When it comes to kids, a snack is like catnip: the second you bring it out, they’ll come running. The best snacks make it easier to eat healthy, not harder, and they can solve a lot of hangry situations in a few bites.
Chips to scoop up applesauce? Yep. Mini cucumbers stacked like a tower of bricks with popcorn on the side? Great. Carrot sticks cut into matchsticks to be paired with gluten-free pretzels? Sure. We reward my son’s love of fruits and veggies—and his occasional disdain for broccoli or string beans—with his favorite gluten-free vegan snacks.
Because there are more allergy-friendly options than there used to be, he can enjoy a wide range of snacks that won’t result in a rash or a tummy ache. And since trying to find compliant foods outside our house can be difficult, I’m usually the mom with the stealthy purse-like cooler bag who brings enough snacks to share.
Here are some of the best on-the-go savory snacks for kids with allergies, gleaned from years of experience.
SkinnyPop Popcorn: Non-GMO and gluten-free, the original variety of this popcorn, sans butter or cheese, is dairy-free too. It’s also nut-, peanut-, and preservative-free, sans artificial flavors.
I like to buy SkinnyPop in bulk—28 bags in a box—so it’s easy to send along with my son for school, sports, or activities outside the house. SkinnyPop Popcorn Mini Cakes are a similarly useful product. My son loves the cinnamon and sugar version, while I’m a fan of the sweet-and-salty kettle corn and sea salt varieties. Read labels, though, because some of the cheddar options are dairy-free and some aren’t.
Simple Truth Ancient Grains With Sea Salt Gluten Free Rice Crackers: My son is a fan of these. These non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free crackers do contain sesame seeds, flax seeds, and millet, if those are things you need to watch out for.
Vegan Rob’s Beet Puffs: These taste like a cheese ball mixed with popcorn, except they are gluten-free and don’t have dairy. (They do include nutritional yeast, which has a cheesy flavor.) My son could eat these every day of his life; he likes dipping them in applesauce. They have the crunchy texture of puffed Cheetos—and, fair warning, they’re just as messy, with a red residue left behind on fingers instead of orange.
Trader Joe’s Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips: These are so popular one of my son’s friends calls me “the mom with the really good blue corn chips.” I’m not sure if they are really different from the yellow organic corn chips, but both kids and adults love them.
Enjoy Life’s Dill and Sour Cream Lentil Chips: Made in a dedicated nut-free facility, these gluten-free, dairy-free chips are free of the top 14 allergens. They also are tasty for non-vegan snackers, with enough flavor to make fans out of most crowds.
Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws: The sea salt variety of these veggie straws is gluten-free and doesn’t contain dairy like some of the other varieties do. Made with potato starch and flour, these snacks have spinach powder and tomato paste to add flavor, and their savory crunch makes them a hit at parties.
Violife Just Like Cheddar Shreds: Made with coconut oil and vitamin B12 these are vegan and free of nuts, soy and gluten. And while these lend themselves well to any recipe you’d normally top with shredded cheddar, sometimes they’re just nice for snacking on, too.
Snyder’s of Hanover gluten-free pretzels: My son loves the mini pretzels, larger pretzel rods, and smaller pretzel sticks. Friends who aren’t gluten-free can’t tell the difference.
The Good Crisp potato crisps: These wafer-thin gluten-free chips come in a long circular canister just like Pringles, and they deliver the same satisfying crunch. Try the Original and Outback BBQ flavors, which are delicious and dairy-free.
Lundberg Organic Cinnamon Toast Rice cakes: Made with milled organic brown rice, these tasty and surprisingly flavorful rice cakes will make a convert out of even the staunchest of opponents.
That’s It fruit bars: These non-GMO fruit bars are simple and delicious. For my son’s birthday party this year, I bought a variety. Another boy, who usually can’t eat anything at parties, thanked me three times for getting the apple-and-cherry flavor. (My son prefers apple-and-strawberry.)
Food Should Taste Good’s Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips: Made with stoneground corn, these thicker chips are a cross between tortilla crisps and traditional potato chips, only better.
Mission MightyMe’s Proactive Peanut Butter Puffs: I wish these had been around when my son was an infant. We’ve been trying to slowly reintroduce peanuts into his diet. It is a terrifying prospect, especially if you’ve got an EpiPen ready to go.
Before I did anything, I interviewed Dr. Gideon Lack, professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London, who led the landmark study Learning About Peanut Allergy (LEAP), which investigated whether feeding babies peanuts earlier in life would decrease the chance of those children developing peanut allergies. Lack backed this product; it was enough to convince me to let my son try the gluten-free peanut butter puffs, despite previous reactions to peanuts.
What I like is that each of these tiny star-shaped organic peanut butter puffs (and the nut butter puffs) is about the size of a single Cheerio and can be dosed out in bite-sized amounts, gradually increasing the serving size by one puff at a time. There’s no added sugar, and they quickly dissolve in a baby or toddler’s mouth. For kids with mild reactions (or for parents trying to prevent them), this is a great way to expose kids to small amounts of peanuts daily. Plus, my son loves them as a snack. It’s hard to only let him eat one at a time for now.