When it comes to healthy foods and snacks, nuts always win top honors. The same goes for many products made with whole grains that contain gluten. But when folks with nut or gluten allergies or sensitivities get hungry, they can't just grab a pack of almonds or pour a bowl of wheat cereal. They have to constantly scan ingredients lists, especially since nuts and gluten hide in so many other items, like salad dressing and energy bars.
But having a food allergy or sensitivity doesn't mean deprivation, says Lindsey Janeiro, RD, owner of the online nutrition consulting company Nutrition to Fit. The nutrients that make nuts so healthy, for example, can be found in plenty of other foods too. "Take chia seeds and flax seeds; just like walnuts, they're an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid," says Janeiro, who has a very severe tree nut allergy and gluten sensitivity herself.
"While it can be difficult to manage food allergies and sensitivities, it's more than possible to eat a healthy, balanced diet," Janeiro says. Here are her picks for the best meals and snacks if nuts or gluten are on your no-go list.
Avocado toast and egg: Janeiro uses whole-grain, nut-free, gluten-free breads (her favorite brands are Canyon Bakehouse and BFree Foods) topped with mashed avocado, a fried or poached egg, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. "This combo always keeps me satisfied through a busy morning," she says.
Oatmeal: Mix pumpkin purée, banana, diced apples, hemp seeds or chia seeds, or spices into your oats. "I also love making a batch of my baked vanilla oatmeal custard for an easy make-ahead breakfast packed with fiber and protein," Janeiro says.
Yogurt bowl: Combine plain yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit, a drizzle of honey, chia or flax seeds, and some type of nut-free cereal or granola. Fold the ingredients in the night before to save yourself time in the morning, Janeiro recommends.
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Turkey wrap: "I love loading a gluten-free wrap with hummus, turkey, avocado, and any and all veggies I can find in my fridge," Janeiro says. (The BFree wraps in particular are yummy and very pliable, she notes.)
A "fatty" salad: "If I'm going to have a salad for a meal, it always seems to be the most appealing at lunchtime," Janeiro says. Instead of topping a bowl of greens and veggies with nuts, like many restaurant salads, she points out, "I top with other sources of healthy fat, like pumpkin or sunflower seeds, avocado, or an olive-oil based dressing."
Leftovers: Make enough for dinner so you can save some and have it for lunch the following day, Janeiro says. "I used to hate leftovers but have totally changed my tune since launching my own business and having a baby," she explains. "Dinner leftovers are the easiest way to get a balanced meal into all members of my family for lunch."
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Sheet-pan suppers: Janeiro pairs her sheet pan chicken and veggies recipe with a sweet potato, gluten-free whole grain, or even a gluten-free pasta on the side. "Plus, it makes the best leftovers," she adds.
Salmon: Any dinner plate that has salmon on it is a winner in Janeiro's book. "It's one of my favorite foods and is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids," she confirms.
Frozen veggie burger: "I've got to be honest—I love a convenient dinner to help with busy weeknights," Janeiro admits. "I always stock my freezer with foods I trust to help make a delicious dinner come together quickly." In her freezer you'll find frozen chicken breasts, bags of frozen vegetables, and Dr. Praeger's veggie burgers.
Smoothie: Smoothies are a simple way to add more fruit and vegetables to your day, Janeiro says. "And smoothies can be made into a more balanced snack with the addition of things like milk or soy milk, yogurt, or seeds," she adds. If you're purchasing a smoothie, be cautious: "Many places now have smoothies with nuts and nut butters, and there can be a high risk for cross-contamination," she warns.
A piece of whole fruit with cheese or seed butter: The combo includes carbs, protein, fat, and plenty of fiber, Janeiro says. Plus, "The pairing of sweet and savory makes it satisfying," she adds.
Vegetables and hummus: "I love pairing crisp veggies, like carrots or bell pepper slices, with hummus for a fresh snack that's hydrating," Janeiro says.
Nut-free energy bar: It's hard to deny the convenience of an individually packaged bar you can throw in your purse or bag for an emergency snack on the go, Janeiro points out, which is why she has a trusted company—88 Acres—as her go-to for nut-free and gluten-free bars. "Their Chocolate & Sea Salt bar is amazing," Janeiro says.
Tea or a coffee latte: Craving a snack, but not sure if you're truly hungry? Tame your appetite with tea or coffee instead. "A milk or soy coffee or tea latte offers carbs and protein from the milk to make a snack between meals," Janeiro says.