Snacking is a great way to tame hunger if you’re going more than four to five hours between meals. And while choosing a delicious, healthy snack is a breeze for most people, it can be a challenge for those who follow a gluten-free diet.
Gluten is a common ingredient in many conventional snack foods (think: pretzels, crackers, and energy bars), but fear not. If you’re avoiding gluten, there are plenty of satisfying, nutritious snack options out there.
We’ll share some gluten-free snack ideas shortly, but first, let’s back up a little: what the heck is gluten and why would someone cut it out of their diet? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is often thought of as a single compound, however, it’s actually the collective name for the various proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).[*]
It’s found in foods such as bread, cereals, pasta, pizza, flour tortillas, baked goods, beer, and many processed foods. While gluten itself has no nutritional value, it gives foods a chewy, fluffy texture.
Is Gluten Bad for You?
In recent times, gluten has become a somewhat controversial player in the nutrition world. While many sources claim it’s safe for most people, others claim it’s harmful to pretty much everyone. So, what’s the truth?
Research suggests that most people can tolerate gluten with no adverse effects, however, it can cause problems for people with certain health conditions, including:[*]
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects less than 1% of the population.[*] In those with this condition, the immune system attacks gluten, as well as the lining of the gut, leading to a range of health issues.
Once a person is diagnosed with celiac disease, they must strictly avoid consuming gluten for the rest of their lives.
When someone has a wheat allergy, their body's immune system overreacts to proteins in the wheat. Those with a wheat allergy must strictly avoid wheat products, but can usually still consume non-wheat, gluten-containing grains like rye and barley.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a controversial diagnosis. It describes people who experience symptoms (primarily gastrointestinal) after consuming gluten. There is no test to determine if a person has NCGS, so a diagnosis is made based on symptoms alone.
Some research has linked NCGS to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.[*] Other research suggests that people with suspected NCGS develop symptoms after consuming a non-gluten-containing placebo, suggesting the symptoms might be psychosomatic.[*]
It’s also important to note that many people likely feel better when eliminating gluten because they naturally consume less processed foods like fast food, baked goods, and pizza and more healthy foods like fruits and veggies.
Clearly, more research surrounding NCGS is needed.
The Best Gluten-Free Snack Options
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, wheat sensitivity, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or simply feel better eating gluten-free, finding a nourishing snack isn’t something you need to worry about.
Here are the best gluten-free snack options to keep on hand.
#1: Rice Cake with Nut Butter
Gluten-free doesn’t mean grain-free. Those who don’t consume gluten can still eat gluten-free grains like rice and oats, and pseudo-grains like quinoa and buckwheat.
For a quick and easy snack, smear some nut butter (like almond or peanut butter) on a rice cake. You can also add some apple slices, berries, hemp seeds, or chia seeds for extra nutrition and texture.
#2: Turkey Wrapped Cheese Sticks
Turkey and cheese roll-ups make for a tasty, high-protein, low-carb snack. To make them, simply wrap a thin slice of gluten-free turkey breast around a cheese stick.
To increase the nutrient factor, add some veggies, such as sprouts, bell pepper, cucumber, and avocado to your rolls.
#3: Yogurt with Berries
For those craving a snack that’s creamy and a little sweet, yogurt and berries is a great option. Opt for plain Greek yogurt and top it with your choice of berries.
A ½ cup serving of plain Greek yogurt provides 10% of the RDA for calcium, a mineral that many people with celiac disease are deficient in. Not to mention, about 10 grams of protein![*]
#4: Grass-Fed Beef Jerky
With its satisfying chewiness and high protein content, beef jerky is an excellent gluten-free snack option. You can make it yourself using a dehydrator or buy a gluten-free option online or from a grocery store.
If possible, choose jerky made from grass-fed beef, which has higher levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids than non-grass-fed beef. [*]
#5: Veggie Sticks with Hummus
This classic snack is great for a quick and healthy pick-me-up. You can use store-bought hummus or make it yourself by blending the following ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender:
- 1 (15-ounce) can of chickpeas
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup tahini
- 1 small garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt to taste
- Water to thin if needed
Slice up your favorite veggies (carrots, bell pepper, and celery are good options) and enjoy!
#6: Guacamole with Chips
You can never go wrong with chips and guac. Simply mash up some avocado with a little salt, pepper, and squeeze of lime juice to make a creamy spread rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Enjoy your guacamole with gluten-free chips or crackers, or veggie sticks.
#7: Protein Bars
For those looking for a truly grab-and-go option, protein bars fit the bill, however, not any bar off the shelf will do.
Choose a protein bar that’s labeled as gluten-free and low in sugar, such as IQBAR—a vegan, keto-friendly protein bar that contains zero gluten, dairy, soy, or GMOs.
Available in delicious flavors like Lemon Blueberry and Chocolate Sea Salt, IQBARs contain only 1-2 grams of sugar and 3 grams of net carbs per bar. To top it off, each bar has six key brain nutrients shown to support sustained cognitive energy, performance, and health.
Find your favorite IQBAR flavors by trying our 7-Bar Sampler!
Gluten-Free Snacks for Every Craving
Adopting a gluten-free diet might take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easier than you probably think. There are tons of healthy snack options out there that are satisfying and made with real ingredients.
Find your favorites and always keep them on hand to keep your energy level high and your hanger at bay!