The final stretch of summer is here.
That means grasping onto the last couple weeks of slow mornings, and long, warm days. Some of us continue the work and travel grind right into fall, and could just use a reset when it comes to smart snacks. For others, the school year is nearly upon us, bringing some structure back to our lives (along with carpools, sports, and hungry kids).
And guess what? Whatever your life looks like, good food is a big part of it. I’d venture to say the most important.
So whether the next couple of weeks will send you deep into fall budget meetings, a grueling work travel schedule, or into your role as your kids’ personal Uber driver – or all of the above – here are 15 very easy-to-prepare, gluten- & dairy-free snacks that require minimal (or no) refrigeration, and work for almost any situation. Bonus: Kids will actually eat them.
Note that this post isn’t titled: Shelly’s Creative And Crafty Snack Ideas, or How To Prepare Healthy Snacks In Just Under Six Strenuous Hours. You won’t find obscure vegetables or exotic fruits listed below. But I can tell you what’s easy, what’s practical, and what works for my crazy life (and food sensitive family).
Why I am specifically giving you gluten- and dairy-free options (plus GMO-free corn/soy) is a bigger story for another day. But if you’re curious, check out this post as a starting point.
1. Organic Apples with Almond/Cashew Butter
Couldn’t be easier. Slice up an organic apple and spoon out some nut butter.
Apples are #1 on the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen (i.e. highest level of pesticides used), so go organic whenever possible
I like almond or cashew butter over peanut butter for a handful of reasons:
- Peanuts are a common allergen.
- Almonds/cashews have a better fatty acid profile.
- Peanuts are actually a legume and not a nut (a problem if you have an issue with a class of carbohydrates referred to as FODMAPS– which I’ll cover in more detail later).
- Peanuts can contain aflatoxin, a liver-damaging toxin caused by mold (but you should be fine if your nuts have been consistently stored in a cool/dry environment).
To make this even easier, use an apple slicer. If you’re really pressed for time, grab a bag of sliced, organic apples at your local grocery store (I’ve found them at Trader Joe’s). You can even stock up on some individual packets of nut butter (I like Justin’s brand). These are good to keep in your bag or purse for an easy, nutrient-dense hit of protein (and healthy fat).
2. Celery & Nut butter
Get crazy and go for ants on a log by adding some raisins or currants on top. This would obviously be primarily for the kiddies, but your neighbor in Business Class might be hip to it as well.
3. Hummus or Tahini & Carrots (or any other cut-up veggies you can find)
For those who need to watch FODMAPS, don’t do well with beans, or who are on a strict Paleo diet, tahini is the preferred dip because its foundation is sesame seeds rather than garbanzo beans. The good news is it’s nearly as easy to find.
4. Hummus or Tahini & Crackers (or pretzels)
There are a lot of gluten-free crackers available on the market today, but most fall into the “gluten-free-but-otherwise-crap” category. Thankfully, there are some good choices:
Mary’s Gone Crackers (multiple flavors)
Non-GMO, certified gluten free, made with ancient whole grains and completely free of corn & soy, I completely stand behind this brand (without any kind of kickback for the shout out). You can find their crackers and other items at Whole Foods, marysgonecrackers.com, Thrive Market, Sprout’s Farmers Market and most any other natural (and some conventional) retailers.
Another product I love of theirs, primarily for the kids, is the sea salt pretzels. These come in individual packages with kid-friendly graphics, and are perfect for dipping. These are the only gluten-free pretzels on the market that I can wholeheartedly recommend. My 3 year old boy is on a strict gluten- and dairy-free diet so I have to be THAT preschool mom, monitoring not only the lunches I make for him, but the snacks they provide (i.e. “Yes, I know the Goldfish crackers are “whole grain”, but they still aren’t going to work”). Gift a big stash of these pretzels or crackers to your kid’s classroom (and keep another bag of them in the car!).
Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers
This is another good cracker option, one that I’ve found to be a little more palatable for the kids. My personal favorite flavor is the Rosemary & Olive Oil, but they have other flavors, as well as plain. They do have small amounts of soy and corn, but they are non-GMO so I wouldn’t sweat it too much, unless you have a confirmed sensitivity or allergy. These are widely available, sold at not only natural retailers, but many conventional retailers and Costco.
