Gluten-free diets are necessary for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. For people following a gluten-free diet, finding tasty snacks that are also gluten-free can be challenging. Many popular snack foods contain gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Thankfully, there are still plenty of delicious gluten-free snack options to choose from.
What is gluten and why do some people need to avoid it?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. It helps foods maintain their shape and gives elasticity to dough. For most people, gluten does not cause any issues. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, headache and more. The only treatment for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. This means avoiding any foods that contain wheat, barley, rye or triticale.
Many people following a gluten-free diet rely on snack foods to help maintain energy levels throughout the day. Thankfully, there are many nutritious and delicious snack options that are naturally gluten-free.
All fresh fruits are gluten-free and make for easy, nutritious snacks. Fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, grapes and strawberries are convenient to grab and go. Dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, apricots and mangos are also gluten-free and shelf-stable. When buying dried fruit, check the ingredients to make sure no gluten-containing additives have been added.
Fruit snacks like applesauce, fruit leathers and 100% fruit juices are gluten-free as long as you read labels and confirm no gluten ingredients have been added. Canned fruits packed in juice or water are also gluten-free.
Fresh vegetables make great gluten-free snacks. Baby carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, bell pepper strips, broccoli florets, snap peas and celery sticks are just a few examples of portable veggie snacks.
For dips, hummus, guacamole, salsa, nut butters and Greek yogurt dips are all gluten-free options. Rice cakes, corn tortilla chips and potato chips can also be used for dipping.
Dehydrated vegetable chips made from sweet potatoes, beets, kale and other veggies are becoming increasingly popular gluten-free snacks. Just check the label to confirm no gluten-containing ingredients.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds make satisfying gluten-free snacks that are rich in healthy fats, plant-based protein, fiber and various vitamins and minerals. Varieties like almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, cashews, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are all naturally gluten-free. You can buy them plain, dry roasted, smoked or even flavored as long as no questionable ingredients have been added. Nut and seed butters like peanut butter, almond butter and sunflower seed butter squeeze packs are also great portable gluten-free snacks.
Trail mixes made with nuts, seeds and dried fruit are another tasty snack option. Just be sure to read labels and look for brands that are certified gluten-free. Some trail mixes may contain croutons or other gluten-containing ingredients.
Popcorn makes a great gluten-free whole grain snack as long as you choose plain varieties without any questionable ingredients. Opt for popcorn made with just corn kernels, oil and salt. Flavored popcorn, especially microwave varieties, may contain glutenous additives. Make sure to check labels. Popcorn can be topped with gluten-free additions like melted dairy-free butter, nutritional yeast, olive oil or everything bagel seasoning for extra flavor.
There are many protein bar options made with gluten-free ingredients like nuts, seeds, nut butters, dried fruit, brown rice protein and more. Leading brands like LaraBar, RxBar, KIND, NuGo and ThinkThin all offer a variety of gluten-free protein bars. Just double check the label since manufacturing can change. Look for bars with shorter ingredient lists and gluten-free certification symbols.
Some protein powders like whey, plant-based proteins and collagen peptides can also be mixed with water or milk for an easy gluten-free snack. Brands like Orgain, Vega, Garden of Life and Tera’s Whey offer gluten-free protein shake options.
Plain yogurt is naturally gluten-free. Greek yogurt provides extra protein. Flavored yogurts are also fine as long as they don’t contain glutenous toppings. Granola and muesli often contain gluten, so opt for yogurts with fruit, nuts or seeds instead. Dairy-free yogurts like coconut milk and almond milk yogurts give those with dairy sensitivities more gluten-free options. Soy yogurts are typically gluten-free as well. Always check the ingredients on flavored varieties.
Most cheeses are gluten-free including cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, Parmesan, feta, goat cheese and cream cheese. Double check flavorings on cheese spreads. Look for cheese sticks and cheese crisps as convenient portable options. Cheese pairs well with gluten-free crackers and can be accompanied by fruits and veggies too.
Fortunately, there are many gluten-free crackers on the market today. Brands like Simple Mills, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Nut Thins and Blue Diamond all offer gluten-free varieties made with rice, corn, quinoa and nut flours. Flavors include sea salt, sesame, rosemary, olive oil and more. Gluten-free pretzels are also available from brands like Snyder’s of Hanover, Glutino and Udi’s. Always check labels since manufacturing processes can change. Corn tortilla chips, rice cakes and potato chips can also substitute for gluten-free crackers.
