Because school is starting, everyone (especially parents and teachers) has to be a little more cognizant of food allergies. With nut-free and dairy-free tables de rigueur in cafeterias across the country, it's clear that food allergies and sensitivities are becoming more common in our families.
As a nutritionist, I tell all my clients to carefully read the labels of everything they're buying. Often, they're interested in what I'm eating myself and feeding to my own three kids. Here are a few ideas for gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free snacks and meals that will make your busy fall schedule a little bit easier.
Gluten-free. I eat mostly gluten-free myself, so I have a ton of favorite gluten-free snacks. Seasnax roasted seaweed snacks are a delicious, crunchy, low-calorie option that everyone in my family loves. Matt's Munchies fruit snacks are also a favorite (all-natural and portable!), as are Kind bars and Fit Popcorn from the Popcorn, Indiana brand. For an easy gluten-free weeknight dinner, try this:
Miracle Noodles With No-Cook Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce
--4 pints grape tomatoes, washed and halved lengthwise
--1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
--1 teaspoon high quality balsamic vinegar
--4 cloves garlic, grated
--20 large basil leaves, washed and julienned
--1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
--1 teaspoon sea salt
--1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
--1 7-ounce package Miracle Noodle angel hair pasta
--1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
--1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In a large bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours.
Just before you're ready to serve, cook the angel hair pasta according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta very well and add to the bowl with the tomatoes. Add the cheese and toss well to combine.
Dairy-free. Fresh fruit and nuts are always a great dairy-free option. I also love Emmy's Organics products, most of which are vegan. If you're looking for a cool, sweet dessert, here's an easy recipe for a healthy, dairy-free "ice cream."
Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Chip "Ice Cream"
--3 ripe bananas, peeled and frozen for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight
--2 cups Pacific Foods hazelnut chocolate dairy-free milk
--1/4 cup carob chips
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with its steel blade, process the bananas until they are smooth. Gradually pour in the dairy-free milk until the mixture is combined. Pour the mixture into a 9-by-9 dish and freeze for another 30 minutes. Put the mixture back into the food processor and pulse until smooth. With a silicone spatula, fold in the carob chips and serve.
Nut-free. For a tasty nut-free dessert, I love SunCups. I'm also a fan of Greek yogurt with nut-free granola, as well as veggies with a dip made by spinning white beans, lemon juice, garlic and fresh herbs in a food processor or blender. For a fun treat when you have guests over (or just for a special night with your own family), try bite-sized cheesecake bites!
Miniature No-Bake Cheesecakes
Servings: 12 miniature cheesecake bites
--2 6-ounce packages of Somersault Snacks Cinnamon Crunch
--4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
--1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar
--1 8-ounce package of low-fat cream cheese at room temperature
--2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
--1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
--1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Line a miniature muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
Put cinnamon crunch snacks into the bowl of a food processor fitted with its steel blade and pulse until very fine crumbs form. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse until it has a sand-like consistency.
Press the crumbs into the bottom of each of the 12 miniature muffin tins, spreading it 1/2 inch up the sides. Press the crumbs flat and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth, and add in the condensed milk a little at a time, scraping down the bowl if necessary. Add in the vanilla and cinnamon.
Pour the filling evenly among the muffin tins, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours. Serve chilled.
Hungry for more? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, concerns and feedback.
Heather Bauer, RD, CDN , is a nationally-recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur. She is the author of two top selling books, The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil. She is the founder of Nu-Train, a nutrition consulting company, and Bestowed, a subscription service that offers consumers a personalized way to discover, sample, shop, and learn about the best nutrition and lifestyle products on the market.