Gluten free dairy free snacks can be hard to come by, which can make life boring when the same foods are being offered on repeat.
Sometimes it’s just because parents have run out of ideas, other times it’s because your child knows what they like, and don’t want to try anything new, thank you very much!
But offering the same gluten free dairy free snacks on repeat can actually result in fussy eating, or make fussy eating a whole lot worse!
In this blog we’ve got 65 gluten free dairy free snack ideas for you to keep boredom at bay, and also some top tips to prevent monotony setting in in the first place!
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Why are snacks important for toddlers and children
Snacks play a vital role in a child’s diet.
Contrary to popular belief, skipping snacks won’t make your child eat more at mealtimes, it can actually result in them eating less.
They are useful for preventing hunger, accommodating smaller stomach capacities, providing additional nutrition especially when a meal is missed or refused.
It’s important to note that snacks should generally be avoided for under 1’s though.
Is it healthier for children to avoid gluten and dairy?
No. Most children don’t need to avoid gluten and dairy foods unless they have a proven allergy or intolerance.
However you may have personal beliefs and preferences and choose to avoid gluten and dairy accordingly, we’d strongly advise you to work with a dietitian before you exclude these as this can mean major nutrient losses for your child.
Risks of following a gluten free dairy free diet
Many gluten-free food options lack the same nutrients and fortification that gluten-containing foods have. Research has shown that those on a gluten free diet tend to have lower nutritional intakes of fibre, vitamin B12, folate, iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium.
When your child avoids dairy foods, they miss out on calcium, iodine, protein and energy, unless these are replaced elsewhere in their diet.
What this means is that children who are gluten free and dairy free are at increased risk of poor growth and nutritional deficiencies which is why it’s important to work with a dietitian if you need to, or want to exclude these foods.
Should children with autism follow a gluten free dairy free diet?
Some parents choose to try a gluten-free, dairy-free diet to reduce some of the autistic traits. However, little research has been done on the effectiveness of this diet.
It involves a strict elimination of all foods containing gluten (found in wheat, barley, and rye) and casein (found in milk and dairy products) from the child’s daily food intake.
The theory is that children with autism process peptides and proteins in foods containing gluten and casein differently than other people do.
This difference in processing may make some autistic characteristics worse.
However, the effectiveness of this diet has not been supported by medical research; in fact, a review of recent and past studies concluded there is a lack of scientific evidence to say whether this diet can be helpful or not.
Nevertheless it is a restrictive diet and so if you want to try it, please work with a dietitian to ensure your child gets enough nutrients for health.
How to make sure that the nutrition is right
When you’re avoiding milk and gluten in your child’s diet you will need to pay a bit closer attention to their diet to make sure that they’re still getting the full range of nutrients they need.
If you’re looking for milk free options, look for milk and yoghurt that is fortified with calcium and iodine, and cheese that’s fortified with calcium. Aiming for 3 portions of fortified alternatives is about right for a child. As an example, 200ml fortified soya milk, 125g fortified yoghurt and 30g fortified cheese will be enough for a child.
Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium so make sure that your child is having the government’s recommended 10μg of Vitamin daily throughout the autumn and the winter months. They should make enough vitamin D through sunlight in the spring and summer.
In the UK some of our foods made from wheat flour, our main source of gluten, are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. This was started during WW2 to strengthen the health of the nation and the practice has continued. But, when you take away the fortified flour found in bread and the fortified breakfast cereals, the alternatives are not nearly as nutritious. If your child eats a range of other foods, including all of the food groups, they probably replace this nutrition but if your child is fussy or excludes more food groups, it would be worthwhile having their diet analysed by a dietitian.
Gluten free alternatives are also often higher fat, lower protein than their gluten containing counterparts and so excess weight gain can also be a concern.
What exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and is responsible for the elasticity of dough.
What is it in dairy that needs to be avoided?
Whey and Casein are the proteins in dairy foods and are what are avoided when children have a cow’s milk protein allergy.
