Anyone that has been involved with childrens ministry for any length of time knows that empty bellies make it hard for kids to pay attention. So, alongside worship, games, and bathroom breaks, snack time is such an important part of the Sunday morning schedule for kids. In the last few years, we have had to move away from the giant bag of animal crackers we were served as kids because of an increasing number of food allergies and gluten issues. Sometimes it can be difficult to plan a snack that is easy, budget friendly, and gluten-free. Below we have gathered a list of child-tested, Sunday School teacher-approved gluten-free snacks that you can add to your rotation. NOTE: Most items listed can be found at a local grocery store. Affiliate links are included for informational purposes.
Fruit is the original gluten-free snack. Depending on the time of year, seasonal fruit like watermelon, blueberries, and pineapple can be a great option. In the winter months, bananas, apples, and oranges remain an affordable choice. Plan ahead by placing portion sizes in serving cups or plastic bags.
Applesauce or fruit puree pouches have become popular in the last couple years. Once marketed for baby food, even teens are packing these in their lunches these days. Various flavors can be found on almost any store shelf. The bonus? They are practically mess-free.
Classic. Affordable. Loved by all. Easy to find. Even teachers love them. Need we say more?
GF pretzels were one of the first gf snack foods to become widely available. Most of the time, they look identical to the non-gluten-free kind; be careful with that. Most brands taste pretty good and are affordable, so this can be a gf snack that you can share with the whole class. No one even has to know!
Depending on the age of the children, popcorn is a simple, fun snack. If you choose to flavor your popcorn, always look for ingredients in the flavoring to assure you don’t accidentally use one with gluten. Good old butter and salt are usually well-liked, and hull-less popcorn for littles can be used as an alternative. Another great option is PopCorners, which are popped corn chips that have a popcorn flavor.
A childhood favorite, this classic is typically fruit, sugar, and water. Depending on the class size, you can splurge for the fancy ones or grab the box of 100. Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to matter to the kids what the weather is, they always love popsicles.
Although these are new to the gf market, the gf Oreos look pretty close to the originals and would be a great way to help the gf kids blend in with the crowd. These can even be used for some gf friendly games that they normally can’t play. Too pricey? Check out the Glutino Brand: a reliable alternative that has a similar cookie and lots of other options too.
Can’t decide? Get them all! We love these variety boxes, especially if you only have a handful of gf kids. This gives them a lot of choices and the individual packaging keeps them fresh.
If you absolutely want to go old school, you can’t go wrong with the gf dupes of the originals. The classic memory we all have of playing zoo with our animal crackers should be something the gf kids get to share in, too.
Another classic, these vanilla wafers hit the spot. They dissolve easily, making them great for the younger kids.
Not all Rice Krispies Treats are created equal. But these? They rise to the occasion, complete with the shiny blue packaging.
As you plan to include some of these gluten-free options into your snack rotation, some additional notes may be helpful when deciding the safest way for all the kids.
- Certified, Not Assumed
One of the biggest mistakes made when offering gluten-free snacks is assuming something is gluten-free because of what it is made of. Things like candy and granola bars may seem like they are gluten-free but always check the labeling. Sometimes companies change formulas between batches, so always check, every time. If it is not labeled “gluten-free,” skip it.
The choice to purchase bulk vs. individual largely depends on two things: the number of gf students and storage. While bulk purchasing may seem more cost-effective, sometimes that bulk bag can go bad before you can use it. There is also something to be said for caring for the child in a way that fosters relationships. To children, giving them choices lets them know you were intentional and thought of them. This can go much farther than giving them that same bag of stale pretzels several weeks in a row.
Parents can add so much value to our classrooms, and the gf conversation is no exception. Take a few minutes to ask the parents of the gf kids what their favorite snack options are. They have likely tried most of them and can often tell you where the best deals are.
As much as we hate to admit it, the days of parents sending in homemade cookies are over. It is safer for the kids to make sure things are sealed and wrapped from the factory before they get to you. Most parents, who are likely well-intentioned, will understand this if you take the time to explain the why behind the rule.
Peanut allergies and gluten issues often go hand in hand. It is pretty rare to have a child in a large group without a peanut allergy in recent years. Because those kinds of allergies can be life-threatening, the safest option is to eliminate peanut products from all group settings.
Water is a great option for serving a drink at snack time. It is easily accessible, doesn’t stain, doesn’t hype kids up with sugar, and kids with allergies can have it. It’s a win-win-win-win!
Depending on how many gf kids you have in your classroom, the idea of same or different may be a conversation you should have with your teams. While most gf kids understand their limits, it is also such a relief for them to eat what everyone else is having. So many times, these kids are pointed out for their differences, so it can really help build them up when they can feel included. One of our goals in Children’s Ministry is to reach the heart of the child with the gospel. Being intentional about something as seemingly small as a snack can speak volumes to a child.
Do you have any gluten-free tips that we didn’t include? Share them in the comments below!