Celiac Disease

Gluten-Free Snack Options

An Overview of Gluten-Free Snacks

Craving something crunchy? There's a snack for that. How about something creamy? There's a snack for that too. From chips to candy to healthier options like fresh fruit and vegetables, there are plenty of gluten-free snacks for those following a gluten-free diet.

In fact, the past few years have brought an explosion of gluten-free products for those with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or those who are following a gluten-free diet for other health reasons.

Many of these snacks will slip easily into a school lunch bag, backpack, or briefcase, while others can be stashed in the car for when they're needed.

Fresh Snacks

Finding fresh snacks is easy, even within the sometimes-restrictive confines of a gluten-free diet. In fact, it can sometimes make more sense to head into a grocery store to locate a quick snack than to visit a local fast food place. Here's a partial list of what you can find in a typical supermarket to snack on that's healthy and fast:

  • Fresh fruit is almost always gluten-free. However, if you purchase fruit that's been cut up, such as melons or pineapple, you'll need to be certain that the store didn't cut the fruit in the same area as it makes sandwiches or uses flour. Generally, this is only a problem in small stores, but when in doubt (and if you're extremely sensitive to trace gluten), stick with whole fruit you peel yourself, like bananas and oranges.
  • Fresh vegetables are also gluten-free—with the same caveats as fresh fruit. They make a nice snack when paired with hummus, which is made from garbanzo beans, sesame seeds, and spices. But make certain to only buy a gluten-free-labeled hummus brand. (Sabra is one brand that states "gluten-free" on its label.)
  • Gluten-free yogurt is an easy, healthy option, assuming you eat dairy. Many—but not all—brands and flavors of yogurt are considered gluten-free. Chobani and Cabot are two recommended brands.
  • Gluten-free peanut butter or gluten-free nut butter, paired with vegetables or gluten-free crackers, can be a filling, higher-in-protein snack or even lunch. Justin's nut butters are certified gluten-free.
  • Gluten-free snack bars, such as Kind bars and Larabars, make an easy-to-carry, healthy snack you can drop in your bag for later. Find a flavor you like and buy a handful of them so you always have one handy when you get the munchies.
  • Trail mix can be made gluten-free—just combine plain nuts, some dried fruit, and maybe some M&Ms (yes, they're safe). Add some shredded coconut if you're feeling adventurous (Let's Do Organic's coconut is labeled gluten-free). Omit the granola unless it's gluten-free.

Crackers, Chips, and Pretzels

Many common snack foods are grain-based. The crackers, chips, and pretzels filling the snack aisle at the grocery store often contain wheat, barley, and rye.

Even potato chips aren't immune since they may contain gluten-based flavorings or be subject to gluten cross-contamination in processing. Therefore, those who are gluten-free will need to source specific products that are labeled gluten-free. Fortunately, there are many to choose from:

  • Gluten-free potato chips are common in the snack food aisle. Reliably gluten-free brands include Kettle, Cape Cod, and Terra.
  • Gluten-free tortilla chips also fill plenty of shelves in the snack food aisle. Look for Food Should Taste Good, Late July, and Mission Foods brands, among others.
  • Gluten-free multigrain chips offer a fun, potentially healthier alternative to chips made of potato or corn—you even can find chips made of beans. Way Better, Mediterranean Snack Foods, and Eatsmart Naturals are all good multigrain chips to sample.
  • Gluten-free pretzels are indistinguishable in taste from the gluten-containing variety, so be especially careful in choosing your package. Some companies, like Snyder's of Hanover, make both gluten-free and gluten-filled pretzels. Ener-G and Glutino make great crunchy pretzels, while Tonya's Gluten-Free Kitchen (found in the freezer section) will satisfy your craving for soft pretzels.
  • Gluten-free crackers have gone far beyond the round rice crackers that used to be the only gluten-free cracker option (although you can still get rice thins in a wide variety of flavors). Look for Mary's Gone Crackers, Schar, and Sesmark brands.

Sweets, Candy, and Ice Cream

Sometimes, only a sweet snack will make you happy and give you that kick of energy that allows you to make it through the rest of your day. Since candy, cookies, and other sugary goodies contain multiple ingredients, you'll need to pay special attention to their gluten-free status.

But the good news is, the boom in gluten-free eating has led to many manufacturers testing and then labeling their candies and other products gluten-free. Here's the rundown:

  • Gluten-free candy options include tried-and-true favorites like the plain Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar (only in certain sizes) and Tootsie Rolls, plus many more. Make sure to check the comprehensive gluten-free candy list before diving in, though, because many candies are not gluten-free (including many that don't contain obvious gluten ingredients).
  • Some upscale chocolate bars are gluten-free. But again, not all. The same caveat applies to Hershey's Kisses.
  • Some gum is gluten-free, particularly Trident and all-natural Glee brands.
  • Gluten-free ice cream alternatives include a wide variety of brands and flavors. Be careful with ice cream, since some flavors that seem gluten-free actually contain gluten. Blue Bell's vanilla comes to mind—it contains wheat flour. Meanwhile, some flavors that sound like they would contain gluten actually are gluten-free. Check out Talenti's German Chocolate Cake Gelato.
  • If you're considering packaged cookies or other similar snacks, they obviously need to be gluten-free (regular cookies are made with wheat flour). Most grocery stores now carry at least one brand of gluten-free cookies and supermarkets with extensive natural product lines probably will offer a much larger selection.
  • Many brands and flavors of soda, bottled juices, energy drinks, and sports drinks are gluten-free.

Fast Food, Coffee, and More

Many of the above gluten-free snacks can be packed to go, though some might require a cooler. But if you want to grab a snack on the fly from a fast food joint or a coffee house, you won't go hungry just because you don't eat gluten:

  • A few fast food chains offer decent gluten-free menus—Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle, and Wendy's are your best bets. Even in these gluten-aware places, gluten cross-contamination is a significant risk.
  • Gluten-free frozen yogurt is easy to find and many chains prominently label their flavors "gluten-free." Beware of customer-induced gluten cross-contamination in the toppings section, though—it's pretty easy for someone to slip and dump cookie crumbles into the fresh strawberries.
  • It's a bit trickier—but by no means undoable—to get safe ice cream from an ice cream parlor. Make sure to verify the ingredients of your preferred flavor and be hyper aware of cross contamination.
  • Ordering gluten-free at Starbucks is challenging since the chain doesn't consider anything made behind the counter to be gluten-free. However, some coffee drinks are safe. And almost every Starbucks has packaged snacks that are labeled "gluten-free."
  • Dunkin' Donuts is even more challenging for those who are gluten-free. The chain doesn't guarantee the gluten-free status of its drinks, it doesn't offer any gluten-free snacks, and it has the added risk of airborne gluten at locations where there's active baking.

The Bottom Line

Snacking while gluten-free can sometimes be a challenge. Unlike your friends, you can't just grab a handful of cookies or fries without doing your due diligence to make sure the snack in question is safe. But once you know which of your favorite foods are gluten-free, there's no reason to go hungry. And with just a bit of advance planning, you should be able to satisfy most any sweet or salty craving with something that also suits your gluten-free diet.

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