Dairy foods also contain lactose which is a simple carbohydrate or sugar. People who are lactose intolerant have digestive issues such as diarrhoea and abdominal pain if they eat or drink foods containing lactose.
Will my child always need to avoid gluten and dairy?
Some children may grow out of allergies or intolerances, for example 80% of children with a cow’s milk allergy will outgrow it by age 16.
But conditions like coeliac disease require lifelong avoidance.
How to read food labels to check snacks are gluten free and dairy free
Understanding food labels is essential for those who need to avoid gluten and dairy.
You do have to read the entire label, and look for any “may contain” or “produced in a factory” statements, as these indicate potential cross-contamination even when the food does not contain dairy or gluten.
In many countries, allergens like gluten and dairy must be clearly labelled. This can be in a separate allergen statement or within the ingredients list.
Here’s how to navigate the labels:
Look for terms like wheat, barley, rye, malt, brewer’s yeast, oats (unless certified gluten-free), spelt and Kamut. Be aware that “wheat-free” does not necessarily mean “gluten-free.”
Products with the Coeliac UK certification symbol have been tested and are safe for those with coeliac disease. However, not all gluten-free products will carry this symbol, and many safe options are available without it.
Always check the ingredients list and allergen statements on packaged foods.
Watch for words like milk, lactose, whey, casein, curds, milk by-products, and milk solids.
“Lactose-free” products may still contain milk proteins, so they may not be suitable for those with a milk allergy.
Store-Bought vs. Homemade: Which is Better?
When it comes to gluten-free and dairy-free snacks, both shop-bought and homemade options have their advantages and drawbacks. Here’s a closer look at each:
1. Store-Bought Options:
- Convenience: Ready-made snacks are quick and easy, perfect for busy families.
- Variety: Nowadays there’s quite a wide range of gluten-free and dairy-free products available to buy.
- Nutritional Concerns: Some gluten-free options may not be as nutritious, e.g. gluten-free bread sometimes lacks fortification of calcium like traditional bread.
- Ultra-Processed Foods: Many store-bought snacks are highly processed, and frequent consumption of these have been associated with poorer health, so should be considered carefully.
- Reading Labels: Always read labels for hidden allergens and to understand nutritional content.
2. Homemade Options:
- Control Over Ingredients: Making snacks at home allows you to choose exactly what goes into them, avoiding hidden allergens and unwanted additives.
- Freshness and Customisation: Homemade snacks can be tailored to individual tastes and dietary needs, and you know exactly how fresh they are.
- Nutritional Benefits: You can fortify homemade bread and other snacks with ingredients such as vegetables, nutritional yeast and flaxseeds to make them more nutritious.
- Time and Effort: Homemade snacks require more time and effort to prepare.
In summary, the choice between store-bought and homemade depends on your individual preferences and lifestyle.
Tips for Making Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Snacking Fun
When children have to follow a special diet it can get boring and repetitive but with a bit of planning and inspiration, it doesn’t have to be. Here’s my suggestion:
Themed snack days
- Themes: Create themed snack days like “Tropical Tuesday” with fruit skewers or “Wacky Wednesday” with striking colourful veggie dips like green pea dip or beetroot.
- Educational Opportunity: Use themes to teach children about different cultures, seasons, or nutritional ideas.
DIY snack stations
- Build-Your-Own Snacks: Set up a snack station with various gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients, such as hummus, nut butters, rice cakes, olives, carrot sticks and berries allowing children to create their own unique combinations. By offering a mix of these items, children can create their own balanced snack that provides sustained energy, satisfies their hunger, and offers a range of nutrients. Plus, the act of choosing and assembling their snack can make it more appealing to them, especially for picky eaters.
- Encourage Experimentation: This approach fosters creativity and encourages children to try new foods or weird and wonderful combinations. Ever tried banana, avocado and peanut butter? It’s amazing!
Make Food Fun
- Play with Shapes and Colors: Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes or arrange snacks in colourful patterns to make them visually appealing.
- Storytelling: Present snacks in a way that tells a story or represents a favourite character, making eating a playful experience.
