What Are Gluten-Free Snacks?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 27, 2021

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, triticale, and barley. People with celiac disease need to eat a gluten-free diet and avoid foods with these ingredients.

Why Gluten-Free?

Gluten is linked to several conditions, and a gluten-free diet is recommended for people who can’t tolerate this type of protein. Aside from these circumstances, there’s little evidence that a gluten-free diet has health benefits.

These are the conditions that are linked with gluten. 

Celiac disease. This is an autoimmune condition. If you have celiac disease, your body launches an immune response in your small intestine when you eat gluten. This reaction eventually damages the lining of your small intestine so it absorbs less nutrients.

Celiac disease affects people differently. There are more than 200 possible symptoms, but some people may have no symptoms at all. Some symptoms are:

  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss
  • Migraines
  • Joint pain
  • Arthritis 
  • Itchy skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Recently, more people have reported symptoms after eating wheat. These symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and muscle pains, are not allergy- or autoimmune-related. 

Tests don’t find signs of celiac disease in people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. But when they remove gluten from their diet, their symptoms improve. 

Wheat allergy. This is an allergy to wheat and wheat products. It means that your body’s defenses, called your immune system, overreacts to wheat. 

If you think you might have a gluten sensitivity or a food allergy, talk to your doctor about getting tested. 

A Gluten-Free Diet

If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you’ll need to remove gluten from your diet. 

This is important, because celiac disease can become active when you eat as little as 100 milligrams of gluten in a day. This is about 1/64 of a teaspoon of flour.

It may seem hard at first, because many foods have gluten. But plenty of healthy foods are naturally gluten-free. These include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Lean meats
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Healthy fats
  • Gluten-free whole grains

Being on a gluten-free diet doesn’t mean that you need to stop eating all grains, which give you healthy carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Whole grains have even more of these vitamins and minerals.

Gluten-free grains include:

Shopping for Gluten-Free Products

The market for gluten-free products has boomed in the past decade, and there are things you need to look out for if you follow a gluten-free diet.

Read the ingredient label. If a product contains wheat, barley, rye, or triticale, it has gluten. 

Foods that are labeled “gluten-free” can still contain some wheat starch. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows a packaged food to be labeled gluten-free if it has been processed to remove gluten and the food contains under 20 parts per million gluten.

This limit of less than 20 parts per million is used because it’s the lowest level that can be detected with scientific tools.

Cross-contamination. Another thing to look out for are products labeled as “made on shared equipment” or “may contain” wheat or gluten. This means it’s possible that there’s some gluten in the product.

Hidden gluten. Read labels on all packaged and processed foods. Gluten can be found in many dressings, sauces, gravies, and candy. For instance, you may be surprised to learn that soy sauce and licorice both contain wheat.

Different varieties of wheat. There are several types of wheat, and all of them have gluten:

  • Durum
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer
  • Kamut spelt

Farina, graham flour, and semolina are all wheat products.

Find an alternative. If you’re not sure whether a product is correctly labeled, find something else. For instance, a product may be labeled as gluten-free, but wheat is listed as an ingredient.

Gluten-free is not always healthy. A study of gluten-free foods targeted at children found that 88% of the products were unhealthy, and 79% of them were high in sugar. 

Gluten-free bakery products are also high in fat, sugar, salt, and refined carbohydrates.

Healthy Gluten-Free Snack Ideas

Here are some easy and nutritious gluten-free snacks to try:

Hummus cucumber sandwiches:

  • Slice up a cucumber.
  • Spread a little hummus on one slice. 
  • Top with another slice of cucumber.

Ants on a log:

  • Take a celery stick.
  • Fill it with peanut butter. 
  • Add some raisins on top.

Crispy chickpeas:

  • Open a can of chickpeas. 
  • Drain and pat dry the chickpeas. 
  • Toss with olive oil and salt.  
  • Spread out on a baking sheet. 
  • Roast at 400F (204C) for 20 to 30 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes. 
  • Remove from the oven.
  • Toss with your favorite spices or fresh herbs, such as chili powder, cumin, rosemary, or thyme.

Hurricane popcorn:

  • Pop some popcorn.
  • Pour it into a large bowl.
  • Drizzle with melted butter.
  • Sprinkle in some furikake or shredded seaweed.
  • Add some bite-sized rice crackers. 
  • Stir well. 

Some other gluten-free snacks are:

  • Tortilla chips and guacamole
  • Yogurt 
  • Rice cakes
  • Fresh fruit
  • Applesauce
  • Edamame
  • Fruit leather
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheese sticks

You can also make your own trail mix with your favorite nuts, seeds, and unsweetened dried fruits.

Show Sources



Celiac Disease Foundation: “FOOD LABEL READING GUIDE,” “Symptoms of Celiac Disease.”

Cleveland Clinic: “The Surprising Truth About Gluten-Free Food and Weight Loss.”

Food and Drug Administration (FDA): “'Gluten-Free' Means What It Says.”

Mayo Clinic: “Celiac disease diet: How do I get enough grains?” “Is a gluten-free diet healthy for someone who doesn't have celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity?” “Nutrition and healthy eating.”

Pediatrics: “The Nutritional Quality of Gluten-Free Products for Children."


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