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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.

Move Over, Combos: Here’s a Snack That Actually Does Taste Like Pizza

Snack Review: Scrack’s Griss Pomodoro e Basilico (Tomato Basil)

I recently spent time in Italy, where, not surprisingly, I ate really well. One of the things that struck me most about the food was its simplicity.

Italians generally aren’t into complicated preparations—no fancy sous-vide cooking methods or heavy sauces; they prefer to just use a few high-quality, fresh ingredients, and let those ingredients speak for themselves. For example, to make a delicious margherita pizza, Italians basically just use flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. Forget the processed cheese blends and jarred sauces we use in the U.S.; they’re all about natural flavors and goodness.

This food principle, that beauty lies in the simplicity, doesn’t just apply to an Italian’s meals but to snacktime, too. When in Rome, I peered around some grocery stores, and I noticed there weren’t thousands of brands of processed snack foods like we have here. An Italian friend explained to me that they’re more likely to have “real food” as a snack, like a small sandwich, instead of a big bag of chips and dip. And if they do eat a packaged snack, it’s usually something pretty simple, like bruschetta or crostini crackers (which are the same concept as bruschettas you’d get in a restaurant–bread with oil, tomatoes, and basil—but in cracker form). I saw several brands of these treats in Italy, and when I returned home, I was happy to discover that similar kinds of snacks are sold in the U.S., too. I had just never noticed them before, amidst the twenty-thousand other chips, pretzels, cookies, etc. we have here.

While at my local Amish Market, I picked up a bag of one kind to try called Scrack–a play on the wordsnack, I’m guessing—made by the companyPanealba.* Scrack are small crackers shaped like mini-loaves of bread, and they taste like tomato-ey basil goodness. My husband likes them, too—he says that they taste just like pizza. (He’s a pizzaholic; he should know!) If you’re addicted to pizza-flavored snacks like Combos, you should definitely try Scrack—they have a more natural taste, and they contain fewer than ten ingredients: flour, basil, tomatoes, olive oil, vegetable oil, brewer’s yeast, malt, so they’re much simpler and healthier than Combos (which have over 20 ingredients, including four kinds of food coloring!). Also, Scrack is low in calories—110 for half a cup, and they’re very low in fat–only 2.5 grams for that serving.

There is one downside, which is that they don’t contain a lot of vitamins and minerals, and they also lack protein. So they’re not bad for you, but they’re also not super good for you. They’re great for when you need quick carbohydrate energy, like before a run, but they’re not going to be as filling as something with a more balanced carb-protein ratio. So if you’re really starving and need something more satisfying, I’d suggest doing something like pita chips and hummus instead.

Still, you can’t beat having your favorite restaurant dish bruschetta available in portable snack form! Now if only the U.S. sold the mini-juice boxes of wine that I saw all over Italy (even in vending machines there!). Then I would really have the perfect snack.

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