For adults, making big dietary changes may be easy enough. However, for kids, it’s more challenging.
There's no doubt kids need a healthy lunchbox full of foods that support their growth and development. How do we do that if our kids have dietary requirements, including gluten-free and nut-free foods?
What’s more, supermarket ‘lunchbox’ foods labelled gluten and nut free are often full of preservatives and other processed ingredients.
We need things that are quick and easy, inexpensive and pack a nutritional punch. How do we achieve this while being mindful of dietary requirements?
Let’s take a quick look at Coeliac Disease and Nut Allergy before we jump into snack ideas that tick both boxes.
What is Coeliac Disease?
Coeliac disease is an inherited disease where the intestinal lining is inflamed and damaged following the consumption of gluten. Gluten is found in all wheat and related products, including rye, barley, oats and spelt. This means pasta, bread, pastries and many packaged foods that contain gluten or wheat products are not suitable for coeliac disease sufferers. The most widely accepted treatment for coeliac sufferers involves the avoidance of gluten and any products that contain gluten.
I don’t have coeliac disease but I also don’t think wheat agrees with me…
I would say a large proportion of us eating a standard Western-diet would fall into this category. I have yet to meet someone who can put away loaves of bread, pasta and croissants and feel completely ok doing so. Some of this is due to the commercial farming techniques we have largely adopted over the past 50 years, and the wheat of day is simply not the wheat of yesteryear.
Outside of coeliac disease, there are now some other classifications of wheat-related intolerances that have been documented in the medical literature. If you struggle with wheat but have ruled out coeliac disease, you could have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy.
Below is a summary of potential symptoms that encompass each condition. These are not exhaustive, just an overview of what some people experience. A proper diagnosis and case history should always be taken by a health provider to determine what’s happening for you.
Coeliac disease symptoms
Malabsorption of nutrients, degradation of microvilli in the small intestine, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss, mouth ulcers, iron deficiency anaemia, fatigue and brain fog
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity describes a set of symptoms people attribute to dietary gluten, but the cause and treatment is not well understood. People may experience irritable bowel-like symptoms, fatigue, headache, joint pain, brain fog, irritability
Generalised irritable bowel symptoms, swelling in nose and throat, itchiness, rash and wheezing.
What is a Nut Allergy?
While the origins of nut allergies remain unclear, the consensus among health professionals is that even if you have a confirmed nut allergy, you should still introduce nuts into your child’s diet regardless. Have a read of this article all about nut allergies for more information.
How Does a Nut Allergy Present?
It’s important to understand what’s happening in the event of a nut allergy and how to spot it in a child. Different parts of the immune system are involved in an allergy response versus intolerance. The skin and airways are classically involved in a food allergy.
Allergy symptoms occur rapidly, often within an hour of food consumption, known as an IgE-mediated immune response. Similar to a bee sting, someone reacting to a nut allergy will present quite quickly with symptoms. In all cases, if you’re worried about your child’s immune health, consult your trusted health provider.
Gluten-free & Nut-free Snacks
Here’s some ideas that are both gluten-free and nut-free as a starting point. A lot of bases are covered, including quality protein, fruit and veggies, dried fruit, nuts and seeds and healthy fats.
- Flaxseed crackers with avocado
- Boiled egg with bacon strips
- Seaweed snacks
- Flaked salmon and cream cheese on gf wrap
- Leftover roast meat & root veg
- Brown rice sushi rolls with tuna
- Chia pudding with yoghurt (see below)
- Fresh fruit & veggie sticks
- Roasted chickpeas
- Dried Fruit - sultanas, apple, dates, mango (see below)
- Chocolate covered blueberries
- Pepitas & Sunflower seeds (see below)
- Buckwheat mini crepes with banana
- Hummus, cream cheese, guacamole dips
Below are some nutritional benefits of a couple of these snack ideas.
Gluten-free, nut-free, high in healthy fats, high in protein. Chia seeds tick several nutritional boxes and once you’re in a rhythm of adding them to the kids’ meals, you won’t look back. Notably high in magnesium and B vitamins and omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids.
Chia seeds are a wonderful food to help nourish growing brains, as the research shows. On study showed that chia seeds were found to reduce inflammation on microglial brain cells. This means they’re an anti-inflammatory health food that’s naturally gluten and nut free.
Chia pudding with yoghurt
2 cups milk
½ cup chia seeds
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
A dash of maple syrup
- Using a fork, mix all ingredients well in a glass jar or container until you see the seeds begin to swell and separate.
- Place in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight, stir once more if required.
- To serve, add sliced banana, more cinnamon and natural yoghurt
I’ve discussed dried fruit before and the wealth of health benefits they provide. However, I feel some less familiar dried fruits deserve some air time, and why shouldn’t it be dried mango? Gluten and nut-free, I love dried mango for a not-as-you-know-it kids snack option.
Dried mango is Incredibly high in beta-carotene, zinc and is a natural anti-inflammatory food. Dried mango is also a great source of plant protein, which ensures the kids remain focused where needed and have enough growth nutrients to support their needs.
Surprisingly as well, mangoes are high in omega 3 and 6, helping support neurodevelopment and tissue healing - a must for children’s health. Mangoes also have a special polyphenol known as mangiferin, which helps abate sugar cravings and balances blood glucose levels. This is good news for any sweet-loving littlies as it’s important to favour quality protein, fats and complex carbs over sugary snacks.
