Finding healthy snacks can be a challenge. Finding healthy, allergy-friendly snacks is even more challenging. Whether you have a family member or a child with food allergies, looking for allergy-free snacks for school, a group function, birthday celebrations, travel, or just to have at home is no easy feat.
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Many schools have peanut and nut-free classrooms. Did you know that 1 in 10 adults and 1 in 13 kids in the United States has a food allergy? That's about two kids in every classroom. It can be very concerning for the parents, especially parents of younger kids who cannot advocate for themselves. As an allergy parent, I was relieved when other parents considered the entire classroom or group and appreciated when no child was left out. I recall when we just discovered my daughter's allergy at 7, all the tears we went through, not necessarily because she couldn't have a cupcake or ice cream, but because she felt excluded. Joyous occasions turned into stressful ones. Worrying about allergic foods and exposure surrounding us turned into anxiety and tears.
Common Food Allergens
Although any food can trigger an allergic reaction, the 9 most common food allergens are:
- Tree Nuts
- Soy / Soybeans
- Sesame Seeds
This guide will focus on nutritious snacks safe for peanut allergies.
Food Allergy Labeling
The hardest part of dealing with a food allergy is not avoiding snacks that include peanuts (or other allergens) but the threat of contamination at manufacturing facilities. Furthermore, the labeling of products is not consistent or clear and can be confusing. Some of the common allergy label examples to look for on products are:
- Contains [list of allergen(s)]
- May contain [list of allergen(s)]
- Made in facility where [allergen(s)] are packaged/made
- Produced in a facility that also produces [allergen(s)]
Always read the ingredient list and food labels, as companies can change their manufacturing process.
Peanut-Free Snack Guide
Here is a list of Peanut-Free snacks that are also nutritious. This list focuses on snacks primarily for peanut allergy; however, some may be safe for other food allergies. Before consuming any food, please review the ingredients list and warning label since ingredients, production, and manufacturing practices and facilities can always change.
My peanut allergic teen packs her own lunch to school. My job is to make sure that she has plenty of snack choices. This safe snacks guide includes many allergy-friendly foods our family enjoys.
Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Snacks
One of the most accessible snacks to get and prepare is fresh fruit and veggies.
Fresh Fruit Snacks - this is an easy and healthy option. Fruit is readily available at any grocery store or farmers market, with minimal prep: just rinse or peel and eat. And no need to worry about cross-contamination. Some great fruit options to pack:
- Apple slices
- Fruit skewers or fruit cups
- Fruit salad (cut up and mix your favorite fruit combos)
Vegetable snacks - Veggies are also very easy to pack, are readily available, have no concerns for cross-contamination, and are fantastic accompanied with hummus, dips, and guac. Our favorite vegetables to include:
- Baby carrots - carrot sticks
- Cucumber - cut into slices or strips
- Celery - cut up into sticks
- Peppers - cut up into strips
- Snap peas
Dips are a great compliment to an array of vegetables and chips. Pack into eco-friendly containers for on-the-go or look for individually packaged snacks.
Hummus - hummus as a snack can be tricky, and there is a big chance for cross-contamination during production. This Trader Joe's option is excellent, and Costco's individually packed portions are ideal for lunch boxes.
Guacamole - It's straightforward to make, but if you're in a hurry and want an easy, packable, safe snack option, try the Kirkland individual packages of organic chunky guac found in Costco.
Tzatziki - is a yogurt dip that pairs well with cucumbers, carrots, and even chicken slices. Traditionally made with strained yogurt, but try this easy vegan tzatziki recipe for a dairy allergy or sensitivity.
Salsa - comes in different varieties, like pico de gallo or salsa verde, and different spice levels. Further, try making this simple mango cucumber salsa recipe for a homemade option.
Nut Butter - Interestingly, people can have an allergy to peanuts but not be allergic to tree nuts and vice versa. In this scenario, the difficult part is finding a nut butter made in a dedicated peanut-free facility. Barney Butter makes almond butter in various flavors at a 100% peanut-free facility.
