help with dehydration, common on planes because of the high altitudes and cabin temperatures. Note the key phrase is “a little” salt. Too much salt has its own problems.) Experiment a little and find the cherry snack-mix combo you enjoy the most.

Life’s not always a bowl of cherries, but maybe your next flight should be.

Happy travel

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