Snack tip: Slices of dried mango with a handful of macadamia nuts - good fats, protein, fibre and a hint of summer all at once!
Pepitas & Sunflower Seeds
Pepitas and Sunflower Seeds should be added to everything in my book. Great for kids mixed in yoghurt, sprinkled on avocado crackers or eaten as is by the handful! Of course these, like all seeds, are gluten and nut free, and make a wonderful choice if this is on your dietary criteria.
Pepitas have natural blood-glucose lowering qualities, making them a great choice for busy kids with heaps of energy. A randomised trial demonstrated that around 3 tablespoons of pepitas had significant glucose-regulating effects, likely due to their unique properties, including trigonelline, D-chiro-inositol and nicotinic acid.
Sunflower seeds may be a newcomer to the gluten and nut free snack scene, however the ways to include them are endless. Where pepitas (when eaten raw) can have a slight bitterness, sunflower seeds have a mild taste and slightly soft texture. They lend perfectly to a range of snacks and main meals, including atop a chia pudding or sprinkled on a sliced tomato and cream cheese cracker (gluten-free of course).
Both pepitas and sunflower seeds are loaded with zinc, which switches on a host of hormones, neurotransmitters and cellular signalling pathways in the body. Zinc is also essential for immune function, which in kids is important to support.
For a fun treat, high in minerals and antioxidants and healthy for the whole family, including the kids, try this recipe out.
Pepita Chocolate Bark
- 2 blocks of good-quality dark cooking chocolate
- ⅓ cup of dried goji berries
- ¼ cup of pepitas
- 2 tbsps. chia seeds
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- Melt chocolate either over a bain-marie or in the microwave (20 second bursts, stirring after each one).
- Spread melted chocolate onto baking paper into an even layer.
- Sprinkle in goji berries, pepitas, chia seeds and salt.
- Place in the fridge for around 2 hours.
- Once set, break into pieces (resembling bark)
- Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge.
(14) (PDF) Nutritional and therapeutic potential of sunflower seeds: A review. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263340213_Nutritional_and_therapeutic_potential_of_sunflower_seeds_A_review#fullTextFileContent[accessed Aug 12 2021].
Bailly, C., Benamar , A., Corbineau, F.. and Côme, D.. (1998), Free radical scavenging as affected by accelerated ageing and subsequent priming in sunflower seeds. Physiologia Plantarum, 104: 646-652. https://doi.org/10.1034/j.1399-3054.1998.1040418.x
Bennett, L. E., Singh, D. P., & Clingeleffer, P. R. (2011). Micronutrient mineral and folate content of Australian and imported dried fruit products. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 51(1), 38–49.https://doi.org/10.1080/10408390903044552
Biesiekierski, J. R., & Iven, J. (2015). Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity: piecing the puzzle together. United European gastroenterology journal, 3(2), 160–165. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050640615578388
Cândido, F. G., de Oliveira, F., Lima, M., Pinto, C. A., da Silva, L. L., Martino, H., Dos Santos, M. H., & Alfenas, R. (2018). Addition of pooled pumpkin seed to mixed meals reduced postprandial glycemia: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.), 56, 90–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2018.04.015
Cárdenas-Torres, F. I., Cabrera-Chávez, F., Figueroa-Salcido, O. G., & Ontiveros, N. (2021). Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: An Update. Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania), 57(6), 526. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina57060526
Coeliac Australia. https://www.coeliac.org.au/s/, viewed 21 Oct 2021.
Evans, S. F., Meister, M., Mahmood, M., Eldoumi, H., Peterson, S., Perkins-Veazie, P., Clarke, S. L., Payton, M., Smith, B. J., & Lucas, E. A. (2014). Mango supplementation improves blood glucose in obese individuals. Nutrition and metabolic insights, 7, 77–84. https://doi.org/10.4137/NMI.S17028
Kivelä, L., Caminero, A., Leffler, D. A., Pinto-Sanchez, M. I., Tye-Din, J. A., & Lindfors, K. (2021). Current and emerging therapies for coeliac disease. Nature reviews. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 18(3), 181–195. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41575-020-00378-1
Marcinek, K., & Krejpcio, Z. (2017). Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica): health promoting properties and therapeutic applications – a review. Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny, 68(2), 123–129.
Martínez Leo, E. E., & Segura Campos, M. R. (2020). Neuroprotective effect from Salvia hispanica peptide fractions on pro-inflammatory modulation of HMC3 microglial cells. Journal of food biochemistry, 44(6), e13207. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfbc.13207
Pal, D., 2011. Nuts and Seeds in Health and Nutrition. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) Seeds in Health and Nutrition, 1st ed. Pp.1097-1105. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-375688-6.10130-6
Patel, S., & Rauf, A. (2017). Edible seeds from Cucurbitaceae family as potential functional foods: Immense promises, few concerns. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie, 91, 330–337. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2017.04.090
Vinson, J. A., Zubik, L., Bose, P., Samman, N., & Proch, J. (2005). Dried fruits: excellent in vitro and in vivo antioxidants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 24(1), 44–50. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2005.10719442