There are a number of reasons why your child may have to begin following a gluten free diet. Gluten is found to be responsible for numerous mental and physical reactions that can cause pain, instability, or failure to thrive in children. Thankfully, gluten free food options are on the rise, and there are numerous gluten free snacks for kids both on the market and that you can make at home. No matter what your child’s age, or snacking habits, you’re sure to find several snacks that are safe for them to eat.
Gluten Free Criteria
While avoiding gluten seems like it will be easy in theory, in practice it can be more difficult. That’s because numerous packaged and prepared foods contain gluten to help improve taste or texture. Things like deli meat, pre-cooked chicken, numerous candies and chocolates, as well as fruit snacks and pudding all contain gluten, unless otherwise specified. In fact, so many different things contain gluten, that many people take a course in demystifying gluten to help them figure it out.
When choosing snacks for your kids, always look for the words “Gluten Free” whenever possible. This means that gluten cannot be detected even in very small trace amounts. If you are unable to find the words, “Gluten Free”, you may want to avoid that food. Even if the allergen information listed does not say “wheat”, “rye”, or “barley” gluten can still be present under names such as:
- Modified food starch
- Natural Flavoring
- Artificial Flavoring
- Vitamin E
Additionally, anything that has been “powdered”, such as powdered garlic or powdered onion may contain gluten as a filler. Other processed and packaged foods may become contaminated with gluten during the manufacturing process, because numerous manufacturing plants use wheat flour on their belts to keep the foods from sticking. That’s why things like fruit snacks and chocolate, that don’t ordinarily contain gluten, can still not be called gluten free. If you have questions about a specific food item, don’t hesitate to call the manufacturer to find out for sure.
10 Gluten Free Snacks for Kids
While it may seem as though everything out there is potentially contaminated with gluten, there are still lots of snacks that are fine for your kids to eat as you learn to navigate a gluten free lifestyle. This list of 10 foods is just a partial sampling of what you can find or make yourself at home that’s safe to eat.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
With the exception of Jerusalem artichokes, which make contain a substance similar to gluten, all fresh fruits and vegetables are gluten free and safe to eat. Many canned or jarred versions of the same foods are also OK, including things like applesauce. Avoid most dried fruits unless you have confirmation from the company that they are gluten free.
To make fruits and vegetables more appealing to your kids, try slicing them and serving them with a variety of dips and condiments such as peanut butter, honey, hummus, and salsa. You can also try dehydrating them or oven roasting them for more variety.
Raw and Roasted Nuts and Nut Butters
Nuts and nut butters are all naturally gluten free. Keep in mind that many nut plants use flour on their conveyor belts, while others package wheat containing items in the same facility. To ensure that what you are getting is gluten free, always call the manufacturer before you purchase, or order from a reputable supplier like Nuts.com that can certify their product to be gluten free.
While you may need to watch out for shredded cheese, which can sometimes contain gluten to keep it from sticking in the bag, cheese sticks and block cheeses are all naturally gluten free and make great snacks. Pair them with fruit or nuts to get a healthy variety.
With the exception of yogurts that contain cookie pieces or granola, yogurt is usually gluten free and a great snack for kids. You can either purchase ready made yogurt, or consider making your own. Top your yogurt with fresh fruit or gluten free granola for more variety as well.
Gluten Free Granola Bars
Granola and granola bars can be tricky, even if you make them yourself. While most of the ingredients that go into them are naturally gluten free, many kinds of oats have been contaminated with gluten. Some people with gluten intolerances or Celiac also find that they cannot tolerate any kind of oats for the first year or two after they go gluten free.
It is possible to find both gluten free oats and gluten free granola and granola bars, all of which make great snacks for kids. If you choose to make your own granola bars, just make you use gluten free oats, and a blend of different gluten free flours or grains. Mix them with either peanut butter or honey for a delicious and healthy snack.
Popcorn and Corn Chips
While not every snack food is gluten free, nearly all types of popcorn and corn chips are. These both make great snack options for kids. Corn chips can be served with salsa or hummus for dipping, and popcorn that you make yourself can be topped with a wide variety of additives to change the flavor, such as:
- Nutritional yeast
- Cinnamon and sugar
- White chocolate
Just make sure you pay attention to the labels of anything you purchase either to eat straight out of the bag, or to top your homemade popcorn with to be safe.
Gluten Free Pretzels
There are several different brands and varieties of gluten free pretzels on the market today, and they all make great gluten free snacks for kids. Most grocery stores now carry a few different varieties including pretzel sticks, twists, chocolate covered, and yogurt covered varieties. You can serve them on their own, or with dips made of yogurt or honey.
Homemade Bread and Toast
While it may take you a little while to get the recipe just right, consider investing in a bread maker and learning to make your own bread. Fresh, homemade bread sliced, toasted, and topped with butter, cream cheese, jam, or peanut butter makes a great snack for anyone.
If you look for real ice cream, the kind made with simple ingredients like milk, cream, vanilla, sugar, and eggs, you’ll probably find a wealth of different snack choices. Watch out for cake batter, cookie dough, and graham cracker varieties, as well as any brands that use chemicals and fillers, as they may contain gluten as well.
Gluten Free Crackers
There are numerous choices for gluten free crackers on the market today. Rice crackers, nut-based crackers, and conventional-style crackers all make great gluten free snacks for kids and adults. Serve the crackers plain or top them with a variety of other gluten free snacks, such as cheese, peanut butter, or fruit. You can also make your own crackers at home using almond flour as the base, adding several different flavors to help change up the taste.
Eat Well Even Gluten Free
Being gluten free doesn’t mean that you have to give up eating good food. No matter whether you opt for the convenience of packaged food, or you want to prepare your own, there are a lot of different choices and snack options for kids that are healthy and gluten free. Be sure to read the labels on everything you purchase each time unless it’s made by a dedicated gluten free manufacturer. Manufacturing processes can change at any time, which may mean a previously safe food now contains trace amounts of gluten. Check out this list of gluten free snacks for kids, and learn how to make going gluten free easy.