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The Hype on Hypoallergenic Snacks for Kids | September 29, 2010

“Hypoallergenic” is one of those new trendy words—there are hypoallergenic dogs, cosmetics, laundry detergent, soaps and of course foods.  Hypoallergenic foods can be a big concern if you are the designated snack provider for school or sport activities. Children have small stomachs and should be offered food every 2 ½ to 3 hours to support their hunger, growth, and development. Providing meals and snacks throughout the day ensures they get all of their calorie and nutrient needs, optimizes cognitive development, and reduces behavioral problems in school.

Providing healthy snacks can often be frustrating for parents, caregivers and teachers when children have special dietary needs due to allergies. Allergies in children appear to be more prevalent these days and this has many concerned.  What are the most common food allergies?  Here are the top 8:  Wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and soy. (You may want to remind your children, as I do mine that Brussels sprouts and other vegetables did not make the list

It’s extremely challenging to find snack ideas devoid of gluten (from wheat). So fruit and vegetable snacks are always your best bet. Schools often request prepackaged snacks rather than homemade snacks for food safety reasons.  To make snack selections easier and to support children with allergies, try offering snacks from this list of least allergenic prepackaged foods:

  • Canned fruit: pineapple, pears, and peaches
  • Pre-packaged carrots and apples (plan for cold storage)
  • Dried fruit (raisins, berries or craisins)
  • Sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (shelled)
  • Quaker rice cakes or Riceworks snack chips
  • Smartfood reduced fat cheddar popcorn
  • Corn chips such as Sanitas, Tostitos, chips
  • Fruit cups: applesauce or fruit cocktail
  • Rice chex or corn chex
  • Rice crackers or chips
  • Baked potato chips

If your school or child care center allows homemade snacks, you can bake or assemble your own snacks.  Most health food stores or regular supermarkets sell flour, bread, crackers, cookies, pretzels, waffles, cereal, and pasta made of rice, potato or other gluten-free flours.  Trail mix snacks can be made with rice chex, rice puffs, raisins, and sunflower seeds.  Look for the “gluten free” label on the box.  Here is a child approved recipe for an old favorite—Rice Krispie Bars with a hypoallerginic twist .

Gluten-free Rice Chex Treats

3 T margarine

1 package marshmallows

6-8 C Rice Chex cereal

Melt margarine and marshmallows in the microwave until they are melted.  Add cereal until marshmallow mix is well distributed. Grease your hands with vegetable oil and press mixture into a well greased cake pan.  Refrigerate.  Cut into bars and enjoy!

If you would like to learn more about eating well to maximize your health, please join the University of Idaho dietetics students and myself on October 12th at 6:30 pm at the Kroc Center where we will be giving a public educational forum on this topic.