Another safe almond butter option is Costco's Kirkland brand. Another alternative is this delicious cashew butter by Maisie Jane's, made at a plant that does NOT process peanuts, and it is also gluten-free, wheat-free, and vegan. Pair almond butter or cashew butter with apple slices or celery sticks for a healthy snack.
Sunflower Seed Butter - Sunbutter makes a variety of sunflower butter flavors, produced in a facility free from the top 8 common allergens.
Chips are a popular snack, and most chips, pretzels, and popcorn are naturally peanut-free. Nevertheless, the facilities they are made or packaged at may not be. Surprisingly, the list of safe and healthy options is limited.
Potato Chips - Siete and Boulder are some of the safe potato chip brands.
Tortilla Chips - Siete offers a large assortment of products, and their tortilla chips are great. Try the lime flavor, or the sea salt dipped into guac.
Apple Chips - These Bare apple chips are great as a snack or an excellent addition sprinkled on top of yogurt.
Popcorn - Popcorners, a hybrid of a chip and popcorn, are available in various flavors and sizes. The snack-size bags available at Costco are convenient for school lunches.
Packaged Fruit Snacks
Gogo Squeeze - apple sauce in a pouch, various flavors, easy to pack into a lunchbox, and no refrigeration needed (if not opened).
Apple Sauce Cups - a nutritious snack that is easy to pack into a lunchbox. Bonus points for no added sugar or artificial ingredients.
That’s it Fruit Snacks - what's fantastic about the That's It fruit bar is it includes just 2 ingredients and has no added sugar. The mango and apple is our favorite flavor.
Dried Fruit - several great options are raisins, dried apricots, prunes, dried cherries, and our favorite dried mangos. Look at the ingredients list and select those with no added sugar or artificial flavors. You might think it is just dried fruit, but watch for any allergy warning statement. We have had luck with dried mangos from Trader Joe's, Kirkland Signature Organic Dried Mangos, and Whole Foods 365 brand.
Seeds and Granola
Sunflower Seed Crunchy Snacks - Somersaults make these crunchy seed cookies in different flavors in a nut-free facility. The chocolate is our favorite.
Seeds - seeds make for a very nutritious snack. Trader Joe's Raw Sunflower Seeds and Eden's Dry Roasted Pumpkin Seeds are excellent alternatives for peanut allergies.
Granola - This sprouted, gluten-free granola is made from quinoa, lightly sweetened, and made in a peanut-free facility. Sprinkle it on top of yogurt, apple sauce, or just add milk and eat it as a cereal, or add it on top of your favorite muffin recipe as a crunchy topping.
Granola Bars - Made Good bars come in different flavors, produced at a dedicated facility free from the top common allergens.
Dairy and Dairy Alternative
Cheeses and yogurts make for an easy school snack and a fantastic nut-free snack option.
- string cheese sticks
- cheddar cheese snack portions by Tillamook
- fresh mozzarella balls in snack sizes by BelGioioso
- Babybel snacking cheese
- For a vegan or dairy-free version - In contrast, Babybel recently introduced a plant-based dairy alternative cheese that looks just like the original.
Yogurt - As with other products, make sure to read the ingredient label. There are many options for yogurts on the shelves, but these are the two my kids prefer: Fage total greek yogurt and whole milk strawberry yogurt by Liberte.
For a dairy-free yogurt option, Culina makes an excellent plant-based yogurt. It uses coconut as a base. It is thick, creamy, and delicious. What's more, it is made with clean ingredients.
Lastly, protein snacks include jerky, dried meats, beef sticks, and roasted chickpeas, to name a few. Overall, they hold up exceptionally well in the heat or travel.
Jerky Sticks / Beef Sticks - just throw one of these in your bag for an emergency snack. We like to take these on bike rides and when traveling.
Jerky - can't go wrong with so many choices of dried meats: spicy, savory, even hints of sweet. Select flavors are gluten-free, and all of the Righteous Felon jerkies use pasture-raised beef.
Roasted Chickpeas - Roast chickpeas in spices like paprika, salt, and garlic powder for a quick and crunchy snack. For a store-bought option, Biena looks like a good choice to try.
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