let’s talk snack ideas
Snacks are one of the trickiest food areas to convert to gluten and dairy free with a toddler in tow (say goodbye to cheesy fish crackers). As an adult, it’s easy (or, easier) to focus your snacks on fruits and veggies, maybe with a handful of nuts or a dollop of nut butter or hummus. Perhaps the occasional pretzel. But for a toddler with sensory issues and natural 2-year-old pickiness, sometimes you need ideas for when carrot sticks aren’t going to get the job done.
Prepare yourself: this is a giant post.
Gluten Free Pretzels – They’re a touch crunchier than regular pretzels, but we’ve made a seamless transition. Note: they are much pricier than regular pretzels. We’ve had luck with Glutino brand pretzels or pretzel sticks and Snyders of Hanover gluten free pretzels or pretzel sticks. Note: They’re often cheaper to buy in bulk.
Rice Cakes – Don’t slam them yet. Lundberg makes a great lightly salted brown rice cake that’s good plain or that can be topped with peanut or almond butter & honey or a spot of jam if you need a topping. They also make gluten & dairy free Apple Cinnamon, Honey Nut, and Toasted Sesame flavors.
Pirate’s Booty – Unfortunately, the best flavors (the cheesy ones) aren’t gluten & dairy free. But! The Barrrrrbeque, Chocolate, and Veggie flavors are. Not super healthy, but kids LOVE Pirate’s Booty, and it’s not terrible. Plus, it’s fun to say. Pirate’s Booty. *snicker*
Pop Chips – Not exactly a healthy snack, but sometimes you need crunch in your life. The Original, Sweet Potato, Salt & Vinegar, Chili & Lime, and Jalapeno flavors are all gluten & dairy free.
Popcorn – Pop your own in the microwave (It’s easy! 1/3c plain kernels + paper lunch bag folded down a few times + microwave about 2 minutes… Bam.). We like Pop Secret popping corn. Mark Bittman has about a million ways you can dress up your own microwave popcorn if plain isn’t going to cut it. A few are in the link. Even more are in his books, which you should totally read if you haven’t.
Kettle Corn – I LOVE Angie’s Kettle Corn. The Classic Kettle Flavor, Caramel Corn, and Lightly Sweet are all gluten & dairy free. Hint: the Kettle flavor is BY FAR the best (and I’ve been able to find it at Costco in GIANT bags).
Granola – We make a batch of homemade granola almost every week. It’s great eaten in small portions–a little handful or mixed with some dried fruit to make trail mix. We use certified gluten free oats (Bob’s Red Mill brand is our go-to). Note that some people with wheat gluten intolerance may have issue with oat gluten. Not all do (we don’t), so you’ll have to test this for yourself. Our current favorite granola recipe is this one.
Dry Cereal – We love a little bag or cup of dry cereal for a snack around here. Some of our favorites are EnviroKidz brand Gorilla Crunch, Gluten Free Honey Chex, Rice Chex, or Corn Chex, or Puffins (Multigrain and Rice varieties are dairy & gluten free).
Crackers – There are a lot more gluten and dairy free cracker options available these days, but nothing really seems to be a direct substitute for me. Many varieties seem too sharp tasting and overly crunchy/prone to shattering; others are tasteless and limp. The best ones I’ve found are Food Should Taste Good’s Sea Salt Brown Rice crackers (SO GOOD), and Shar brand table crackers or Glutino brand table crackers (fine). Gluten free crackers can be really expensive (around $6-$7 per small box), so we make them a rare occasion treat.
All plain fresh and frozen fruit is naturally gluten and dairy free, as are most canned fruits. Del Monte has a line of unsweetened canned fruit packed in 100% juice that Sophie likes (softer texture). Dried fruits are usually fine, but you’ll want to check that the brand you buy doesn’t use the same equipment to package other products containing gluten.
Raisins – I recommend the little individual boxes that Sun Maid makes. For some reason, Sophie will eat raisins out of a little box happily, but if you just give her a handful, she rolls her eyes at you. Figuratively speaking.
Craisins – All flavors (original, orange, pomegranate, blueberry). These are also sold in big bags or in little individual boxes that are handy for traveling, emergency purse/diaper bag snacks, or lunch boxes.
Dried Cherries, blueberries, and apricots – You might be surprised what you like. If the only dried fruits you’ve really tried are raisins and craisins, branch out! Dried tart cherries are like little pieces of heaven. Dried blueberries make a nice and interesting addition to granola and trail mix, and a good dried apricot might change your mind about dried fruit. There’s also the world of dried mango, dried pineapple, etc. Branch out! Try something new!
Fresh Fruits – I know. Duh. But in case you get stumped with your regular favorites, here’s a list to inspire variety: apples, apricots, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, cantaloupe, cherries, grapes (red, green, black), grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, mandarin oranges (try the 100% juice packed ones), mango, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon.
Frozen Fruits – Sometimes all it takes is a change in temperature. Sophie loves frozen berries–blueberries and raspberries are the easiest to eat. Frozen grapes are also a popular favorite, as are frozen bananas (cut them into pieces for easier eating). You can also branch out to frozen pineapple or frozen mango pieces (Trader Joes has great frozen mango pieces).