5. Hard Boiled Egg
If this is your thing (or your kids’), this couldn’t be an easier option. While eggs can be a common allergen/sensitivity, they are both dairy- and casein-free. So if you don’t have a specific egg issue, you’re golden (pun intended).
6. Energy Bars
I did say these were easy, simple, on the go snacks. And I do have a couple listed below that you can buy…but I have to start this snack option by saying your healthiest bet is to make your own. This avoids excess processed sugar and other ingredients, as well as packaging. Some good recipes can be found at the following sites: Pamela Salzman (a goldmine for healthful, tasty recipes) or Barre 3
A couple of recommendations:
1. To make the most of the hour you’ll spend prepping, making, and cleaning up, double or triple the recipe and freeze the extras. 2. When the recipe says use a food processor, take it to heart. I speak from experience – don’t sacrifice your beloved Vitamix in your quest for creating a homemade bar. It’s a great tool, but it’s not invincible.
Now, if the thought of making your own bars caused you to laugh out loud, here are my favorite widely-available bar picks (again, no kick-backs from these companies).
- KIND Bars: certified gluten-free, non-GMO, whole grains. A good amount of fructose in some flavors, so don’t make this the mainstay of your diet.
- Lara Bars: I love these for their simple ingredient lists – most varieties have no more than 4 ingredients (mainly dates, nuts, spices) – and they’re non-GMO. They have come out with more dessert-like flavors in the last few years (i.e. chocolate chip peanut butter), which are delicious, but aren’t going to be your healthiest choice. They still have many other flavors without the chocolate, sugar or peanuts that are still tasty (e.g. Cherry Pie, Cashew Cookie, Apple Pie).
Both of these brands are widely available – natural/conventional grocers, Amazon, the gas station. So if you leave the house without a good option, never fear! Stop at the gas station, walk by the Cheetos without a glance, and grab one of the above energy bars with confidence.
There are also many other niche brands of bars I’ve found at local coffee shops, and boutique natural retailers. Keep on the look out for good options with a short ingredient list, “gluten-free”, “dairy-free” and “non-GMO” labels.
7. Trail Mix
My favorite thing about trail mix is that it is truly easy to make your own. Choose a few of your favorite nuts/seeds, and add Enjoy Life dairy-free chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips/chunks or Cacao nibs (all can be found at most health food stores, including Thrive Market). If you like dried fruit, add raisins, dried cranberries, or currents. Toss everything into a bowl and mix it up, then divvy it up into individual portions. If it’s for the kids, let them help make it and they’ll be even more excited to dig in.
And while you’re at it, keep some of the individual nuts and seeds at the ready. They make a good crunch substitute for potato chips or pretzels – they are much more filling and nutrient dense. Nuts in particular are a good source of calcium, which is important when on a dairy-free diet.
If you’re already a fan, you know you can just eat these plain or with a little sprinkle of sea salt. They are a great source of anti-inflammatory fats and even come with their own serving bowl, which makes them a perfect on-the-go option. If you like to pair something crunchy with avocado’s creamy texture, bring some of your new favorite crackers found in item #4 above to spread it on. Other easy and tasty options are cut-up veggies or uncured, nitrate-free lunchmeat (I like Applegate Farms).
9. Dried Mango (or other fruit)
Trader Joe’s has a good unsulphured, no-sweeteners-added, “Just Mango”. My whole family loves it and it is so easy to take on-the-go. I am never without a package in my car. Dried fruits are very concentrated (read: higher in fructose), so don’t overdo it. But as part of a balanced eating plan, it’s a great option.
I hope it goes without saying that eating whole, fresh fruit would be ideal. But, it’s not always logical for travel.
10. Certified Gluten-Free Granola
This is a very versatile product to have at the ready. Use it alone for a snack (or morning cereal), add it to a dairy-free yogurt (see below), or sprinkle into a smoothie for some texture.
You can find tons of recipes if you want to make your own, but some good brands I like with clean ingredients are: Purely Elizabeth (all ancient grains and SO good), KIND, UDI’s and Paleokrunch (a grain-free option, made with nuts & seeds).
The “Certified Gluten-Free” is key for this product. While oats inherently don’t have gluten in them, they are processed with wheat, so without the label they can be highly contaminated with gluten.
