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Clean and Easy Gluten-Free Snacks

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Sunday nights can be rough. We all know the feeling: Trying to plan ahead a week's worth of snacks for the entire family can be exhausting just to think about. But there's no need to stress -- simply set aside a bit of time every Sunday morning to map out your week. Believe me, it's worth the time; your taste buds will thank you and we all know that a good meal makes everyone happy. Don't leave the menu planning until Monday night when you find yourself stuck in traffic at 6 p.m., the kids are starving and your stomach is growling because there's nowhere to turn for delicious, fresh gluten-free food -- not even at a gas station or a vending machine. So, what's a gluten-free family to do?

Simple: Plan out your snacks along with your meals every Sunday. Make your snacks a planning priority, just like you would your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Easier said than done? Not at all; think about what foods you enjoy eating for your meals and branch out to create snacks around them so that nothing goes to waste. A fan of lentils? Make a batch on Sunday night for dal on Monday, lentil soup on Tuesday and a snack of lentils and avocado wrapped in nori seaweed for each day of the week along with salsa. Love your sweets? Freeze a Greek yogurt, defrost for 20 minutes, and add in cocoa powder, banana slices and ground flaxseeds for a nice spin on an ice cream Sunday. Still not satisfied? How about tossing together some corn tortilla chips and topping them with melted low-fat cheese, freshly chopped broccoli, spinach and salsa? These out-of-the-box snacks are fun to create and unique enough to keep your taste buds yearning for more.

The trick is to always be prepared and get creative with your morning and afternoon snacks. Be sure to keep fresh veggies on hand at all times -- chop them up and store in sealable bags for the week for a quick grab n' go convenient nibble. I prepare organic sliced turkey wrapped around fresh asparagus and a slice of avocado for many of my clients for an easy go-to snack served with hummus. Why not try some fresh berries atop a bed of steamed spinach and chicken breast for a sweet nibble; or you can wrap chickpeas in a corn tortilla with sun-dried tomatoes, kale and olives. I always take note of the healthy foods I need to keep my pantry and fridge stocked at all times. These items own a spot on my grocery list each week, and it's so easy to purchase a few staples on Sunday for the week ahead. Unfortunately, most of the convenient gluten-free food is highly processed and full of added sugars, so try to map out your week and think about when you get hungry. Is it in the mornings, the afternoons, after dinner? Think of items that you can easily toss into your bag when you're running errands or store in your top desk drawer, such as dried fruit, nuts and seeds. It takes five minutes to toss some gluten-free oats into a Ziploc bag along with dried fruit, unsweetened coconut flakes, almonds and pumpkin seeds. This can go anywhere and can last forever, whether you eat it today or next week. Just a bit of water, and you've got yourself a nice snack to hold you over.

Homemade chicken fingers made with ground flaxseeds instead of breadcrumbs are a perfect after-school nibble that your kids can enjoy with a side of honey mustard and chopped almonds. I often have my clients travel with two veggie burgers in a Ziploc bag for breakfast and lunch -- one they enjoy with a hard-boiled egg and ketchup for their traveling breakfast, and the other they eat over a sealed container of mixed greens drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Believe me, you'll be thankful you saved yourself the money that you'd spend at a vending machine on highly processed gluten-free snacks, and your body will be grateful, as well. Just think, the benefits of eating clean, wholesome gluten-free snacks will have you feeling good about yourself and keep you feeling good. So, when dinner is at 8 and you just can't wait, here are some quick and easy snacks to hold you over and keep you and your gluten-free belly happy.

Pear and Turkey Ricotta Tartine

Toast a piece of gluten-free toast. Top evenly, top with 2 tbsp. apple butter, ½ thinly sliced pear, 1 slice of sliced turkey and 2 oz. ricotta cheese. Broil until the cheese has melted, 2-3 minutes.

Crackers with Smoked Salmon

Evenly divide 1 tbsp. Greek plain yogurt, 4 oz. sliced smoked salmon, 2 tsp. chopped red onion, ground cumin, sea salt and pepper; place atop crackers.

Figs and Sliced Melon

Slice 2 figs in half, top with thinly sliced melon and feta cheese.

Nori Herbed Turkey Wraps

Lay 2 pieces of nori seaweed on a flat surface, top with a slice of turkey breast, salsa, chili powder and thinly sliced zucchini. Wrap like a burrito.

Squash with Almond Butter Dip

Cut 1 yellow squash into thin slices; serve alongside a fun dip made from a mixture of 1 cup of Greek plain yogurt, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 2 Tbsp. almond butter and ¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice.

White Bean Arugula Pesto with Toast

In a food processor, combine 4 cups arugula, 1 cup cannellini beans, 4 fresh basil leaves, 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with toast.

Apple Parfait with Salted Pistachios

Cut 2 apples into bite-sized pieces. Divide the apple and 1.5 cups Greek plain yogurt among bowls. Sprinkle with ½ cup coarsely chopped salted roasted pistachios and 1 tsp. unsweetened coconut flakes. Serve apples with the Greek yogurt mixture.

Crunchy Cashew Lime Broccoli with Veggie Burgers

Grill up some veggie burgers; steam broccoli florets and toss with olive oil, chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Sprinkle with toasted ground cashews. Serve with veggie burger.

Savory Hummus Kale Wraps

Slice 1 avocado. Lay a large kale leaf on a flat surface, top with sliced avocado, hummus, sprouts and salsa. Sprinkle with sesame seeds; wrap like a burrito.

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