Canned Fruit or Fruit Cups – Not as healthy as fresh or frozen fruit, but there are some great 100% juice varieties. If you have a toddler with texture issues (or not many teeth), Del Monte 100% juice-packed pears or mandarin orange cups are some of Sophie’s favorites.
Applesauce – Pretty much all applesauce is gluten & dairy free. It’s easy to make your own, but for toddlers and snacks on the go, I love the little GoGo Squeez pouches. There are lots of flavors, and all are tasty. Sophie loves holding her own little pouch. Flavored applesauces are another way to go. Musselman’s makes flavored ones that are fun to try.
Fresh veggies – Happy points to you if you already eat lots of fresh veggies for snacks! I love them. Sophie struggles with the textures, but there are lots of good ideas out there. Baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, snap peas, baby tomatoes, and jicama provide a good variety of textures and make good dippers. Which brings me to my next toddler tip…
Avocado toast – More of a mini-meal than a snack, avocado toast is one of my favorite things to eat. Mash together 1/4-1/2 of an avocado, a little squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and a little salt and pepper. Spread the avocado mixture over a slice toast (we use gluten free bread) and you’re good to go! This simple avocado mash also makes a great veggie or cracker dip.
Eggs – Many toddlers have texture issues with eggs (Sophie can’t stand them), but a simple hard-boiled egg, or some quick scrambled eggs (1-2 eggs + 1-2 tsp water + olive oil for cooking) topped with some salt, pepper, or salsa make a great, filling snack.
Coconut Yogurt – We LOVE So Delicious brand coconut yogurt. Sophie likes to sip it with a straw, but you can always eat it out of a cup or bowl. Feel free to dress it up with fruit, granola, or nuts for a little something extra. Or, freeze it straight in popsicle molds. Sophie loves yogurt popsicles.
Trail Mix – I’ll be honest, I love a good trail mix, but I sort of need a little bit of chocolate in it to make my life complete. Anything from a handful of granola + a few chocolate chips, to a perfect blend of nuts and fruits (I love almonds, cashews, dried cherries, and a few chocolate chips).
Popsicles – I recommend making your own. Fruit (& veggie) smoothies make great popsicles. Lots of commercial brands are gluten & dairy free (including the ever-popular Otter Pops). For something more naturally sweet and without the dyes and additives, we love Green-a Colada, Berry-Banana, Pineapple-Orange, Cherry Chocolate Chip, and Homemade Fudgecicles. You can also be brave and try something like chocolate avocado!
Fruit Leather – You can make your own (best choice), or buy it, but many fruit leathers on the market are gluten & dairy free, including the Archer Farms brand from Target. (Bonus, Archer Farms doesn’t use artificial colors in theirs).
Fruit Snacks – Not a healthy snack, and definitely a sometimes treat, but Welch’s fruit snacks are gluten & dairy free (they do contain artificial colors). Many of the generic brand fruit snacks are also gluten & dairy free. Just look on the packaging or make a quick call to the manufacturer to double-check.
Larabars – Made from fruit & nuts, most Larabars are dairy & gluten free. Apple Pie, Carrot Cake, Cashew Cookie, Cherry Pie, Ginger Snap, Key Lime Pie, Lemon Bar, and Pecan Pie are all safe. My favorites are Cherry Pie and Ginger Snap (though watch out! it’s a little zingy).
Homemade larabars – You can also make your own (sorry, Larabar, but you’re a bit expensive). The Cherry Chocolate Torte ones are my favorite, but there are loads of variations (like these blueberry ones). You can also look up loads of variations and homemade versions online. More or less you want 2c nuts + 1c dried fruit + 1c dates
YOU MADE IT TO THE END! It’s a giant list with not enough pictures, but I hope someone found something helpful. What are your favorite snack ideas? I’m always looking for new ones!
Chocolate Chex is another great GF option (I’m not entirely sure if they’re DF).
I’m always trying to find creative new snack ideas for Evie that aren’t the toddler go-tos (i.e. crackers, she’d live off crackers and cereal if I’d let her!). Of course we eat lots of fruit for snacks, but I thought you had some great ideas here, thanks!
Another thing I’ve found that works with Evie as she’s getting older is that if she “helps” make it she is WAY more interested in eating it. I’m not sure if Sophie has an interest in helping these days or if she’d rather build towers with blocks instead, but that has helped us. I’d rather fly solo and get it done fast, but I’m trying to let her help more (and increase my patience!)
Thank you for compiling such a comprehensive and informative list! This is great for anyone!
This is such a great list! One that I will keep looking at for ideas. Thanks for compiling this list! I shared it on my facebook page because I think it’s something a lot of people would be interested in.
Oh my gash! This is awesome! You are amazing, my dear sister!
Thanks for all of the great ideas even though my family is neither gluten or dairy free, toddler snack suggestions are always appreciated! Have you ever tried nutritional yeast on popcorn? It has a lot of health benefits and adds a sort of cheesy flavor to the popcorn. Another idea is crumbled kale chips on popcorn, or just kale chips in general–my little one loves the ones I make. One more idea is dried seaweed which he loves and is also inexpensive.
You are seriously amazing!
My little Emma has always been a fabulously adventurous eater and then a few weeks ago she turned 19 months a became little miss fussy! I’ve been at my wits end trying to come up with healthy food ideas she might eat!
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