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National Snack Day

Today is dedicated to eating snacks! Snacks are usually smaller than a meal and often eaten between them. They are sometimes even eaten late at night and called midnight snacks. They can be bought processed or prepackaged, or made fresh at home. They may be unhealthy or healthy. The word "snack" derives from the Dutch word "snacken," which means to bite. By 1402, the word had appeared in English as a noun.

The first snack food in the United States was the peanut. Peanuts first arrived from South America via slave ships and began being used in cooking in southern plantations. It wasn't until after the Civil War that their popularity spread north, and they eventually became popular at baseball games and in vaudeville theaters. Snacks such as popcorn, pretzels, and peanuts were seen as being lower-class foods, and were sold from street vendors during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Many snack foods were sold or introduced at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, leading to their popularity across the country. Examples include cotton candy, hot dogs, waffle cones, and hamburgers. Jell-O was also invented around the turn of century, and the 1910s brought us the Oreo cookie and individually-wrapped chocolate Tastycakes.

Snacking gained popularity during the Prohibition era. At this time, pretzels became more accepted. The era of Prohibition and the Great Depression brought us the Butterfinger, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Twinkies, Snickers, Fritos, Ritz Crackers, and Lay's Potato Chips. Improved packaging made snack foods more popular—they had less of a contamination risk and could more easily be advertised with their visible logos.

During World War II, rationing of foodstuffs such as meat, butter, and sugar was part of the war effort, so not many new snacks were introduced. An exception was M&M's, which began being produced in 1941 for soldiers overseas. Cheetos are an example of a snack that was introduced shortly after the end of the war. By the 1950s, snacking had become an American pastime. The rest of the century brought us many new snacks: Pop-Tarts, Pringles, Doritos, Hunt's Snack Pack pudding, Gatorade, Combos, Reese's Pieces, Fruit Roll-Ups, and Teddy Grahams.

Today, Americans buy 4.3 billion pounds of snack food a year, eating seventeen pounds a person. The most popular snack food in America is the potato chip, which Americans gobble over six pounds a person of each year. The other top snack foods include nuts, microwave popcorn, and corn chips. Today's holiday was created by Jace Shoemaker-Galloway, the "Queen of Holidays."

How to Observe National Snack Day

Celebrate the day by eating snacks. It's not even necessary to eat any meals today; replace them with snacks and try as many as you can. Here are a few common snacks to get you started:

Popular Snacks:

  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Donuts
  • Ice cream
  • Popsicles
  • Pretzels
  • Crackers
  • Snack mix (such as Chex Mix or Gardetto's)
  • Candy

Healthier Snacks:

  • Fruits and vegetables (may be dipped in healthy dips such as hummus and yogurt)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grain cereals, oats, and granola bars with few added sweeteners
  • Low-fat yogurt and cheeses
  • Popcorn without a large amount of salt or fat added

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