Gluten-free products are appearing in increasing numbers in major supermarkets, a trend that has inspired more than a few jokes and eye-rolls. However, for parents whose children have certain medical conditions, a gluten-free lifestyle is no fad or joke, and the products are a godsend for their families. For example, they're grateful to be able to find a wide assortment of gluten-free snacks at Trader Joe's, which make it easy for them to feed their kids without fear.
While some adults adopt a gluten-free (GF) lifestyle in hopes of losing weight, gaining energy, or healing their digestive woes, most people don't really need a gluten-free diet, according to medical experts who spoke to Self. Then there are the people who really rely on GF foods to stay healthy. Children and adults who have been diagnosed with the immune disorder known as celiac disease have to avoid any food made with wheat, rye, or barley. All these grains contain gluten, a protein that affects the small intestine in people with the disorder. For people with celiac, even a few crumbs of regular bread can damage the intestinal lining, explained the Celiac Disease Foundation. Since GF foods contain no wheat, families of children with wheat allergies may opt to try some of these products as well.
As Openfit reported, in addition to GF products such as baking mixes and frozen pizza, Trader Joe's has a good variety of snacks that can be packed in a lunch box or brought along to a party or playdate. They look and taste almost exactly like their gluten-containing counterparts; more importantly, they help kids with special dietary needs feel included.
1. Baked Cheese Crunchies
Your kids will love the fact that these look and taste just like the name-brand kind of crunchy cheese snacks. You'll love that they're GF, have 33 percent less fat than the other kind, and are selling for $2.
A gluten-free lifestyle usually means sticking with minimally processed and fresh foods, and you can't get more basic than fresh fruit. Cherries are plentiful and not too expensive in summer; TJ's is selling them for $5 a pound.
Truth to tell, Trader Joe's organic popcorn is so good, your kids (and you!) would be digging in even if it wasn't gluten-free. Fortunately for everyone, it is. Even better: It's hot-air popped and selling for $2 a bag.
4. Savory Thin Mini Crackers
Kids can be ridiculously easy to please where snacks are concerned. Plain crackers can be just as much of a hit as more elaborate bites. So you could get a couple of bags of these small GF crackers ($3 a bag) and serve them either plain or with a topping like jam or cream cheese.
5. Coconut Clusters
When your kids want something sweet, but you want to err on the side of healthy, reach for these not-too-cloying clusters. The sweetness comes from coconut sugar and tapioca syrup, and the sesame seeds and Himalayan pink salt give it a savory twist. Pick up a bag for $2.
6. Spud Crunchies
You'd be surprised how many foods have hidden gluten in them. For example, most French fries aren't gluten-free, according to VeryWell Fit, because they're cooked in the same fryer as chicken fingers and other foods that have been coated with a flour-based batter. No such worries here. Trader Joe's potato snacks are made only with potatoes, canola oil, and salt, and they're so tasty that even non-GF followers are obsessed with their crunchy potato goodness, according to Real Simple.
7. Longboards Organic Tortilla Chips
Either on their own or paired with a gluten-free dip like hummus or tomato salsa, these organic corn-based chips are sure to be a hit at snack time or on play dates.
8. 3 Seed Sweet Potato Crackers
It might be a stretch to say that this counts as giving your kids a plateful of veggies. But compared to other crackers, this scores points not only for being GF, but also for having ingredients that you can pronounce: corn and corn oil, sweet potato, flax seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, and salt. TJ's is currently selling them for $2 a box.
9. Roasted Seaweed
Like the old chips ad used to say, "Betcha can't eat just one." Kids and grownups alike find these naturally gluten-free snacks addictive, so it's a good thing Trader Joe's is selling them in packs of six for a dirt-cheap $4.
10. ABC Bars
A must for gluten-free families who need a snack that can easily be popped into a tote or purse, but it's also just the thing for families looking for a more wholesome alternative to typical snack bars. The TJ's version gets most of its sweetness from figs and almond butter, and there are only 6 grams of added sugar — less than in your average cup of fruit-flavored yogurt.
11. Pretzel Twists
No need to go without pretzels on a GF diet — just pick up a pack of Trader Joe's mini-pretzels. They're not only gluten-free, they're also sugar-free, soy-free, cholesterol-free, and budget-friendly at $3.
12. Chocolate Chip Cocoa Meringues
Made just with egg whites, sugar, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips, these confections are a delightful sweet treat for kids on a gluten-free regimen, or for anyone looking for a not-too-filling dessert.
13. Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles
These cinnamon- and vanilla- flavored cookies get an enthusiastic thumbs-up from a reviewer for the Celiac Disease website. In his verdict, the critic said Trader Joe's gluten-free snickerdoodles are nice and moist, with "a balance of cinnamon and sugar flavor."
14. Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels
Certain candies are off-limits to kids on gluten-free diets (until they make GF versions of Twix and Kit Kats). But with drool-worthy treats like this, no one has to feel deprived. Definitely not an everyday snack (three pieces of Trader Joe's caramels have 220 calories and 11 grams of fat), but a luscious once-in-a-while indulgence.
15. Crunchy Nutty Rice Bites
For kids who enjoy a snack that makes a little noise, this should be a hit; the rice and quinoa provide that satisfying crunch, while the cranberries add a tart sweetness. (However, they do contain almond and cashews, so they're not for children with nut allergies.)
16. Date & Nut Bites
Carefully crafted from almonds and dates, these bite-sized treats have a natural sweetness that should please even the most ravenous sugar monsters.
17. Raspberry & Vanilla Cream Bars
Going gluten-free doesn't mean having to give up ice cream — not when you have choices like this. Creamy and refreshing, Trader Joe's bars (a box of eight goes for $4) are just the thing for a hot summer day.
18. Mini Cupcakes
Possibly the best snack of the bunch, these $4 chocolate and vanilla cupcakes ensure that kids on a gluten-free diet don't have to miss out on the fun of celebrating a birthday in school.