11. Coconut or Almond Yogurt
Enjoy this with or without the aforementioned granola (or fruit) mixed in. If you choose to make your own you’ll get a product with less preservatives, increased probiotics and less sugar, but again, this post is about easy and quick snack options, which doesn’t involve you wearing an apron and sweating it out in your kitchen. There’s a time and place for that activity, but this ain’t it. Hence, you can find decent options at Trader Joe’s and other natural grocers.
Note to travelers: it has to be frozen to make it through TSA.
12. Root Vegetable/Sweet Potato Chips
Root vegetable chips are my #1 go to when I’m craving something crunchy. Such great flavor and texture with that hint of starch and salt that I need sometimes, but much more nutrient dense than potato chips and grain-free for those that need to limit them.
My favorite brand is TERRA because of their minimal ingredient list, including clean oils and sea salt.
Trader Joe’s also sells a bag of “Sweet Potato Chips” that my family likes and I found a really good product at Mendocino Farms called “Joe’s Sweet Potato Kettle Chips” (individual bags).I have not seen them in retail stores and they don’t sell them alone on their website. I’ll keep you posted if I track them down.
Sweet potatoes are not on the Dirty Dozen List, so I don’t go crazy that these are not organic. But, one note of caution: always read the ingredient list because many products that say they are made with sweet potatoes (or ancient grains) often have corn as the first ingredient. With corn being one of the most highly genetically-modified crops, I would avoid if it isn’t certified non-GMO. There is a reason they are hiding it in the marketing.
Once again, if you’ve got some down time, it’s ideal (and easy) to make your own. It ensures the chips are made with good fats and no preservatives. Just slice them as thinly as possible, coat with some olive or coconut oil, season as desired, and bake on a baking sheet at 350° for about 30 minutes.
13. Non-GMO Popcorn*
Of course, you can always pop your own the night before, but Trader Joe’s has a good clean, non-GMO brand. I also like Boom Chick-A-Pop as a clean, non-GMO brand. You can find in natural grocers and in a large box of individual packages at Costco.
*If you have a sensitivity to gluten and dairy/casein, this may not be a great choice. Corn (and soy) use the same digestive enzymes needed for gluten & casein. However, I consider this a lesser evil for situations when presented with “fun food” temptations – especially for the kids.
14. Lentils & Bruschetta
One of my favorite all-time cheats is to mix these two ingredients together and sit back and let others think I’ve spent hours soaking lentils and chopping tomatoes. Want in? Here’s how to look clever (and eat fabulously): Purchase one package of pre-steamed lentils and one package of pre-prepared bruschetta from Trader Joe’s. Go home and toss them in a bowl. Serve to friends, or portion out for yourself and your family. This makes for a great snack by itself or on top of a cracker. This was also great for my little guy before he had teeth.
It’s savory, filling, and hearty – full of fiber and protein – all of which make it a great thing to have on hand in the event you have to skip a meal, or if you’re eating someplace where you’re concerned about the menu.
15. Quality Jerky
Who says a snack has to consist of a celery stick or be packed with carbs and grains? Buck the norm, and go for some meat – jerky is portable, delicious, and packs a protein punch.
BUT the emphasis here is squarely on “quality.” With the increase in popularity (and effectiveness) of grain-free and paleo diets, many inventive products have come on the market. While I don’t promote a lot of processed meat, there are some products from organic, grass-fed meats without antibiotics, hormones or nitrates that are minimally processed and certified gluten-free.
Look for brands like Nick’s Sticks, or Krave (Amazon).
That’s a wrap. Sometimes what we need isn’t to recreate the wheel or create a Pinterest-worthy snack…sometimes we just need to EAT. I hope you are inspired to get out there and find great ingredients and healthy products to not only make your life easier, but to fill the bellies in your family with quality, anti-inflammatory goodies. Plan ahead so you can keep these easy treats in your purse, car, home, and kid’s lunchboxes. Prepare what you can, buy the rest – skip the drive-thru altogether – and go back to enjoying the gorgeous summer sunsets!
This is just a sampling of the possibilities. I’d love to hear from you – what are your favorite go-to snacks? Drop a line in the comment section below.
For more information about food sensitivities, inflammation and a personalized, step-by-step plan to heal, check out my book, INFLAMED: Discover the root cause of inflammation and personalize a step-by-step plan to create a healthy, vibrant life.