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Allergen-safe snack foods, tested and approved by kids ages 3-16

Snacktime is the best time 

If you and your kids have ever sung along to the Barenaked Ladies CD Snacktime, you know there are as many favorite munchies as there are hungry people to eat them between meals. That's why last month's column on allergen-safe snack foods was just the beginning. (Find a list of the snacks we tested last month at "Allergen-safe—and tasty—snacks.")

My kids snack to a different tune than most. Their allergies mandate that they avoid foods with wheat, dairy, eggs or nuts, which can make them very sick. They still want snacks that taste good, though. So we conducted a taste test focused on products free of these allergens. I assembled two groups of kids, ages 3 to 16. Some have allergies and some don't. Then I added in the opinions of a few adults for good measure.

One note: Many of the items are made without preservatives, so make sure you wrap them appropriately to ensure freshness.

We've organized the treats by snack category and ranked them either "thumbs-up," "thumbs-down" or "so-so."

The testers included the Grimes family, which includes mom Margaret Stroud, 39, Andrew, 9, William, 6, and Elliot, 3. The Grimeses follow a strict gluten-free diet for celiac disease; the Hicks family, Sandy, 36, Anthony, 38, Cheyanne, 16, Asia, 13. They have no food allergies; my son, Ty, 9, and my daughter Talia, 3. Ty is allergic to nuts, and Talia is allergic to wheat, dairy, casein, whey, eggs and nuts.


Glutino Pretzels

Free of: Wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts

Verdict: Thumbs-up

Comments: "Really good," said William. "The texture was a little different, but it tastes like a real pretzel," said Sandy. "We go through a bag of these a week, at least," said Margaret. I've tasted several wheat-free pretzels throughout the years. These are the best.

Price: $4.69–$8.19 depending on size

Available at: Kroger, Earth Fare, Harmony Farms, Whole Foods, the Walmart at Brier Creek


Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips

Brand: Food Should Taste Good

Free of: Wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts

Verdict: Thumbs-up

Comments: These orange-yellow, oblong tortilla chips expertly balance crisp, fresh flavor with a hint of sweetness and tempered saltiness. All of the testers but one gave them an immediate thumbs-up, even those who don't care for sweet potatoes. Talia likes to dip hers in salsa or hummus. Elliot immediately pronounced them "yummy."

Price: $2.99–$3.99

Available at: Kroger, Earth Fare, Whole Foods; several Target, Harris Teeter and Food Lion locations carry some flavors


Snack Crackers

Brand: Schar

Free of: Gluten, wheat (The label states that the product may contain eggs, milk and tree nuts, though they are not listed as ingredients.)

Verdict: Thumbs-up

Comments: "It was really good, but a bit dry," said Andrew, noting a subtle buttery taste. "It's kind of bland," said Margaret, "but if you're putting something flavorful on it—like cheddar—it would be perfect."

Price: $7.99

Available at: Harmony Farms


Animal Cookies

Brands: Jo-Sef chocolate, Kinnikinnick KinniKritters chocolate

Free of: Wheat, gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs (KinniKritters "may contain traces of eggs.")

Verdict: Thumbs-up

Comments: Our testers were torn between the two brands but agreed they were both tasty and very chocolaty. "It's really good," Cheyanne said of the KinniKritters cookies. "I couldn't tell the difference between this and a regular cookie." Younger sister Asia said they tasted like a good reduced-fat cookie. The Grimeses clearly preferred Jo-Sef cookies, noting that the KinniKritters were a little too crumbly for them.

Price: $4.19

Available at: Earth Fare, Harmony Farms. Jo-Sef can be found at www.josefsglutenfree.com


Vanilla Cookies

Brands: Jo-Sef, Kinnikinnick KinniKritters

Free of: Wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs (KinniKritters "may contain traces of eggs.")

Verdict: Thumbs-up

Comments: "Oh, wow. I love these," Margaret said while tasting the Jo-Sef cookies. "I'd say these are probably as close to animal crackers as I've had." Her son, Andrew, gave them "five thumbs-up. They could not get any better." Ty, Talia and Elliot preferred the slightly milder flavor of K- Kritters.

Price: $3.69–$3.99

Available at: Harmony Farms, Whole Foods


S'moreables Graham-style crackers

Brand: Kinnikinnick

Free of: Wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts ("May contain traces of eggs.")

Verdict: Thumbs-down when plain, thumbs-up on a s'more

Comments: "It's OK," said Asia, who considers herself a graham cracker enthusiast. "You can definitely tell something is different in the color and texture." Anthony was more direct. "It looks like a dog biscuit." Talia loved them, especially when paired with marshmallows and chocolate chips.

The Grimes kids didn't care for them plain either, but they enjoyed them as s'mores.

Jo-Sef offers chocolate graham crackers that my children love.

Available at: Whole Foods, Harmony Farms, Earth Fare


Joyce Clark Hicks can be reached at joyce4indy@gmail.com

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