When I was a classroom teacher, I had a student who was on a gluten free diet. Thankfully, my mom also already was on a gluten free diet so I knew a lot about it already. A few years later, I myself was diagnosed with celiac disease. I’ve learned so much about gluten free snacks and treats along the way. Here’s what you need to know as a teacher about providing gluten free goodies to your students.
All gluten free foods are not created equal! Gluten free labels can be misleading. Some things that say “gluten free” right on the package are not gluten free enough to be celiac safe. Just this weekend I threw away some things labeled gluten free in my refrigerator. Why? Because when I looked more closely, I saw that it was “proceeded in a facility that handles wheat.” If your student has celiac disease or has an allergy, this can be enough to cause problems.
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What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It’s a tiny particle and a tiny, microscopic amount is enough to do real damage to somebody eating a gluten free diet. Not all of your students will have celiac disease who are eating gluten free, but for a celiac it’s crucial that you pay attention to this issue.
Items to Avoid
I’m starting with items to avoid because it is so important to not accidentally “gluten” a student. Many of these items I see frequently listed as “safe” for gluten free students. They are not.
You should always communicate closely with parents of students with any food restrictions. Ask them for approval of any and all items before serving anything.
Avoid Rice Krispie Treats
Even though these tasty treats are made with rice, they contain malt, which is derived from barley. Anything with malt automatically makes the food not gluten free. They are not gluten free.
Instead, you can make them with an alternative rice puff cereal that does not contain malt. You can find an old version of the a gluten free Kellog’s Rice Krispie cereal, but it has been discontinued for quite some time. That means the cereal is old and out of date. I had a box in my pantry that was years old that I tried. It was old and stale, and I would not serve it to a student.
You might have seen Cheerios labeling their products as gluten free. They have in fact made a big deal about being gluten free. You might have even seen the ad about it. But, this has been highly controversial in the gluten free community. Cheerios are made from oats, which are grown in fields that are contaminated with gluten. Cheerios developed a mechanical process to separate out the oats from gluten contamination. However, they have had mix ups leading to lawsuits. Opinion is still divided on if they are safe or not. Personally, I choose to not eat them. Be sure ask a student’s parent before serving them.
Gluten Free Treats to Serve
Here are some of my favorite gluten free snacks. While these snacks are gluten free, they are not necessarily low carb or low sugar.
I keep these stocked in my pantry on a regular basis. They pack just the right amount of crunch and salt to be satisfying without making me super thirsty after I eat them. I like to pair them with some cheese for a salty and savory sensation. But they taste great all on their own. In fact, I’m snacking on them right now as I write this article.
Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
If your students are like my son, they love fruit snacks. Annie’s is one of my go to brands because they offer quite a few things in gluten free varieties. The very first ingredient of these fruit snacks is real organic fruit. It’s a snack you can feel good about providing that have your student’s taste buds doing a happy dance.
Chex offers multiple gluten free cereals, but their Corn Chex are my favorite. I’ll eat them for breakfast, or grab a handful as a quick snack on the go.
FlapJacked Mighty Muffins
If you’re in a position of needing to give a student a quick breakfast so they can concentrate through the day, these Might Muffin’s do not disappoint. I personally love these for travel because they are lightweight. I add water to the cup, stir, and microwave. It’s super simple and the results are delicious. If you run a life skills classroom, this could be a great introductory cooking lesson on using the microwave. You could even incorporate it as a science lesson on chemical reactions because the dough rises. My favorite flavor is Apple Cinnamon.
Antonina’s Gluten Free Snickerdoodle Cookies
These cookies are so good I have to be careful to NOT buy them. I find them so irresistible I have trouble stopping. They are packed in a way that is perfect for teachers. The cookies themselves are individually wrapped, and the big bag is also resealable. It’s a great treat to help your gluten free students feel included on party days when everybody else is enjoying sweet treats.
Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are automatically gluten free. Just make sure that any cutting boards, knives, bowls, or anything that touches the food has not been in contact with gluten. You’ll set a good example to your students by providing healthy, whole foods.