There are a variety of gluten-free energy bars available including options from Kind, Larabar, ProBar, GoMacro, Odwalla, NuGo and 9Bar. These bars are made with ingredients like nuts, nut butters, dried fruit, brown rice syrup, puffed rice and other gluten-free flours. They provide sustained energy from natural carbohydrates, fiber, protein and healthy fats. Just check labels for gluten-containing ingredients.
Many mainstream cereals contain glutenous ingredients. Thankfully there are some gluten-free friendly options. Brands like Cascadian Farm, Nature’s Path, Three Wishes, EnviroKidz, Hail Merry and Lydia’s Organics all offer gluten-free cereals using corn, rice, quinoa and other gluten-free grains. Pair cereal with dairy or non-dairy milk for a satisfying gluten-free snack any time of day. Just confirm all ingredients and manufacturing processes since formulas can change.
Corn tortilla chips and potato chips are naturally gluten-free. Brands like Food Should Taste Good, Terra and Garden of Eatin’ offer gluten-free tortilla chips in fun flavors like blue corn, yellow corn, lime and sea salt. Potato chip brands Kettle, Popchips, Ruffles and Lay’s are gluten-free in plain varieties. Sweet potato chips and other veggie chips made with cassava flour, arrowroot and lentil flours are often gluten-free as well. Check labels for gluten-containing seasonings.
Not all granola is gluten-free since some contain wheat, barley or rye flakes. But there are gluten-free brands available, including Lydia’s Organics, Purely Elizabeth, Bear Naked, Kind, Nature’s Path, and Julian Bakery. Opt for granolas made with certified gluten-free oats and seeds. You can eat gluten-free granola dry right from the bag or with gluten-free dairy or non-dairy milk. Use it to top yogurt parfaits too.
Dried meats like jerky make satisfying high-protein snacks. Brands like Jack’s Links, Epic, Krave and Vermont Smoke all offer gluten-free jerky in fun flavors like teriyaki, peppered and honey bourbon. There are even some jerky brands like Beyond Meat that are plant-based for vegetarian/vegan diets. Just check labels since marinades can contain hidden glutenous ingredients. Stick to plain flavor varieties or confirm gluten-free status.
Gluten-Free Snack Lists
For convenience, here are some quick gluten-free snack food lists:
– Fresh fruits – apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, etc.
– Dried fruits – raisins, cranberries, apricots, etc.
– 100% fruit leathers and fruit snacks
– Applesauce pouches
– Squeezable fruit puree pouches
– Canned fruits packed in juice or water
– Baby carrots, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.
– Hummus, guacamole, Greek yogurt dips
– Dehydrated veggie chips – sweet potato, kale, beet, etc.
– Greek yogurt
– Cheese sticks and cheese crisps
– Cottage cheese
– Trail mix
– Nut and seed butter packets
– Protein bars
– Protein shakes
– Nut mixes
– Corn tortilla chips
– Rice cakes
– Crackers – Simple Mills, Nut Thins, etc.
– Pretzels – Snyder’s of Hanover, Glutino, etc.
– Fresh fruit
– Dried fruit – raisins, cranberries, etc.
– Dark chocolate
– Granola and granola bars
– Protein bars – Larabar, KIND bars
– Energy bars – ProBar, Odwalla bars
Tips for Following a Gluten-Free Snack Diet
Here are some tips for living a gluten-free lifestyle and finding great snacks:
– Read all food labels carefully and look for gluten-free certifications
– Choose single ingredient foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc. which are naturally gluten-free
– Look for gluten-free brands of packaged snacks like granola bars, protein bars, crackers, popcorn, etc.
– Stick to plain fresh meats, dairy and eggs which are gluten-free
– If in doubt, reach out to manufacturers directly to confirm if snacks are gluten-free
– Try naturally gluten-free whole food snacks before highly processed ones
– Shop at health food stores which cater to gluten-free diets
– Look for gluten-free labels in major grocery stores which now accommodate special diets
– Bring your own gluten-free snacks when traveling or heading out for the day
– See a registered dietitian who specializes in gluten-free diets if you need help getting started
The Bottom Line
Following a gluten-free diet opens the door to many delicious and nutritious snack options. Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, nut butters, yogurt, cheese, corn chips, popcorn, and gluten-free granola bars are all easy gluten-free snacks to incorporate into your routine. Be sure to thoroughly check labels, since gluten can hide in unexpected places. Given the rise in gluten-free diets, there are now more clearly labeled gluten-free products than ever. With some savvy label reading and safe snack choices, people requiring a gluten-free diet can still enjoy plenty of great snacks.