Get children involved in preparation
- Cooking Together: Involve children in the preparation process, from selecting ingredients to assembling the snacks.
- Skill Development: Cooking together helps children develop fine motor skills, understanding of measurements, and appreciation for food.
How to handle social events and parties
Social events and parties can feel challenging, but with planning and communication with the party host, there’s no reason for your child to not enjoy the festivities.
My biggest tip is to talk to the host about your child’s dietary restrictions prior to the event.
Most parents will be really grateful for a list of foods they can and cannot eat. Trust me, I’m the parent of a child with an allergy and I’ve also hosted several children’s parties over the last 16 years!
Offer to bring a dish that your child and other children can eat, therefore ensuring that there’s something safe and delicious available.
Send some of your child’s favourite gluten-free and dairy-free snacks to the host. And if your budget allows, provide extra to share with others at the party so your child doesn’t stand out.
If your child is older and going to the party without you, I always liked it when the parent gave me some written information or a text about their dietary needs. And make sure the host has your contact information in case of questions or concerns.
If the event is at a restaurant, it’s always a good idea to check out the menu online ahead of time and identify safe options.
Finally, it’s worth chatting with other parents as special diets are fairly commonplace nowadays so you may find others who may have similar dietary needs.
Educating caregivers and teachers
It’s also really important to educate caregivers and teachers when your child has special dietary needs to ensure their well-being. Often nurseries and schools will need to conduct their own thorough risk assessment to make sure the environment is safe for your child.
Here’s how you can effectively communicate and educate those responsible for your child’s care:
1. Provide Detailed Written Information:
- Create a Dietary Guide: Outline your child’s dietary restrictions, including what they can and cannot eat. Include brand names of safe products if necessary.
- Include Recipes and Meal Ideas: Provide examples of meals and snacks that are safe for your child to consume, and smaller establishments like childminders will absolutely appreciate a few recipes.
- Highlight Potential Cross-Contamination Issues: Explain how to avoid cross-contamination with gluten and dairy products especially for those children with coeliac disease or allergies, as often people don’t appreciate the importance of this, especially where there is shared kitchen space.
2. Back Up with Professional Documentation:
- Letter from a Dietitian or Doctor: If available, include a letter from a healthcare professional explaining the medical necessity of the diet.
- Provide Contact Information: Include the contact information of the healthcare professional in case the caregiver or teacher has specific questions.
3. Offer Training and Support:
- Provide Training Sessions: If possible, offer to conduct a training session with caregivers or teachers to demonstrate safe food preparation techniques. Your dietitian can also help with this.
- Create a Support Network: Encourage open communication and create a support network where caregivers and teachers can ask questions and share experiences.
4. Regularly Update Information:
- Keep Information Current: Update caregivers and teachers with new information as dietary needs and preferences change.
- Monitor Compliance: Regularly check in with caregivers and teachers to make sure that they are following the guidelines and address any concerns promptly.
Frequently asked questions about gluten free dairy free diets:
Here are some of the most asked questions we get about gluten free and dairy free diets:
Is popcorn gluten free?
Yes, popcorn is typically gluten-free
What crackers are gluten free and dairy free?
Many crackers are available that are both gluten-free and dairy-free, for example try Schär
Here are 5 of my favourite gluten free, dairy free crackers:
- Nairn’s Gluten Free Oatcakes
- Schär Gluten Free Lightly Salted Crackers
- Rude Health Chickpea and Lentil Crackers
- Amisa Quinoa Fibre Crispbread
- Angelic Free From Savoury Crackers
Does dairy free sugar free yoghurt exist?
Dairy-free sugar-free yoghurt does exist like Alpro
Unfortunately the others available don’t have enough calcium to really be considered healthy for children.
Can you eat eggs on a gluten free and dairy free diet?
Yes! Eggs are both gluten and diary free. People often think eggs form part of the dairy group of foods, but they don’t!
