There’s a slew of snack options out there, lining grocery-store shelves and packed into your fridge at home. But for moms of kids with allergies, those abundant choices can dwindle pretty quickly — and it’ll require more forethought and planning to make sure little tummies stay full and satisfied.
In case you need some allergy-friendly defaults to grab at the store and keep on hand, we asked a couple of dieticians to share their go-tos. “Just like you want to have a balanced meal, I believe in balanced snacks, too,” says Nicole Seedig, a dietitian at National Jewish Health in Denver. “This means your snack should contain foods from at least two of the five food groups — fruit, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy.”
Since dairy is a major allergen, though, we’ve kept that in mind while choosing these 10 expert-approved, nutritious bites. Here’s 10 allergy-free snacks to keep in your arsenal to start the school year.
1. SunButter® + fruit
For a well-rounded snack, keep sunflower spread on hand to pair with a variety of fruits. “SunButter® is made from sunflower seeds, and it contains healthy fats and protein,” says Seedig.
“It will provide prolonged energy and helps keep kids feeling full. When paired with a piece of fruit, it also provides carbohydrates for quick energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.”
2. Homemade trail mix
Making trail mix at home allows you control; you can choose the most healthful ingredients and avoid the allergens that affect your kids. “It could include choice of allergen-free cereal, like rice Chex, dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds,” Seedig says.
“I like this option because it offers foods different food groups for nutrients like healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates. That will lend energy both now and later, will prevent hunger, and will provide the building blocks for growth in kids.”
3. Homemade (or store-bought) granola bars
Source: Buns In My Oven
Especially for school, grab n’ go granola bars are the perfect vessel for getting nutrients into your kid’s bellies. “I like this as a healthy option, because they are often made from the same foods as the homemade trail mix,” says Seedig, who suggests hitting the web or Pinterest for awesome inspiration — like these homemade granola bar recipes, for instance.
4. Fresh vegetables + hummus
Hummus! It’s everyone’s new go-to snack food, and there’s a good reason: “This is such a healthy option, because vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and the chickpeas in the hummus provide both carbohydrates for energy and protein to sustain you,” says Seedig. Have your kids choose their favorite colorful veggies and cut them up for some fun dippin’.
5. Rice crackers + sliced turkey/chicken breast
After school or playtime, a nice snack of rice crackers with a little sliced chicken or turkey on top will provide a good balance of carbs to refuel the energy tank and protein to sustain the benefits. “The lean protein helps keep you feeling full longer, and provides the nutrients we need to grow with less of the unhealthy fats,” Seedig says.
6. Air-popped popcorn + raisins
A whole grain, air-popped popcorn is easy to eat, packed with filling fiber, low in calories, and high in vitamins and minerals.
Debbie Fink, a dietitian and board-certified specialist in pediatric nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, suggests adding raisins for a little sweet n’ salty flavor. “As long as kids are older than preschool-aged, because the dried fruit can be a choking hazard for little ones,” she says.
7. Corn tortilla chips + salsa
Opt for corn tortilla chips, says Fink, but make sure they’re baked to keep this snack low in fat. The fiber in the chips help keep kids satiated between meals. “You also get key nutrients, like vitamins A and C, in the salsa,” she explains. Eat up!
8. Coconut yogurt + berries
A lot of kids are sensitive to dairy, but that doesn’t mean they have to swear off yogurt. “I love So Delicious® Coconut Yogurt,” says Fink.
“Check with their doctor, but children with nut allergies are usually okay to have coconut, and this choice also packs in vitamin B12 and calcium” — essential for growing up strong. Fink says you can also top with berries for extra nutrients, fiber, and sweetness.
9. Rice cake + jam, sunflower spread, or apple butter
For kids with food allergies, rice cakes are a really versatile snack to have on hand. “They’re free of dairy and gluten, and they’re a whole grain,” Fink says.
You can top with lunchmeat for a sandwich sub, or swipe on your kid’s favorite jam, apple butter, or sunflower-seed butter for those with a snacking sweet tooth.
Be sure to use your Quaker® coupons when shopping for rice cakes!
10. Birthday bonus! Allergy-friendly cupcake
Fink frequently suggests finding a birthday alternative for kids with extensive food allergies, since so many kids bring treats into class.
Keep it easy and try allergy-friendly cupcakes. She suggests the gluten-free, dairy-free Pillsbury Classic Vanilla frosting on top of a dairy-free, nut-free mix from Duncan Hines.