With recent studies showing that many of the processed and packaged foods labeled as gluten-free aren’t actually healthier, it’s important to take a look at what we’re feeding our children with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity before they head back to school. Ideally, we would all have time to make each lunch or snack as healthy as possible (and hope that our kids will eat them), but with work and busy schedules, sometimes convenience becomes priority.
Fortunately, convenience still offers healthier gluten-free snack options. This list of the 10 best healthy gluten-free snacks for back to school highlights exactly which snacks and brands offer better options for your gluten-free kids. Drop these in a lunch box, backpack, or purse for easy eating.
While some of these may seem obvious, there are helpful tips within each one. Read on to see the best and most health-conscious choices for your gluten-free kids.
10 Best Healthy Gluten-Free Snacks For Back To School
Fruit makes for a sweet snack or dessert and is a great way to pack in extra vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. This may seem obvious, but are you giving your kids the right kind of fruit? Whole fruits, not those canned or packed in unhealthy syrups, are naturally gluten-free, making them an easy choice requiring little to no preparation. In choosing fruits, pay attention to the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists. These lists outline which fruits you should purchase organic to avoid pesticides and which are okay to purchase conventional. Below are a few options. Those labeled with a (*) are best to buy organic when possible.
Veggies are another great naturally gluten-free option for packing in extra vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. It’s usually just a matter of whether or not our kids will eat them. Organic carrot and celery sticks and sliced cucumbers and peppers all make great options. If your kids only eat veggies with a side of dip, there are some healthier gluten-free dip and dressing options.
Again, whichever vegetables you choose, check the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists.
3. Snack Bars
If convenience is what you need, snack bars are a great way to help curb the kiddos’ hunger cravings and still deliver nutrition. What you’ll want to look out for and avoid are unnecessary additives, fillers, and sweeteners that add calories and sugar, but no nutritional value. A few good gluten-free options include:
Lara bars are a tasty, whole food, gluten-free blend of unsweetened fruits, nuts and spices. Flavors include apple pie, banana bread, blueberry muffin, carrot cake, cashew cookie, lemon, peanut butter, and more.
Enjoy Life Bars
Enjoy Life is a brand well-known for its yummy products that cater to those with allergies and intolerances. They offer two fantastic snack bar options. The first (shown above) are their crispy Grain & Seed Bars made with purity protocol certified gluten-free oats that come in flavors like cranberry orange, banana caramel, chocolate marshmallow, and maple sweet potato. The second option, are their soft baked chewy bars made with a blend of gluten-free ancient grains. Chewy bar flavors you can expect to enjoy are caramel apple, caramel blondie, carrot cake, cocoa loco, lemon blueberry, and sunseed crunch.
Freeyumm GF Oat Bars
Freeyumm‘s soft, chewy, and delicious allergen free oat bars come in flavors like blueberry, chocolate chip, honey apple, and raspberry chia. It’s important that any oat bars you purchase use gluten-free oats, as oats are often contaminated with gluten during harvesting, manufacturing, and storage. Freeyum uses gluten-free oats.
Cheese is a great gluten-free snack, loaded with protein, calcium, and Vitamin A. Brands like Sargento and Kraft offer gluten-free cheese options, but you can also find organic and grass-fed options if your budget allows. Organic Valley sells a variety of string cheeses (at Costco, too).
A spokesperson from Organic Valley says that, “All Organic Valley Stringles are gluten free and produced in a gluten free facility.” Pre-packaged gluten-free cheese slices and string cheese are usually safer options, but be sure to check the company’s website to make sure the brand you are purchasing is gluten-free. Avoid cheese from the deli counter since it can pose a risk for cross contamination with meats and cheeses that may not be gluten-free. You can learn more about gluten-free cheese in The Ultimate Gluten-Free Diet Guide.
5. Trail Mix
Most kids love dried fruit. If they can tolerate nuts and seeds, trail mix is a great option for morning or afternoon gluten-free snacks.
Enjoy Life Seed & Fruit Mix
Enjoy Life is one of the most allergen friendly brands out there. They offer a trail mix mixture of roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds blended with raisins, cranberries, and premium semi-sweet chocolate chips. Flavors are gluten-free, free of major allergens, and come in handy little packs that can easily slip into a lunch box or backpack.
Sahale Nut Blends
Sahale Snacks all natural, certified gluten-free nut blends come in grab and go variety packs. Flavors include: cashews with pomegranate and vanilla, almonds with cranberries, honey and sea salt, classic fruit and nut, berry macaroon almond, raspberry crumble cashew, and mango tango almond mix.
If your child tolerates dairy, yogurt is a great protein-filled, probiotic-rich (healthy bacteria that support gut health) gluten-free snack. For younger children, Stonyfield makes Yokids Organic Squeezers that come in flavors like strawberry and blueberry and are certified gluten-free.
You can find these in stores like Costco, Whole Foods, and other local stores near you. If your children are older, they may enjoy flavors from other brands with gluten-free options like Cabot, Fage, and Chobani. Again, if your budget allows, it never hurts to find grass-fed and organic options.
7. Nut Butters
Nut butters are a handy to-go snack that provides a mouthful of healthy fats in a tiny squeeze packet. Quite a few brands make nut butters, but Justin’s actually contains the gluten-free certification label stating “All of our products, with the exception of our Nut Butter + Pretzel Snack Packs, are certified gluten free by the GFCO.”