How to craft a nutritious snack for children
There are 5 groups of foods, and snacks should contain at least 3 of them in order to provide a good amount of nutrition for children. The 5 food groups are:
- Fruit and vegetables – ideally, choose fresh or frozen and avoid dried fruits and juices as snacks.
- Starchy carbohydrates – for example, bread, crackers, breadsticks, pasta, oatcakes and breakfast cereals.
- Protein foods – for example, nut butters, beans or lentils, meat and fish.
- Dairy foods – for example, yoghurt, fromage frais, milk and cheese
- Healthy fats and oils – for example, the olive-based spread you might use to butter toast or oil you use to cook with.
Despite snacks being made up of 3 different food groups, we still want them to be small so that children’s appetites are satisfied but they’re not too full for their next meal.
Our list of 65 nutritious and delicious snacks that are gluten and dairy free
To avoid life getting boring, here are 65 suggestions to give you some inspiration!:
- Granola with soya yoghurt and blueberries
- Slices of apple with coconut almond butter
- Roasted chickpeas with dried cranberries
- Hard boiled eggs with carrot sticks
- DF Yoghurt parfait with fruit
- Blueberry muffin with coconut yoghurt
- GF Toast with peanut butter and banana
- Sweet and spicy popcorn with blueberries
- Hummus with veggie sticks
- Baked oats (ensure to use GF oats!)
- GF cornflakes with soya milk and an orange
- Flapjack oat bar with
- Baked beans on GF toast
- GF breadsticks with hummus and veggie sticks
- DF cheese and tomato quesadilla using free from alternatives
- GF oat cakes with cubes of DF cheese with tomato
- GF crackers with pate (only once a week) and lettuce
- Eggy bread with berries
- Tomato soup with a wholemeal roll
- GF tortilla chips with df pesto dip and apple
- Free from tuna melt
- Peanut butter apple rings with chocolate chips
- Banana and berry smoothie with snack bar
- Sweet potato and chickpea cakes with cucumber
- DF greek yoghurt with strawberries
- Avocado and tomato sandwich on GF bread
- Oatmeal raisin cookie with DF hot chocolate
- Mixed dried fruit and chopped nuts
- Popcorn with a kiwi smoothie
- Soya yoghurt, tinned peaches and a sprinkle of chia seeds
- GF toast with honey and apple slices
- GF melba toast with smashed avocado and pepper sticks
- Spicy potato wedges with salsa
- Quinoa tabbouleh
- GF pitta bread with tuna and pear
- GF toast with mashed egg and cress
- Sunbutter, honey and banana muffins with a cup of soya milk
- Vegan queso with GF tortilla chips
- Cream of rice cereal with berries and nut butter
- Sweet potato hummus and veggie dippers
- Choc orange energy balls and a banana (be sure to use GF oats)
- Vegan baked oats (be sure to use GF oats)
- GF Pitta bread filled with hummus and pepper sticks
- GF Breadsticks with cucumber and a boiled egg
- DF yoghurt with tinned peaches and a sprinkle of ground almonds
- Crackers with red lentil dip and slices of beetroot
- Frozen yoghurt lollies with a crispbread
- Cinnamon roasted chickpeas with pineapple
- Peanut butter energy balls and mango (be sure to use GF oats)
- Rice cake with cashew nut butter and banana
- Leftover cold meat with slices of apple
- GF porridge with nut butter and frozen raspberries
- Free from pancakes with fruit
- Dairy free yoghurt topped with cooked quinoa, roasted apple slices,
- Sweet potato brownies with a glass of soya milk
- Baked sweet potato fries with guacamole
- Mango smoothie bowl (use DF yoghurt) topped with GF cereal
- Banana chia pudding
- Banana bread topped with nut butter
- DF and GF cheese and ham pinwheels
- Sweetcorn and carrot muffins with grapes (chopped if your child is younger)
- Apple turnover with a glass of milk
- Maple and pecan granola clusters with an orange (be sure to use GF oats)
- Chocolate blueberry clusters with a small fruit juice
- Onion bhaji with cucumber and cherry tomatoes