Justin’s has ten flavors and something for even the pickiest palettes: classic cashew butter, maple cashew butter, cinnamon almond butter, maple almond, classic almond, honey almond, vanilla almond, classic peanut butter, honey peanut butter, and chocolate hazelnut.
If your child’s daycare or school has a policy about tree nuts, these may not be the best option, but most will allow you to use sunflower seed butter in place of PBJs or for dipping veggies and crackers.
8. Chips & Crackers
Though chips and crackers are not what you typically think of when searching for healthy gluten-free snacks, there are some great options out there that avoid using additives, colorings, unhealthy oils, and other nasty ingredients. Here’s a few options:
Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers
Simple Mills offers certified gluten-free crackers that use almond flour as a foundation and “simple” ingredients that you can actually recognize. Flavors include farmhouse cheddar, cracked black pepper, sea salt, rosemary, smoky bbq cheddar, and sundried tomato. The sea salt flavor actually comes in ready-to-go snack packs for lunches. Simple Mills also has healthier lines of baking mixes for breads, pizza doughs, pancakes, and muffins.
Van’s Whole Grain Baked Crackers
Van’s makes wholesome, nutritious, and seriously delicious gluten-free crackers using gluten-free oats, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth grains and no hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Flavors include cheddar, everything, and fire roasted veggie.
Siete Grain-Free Tortilla Chips
While these grain-free tortilla chips aren’t available in individual sized lunch packs, they’re the perfect baked chip that’s light and crispy. They’re made in a dedicated gluten-free facility and come in flavors like sea salt, lime, and dairy-free nacho cheese.
There are still gluten-free options outside of those listed above and include plantains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and more. In searching for healthier gluten-free versions, look for organic and non-gmo options. Beware of long lists of seasonings. Since many chips and crackers are made by manufacturers that produce both gluten-free and non gluten-free products (like Lay’s, Fritos, and other big names), it’s best to find ones that contain a gluten-free label or certification.
Plant Snacks Cassava Root Chips
Not only are Plant Snacks tasty cassava chips gluten-free, they are also vegan, big-8 allergen free, non-GMO, and grain free with no added sugar, artificial flavors, or preservatives. Flavors include cheddar, kale, sea salt, and beet with goat cheese.
9. Meat & Protein bars
These probably won’t be your go-to snack for a toddler or younger kid, but older kids will really enjoy this quick source of protein mid-morning or before after school practice.
Epic Wild Meat Bars
Epic Grass-fed, pastured, and wild meat bars that are certified gluten-free and come in flavors like bacon maple, chicken sriracha, sea salt and pepper, bison cranberry, and more. Epic also makes date, almond, and egg white bars that are gluten-free.
Wild Zora Meat & Veggie Bars
Wild Zora offers delicious meat and veggie bars that are a great choice for children and teens. They even have a Mediterranean lamb, apple pork, and other options for those on a more restrictive diet like the Paleo AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) who need grain-free, dairy-free, and nightshade-free protein snack options. Other gluten-free meat and veggie bar flavors include curry turkey, bbq beef, parmesan beef, and taco pork. For a heartier option, they also offer freeze dried Paleo Meals To Go in flavors like mountain beef stew and summit savory chicken (both also AIP).
Tanka Meat Bars
Tanka Prairie-raised buffalo and tart-sweet cranberry bars that are certified gluten-free, nitrites-free, MSG-free, hormone-free, dairy-fre, soy-free, and are rich in Omega-3 fat (healthy essential fatty acid). Flavors include: original slow smoked, jalapeno, apple orange peel, and coffee hatch chile.
All kids deserve a treat! Even when feeding your kid as healthy as you can, it never hurts to have tasty gluten-free snacks that they (and the rest of the family) will consider a real treat. Here are a few great options:
Barnana Organic Chewy Banana Bites
These gluten-free goodies come in a 12-pack of deliciousness and are flavored banana fruit chews with zero preservatives and nothing artificial. If your kids like bananas, they’ll like these. They come in flavors like coconut, dark chocolate, and peanut butter. Barnana also makes yummy flavored banana brittles and plantain chips.
YumEarth Fruit Snacks
If you’re going to give your kids fruit snacks and lollipops, try to minimize or eliminate the ingredients on the label that you’re not familiar with and absolutely make sure they are labeled gluten free. YumEarth makes organic and gluten-free fruit snacks, lollipops, and even gummy bears free from the top allergens.
Justin’s Nut Butter Cups
Peanut and other nut butter cups have always been a favorite, but many brands add in unnecessary ingredients and can’t always guarantee they are gluten-free. Again, Justin’s excels here with its nut butter cups being certified gluten-free with minimal ingredients. They come in flavors like white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, dark chocolate cashew, and dark chocolate almond.
Enjoy Life Cookies
Ready to eat, soft baked and crunchy cookies free of the top allergens. They are certified gluten-free and come in a variety of convenient sizes. Flavors include: chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate brownie, gingerbread spice, snickerdoodle, and a variety pack.
It can be overwhelming trying to identify the best healthy gluten-free snacks that will keep your kids happy and thriving while not making them feel as if they are too restricted in their options. Whether you’re prepping lunches, packing morning and afternoon snacks, or heading out for a weekend adventure, these are some of the best healthy gluten-free snack options available. Enjoy!
Still have questions about gluten-free shopping? Check out our Ultimate Gluten-Free Diet Guide
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