Six satisfying options with minimal ingredients.

By Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD
March 14, 2016
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Recently I've had more clients than ever discover that their bodies can't tolerate certain foods. When they eat specific ingredients or additives, like dairy, gluten, or soy, they experience less-than-desirable symptoms, which can range from bloating and fatigue, to eczema, headaches, joint pain, sinus congestion, or even “brain fog.” These types of intolerances may limit store-bought options, but luckily plenty of companies now offer packaged snacks "free from" (a term gaining popularity in the food industry) dietary triggers.

If you’re in the gluten-, soy-, or dairy-free club and looking for easy grab-and-go bites, here are six that fit the bill—and meet my clean eating criteria. Each is an excellent choice to keep you fueled and satisfy your cravings, without the unwanted side effects.

Amrita Chocolate Maca Bar ($37 for 12 bars;

This entirely plant-based bar contains organically-sourced ingredients like brown rice protein, date paste, and cacao powder. Plus it boasts a trio of healthy seeds: chia, sesame, and sunflower. I’m a big fan of the brownie-like texture which isn’t gritty, overly chewy, or chalky like some other bars on the market. I also love the healthy balance of protein (15 grams), good fat, and nutrient-rich carbs. This bar is great as a portable breakfast option, tie-over snack between lunch and dinner, or as recovery fuel after a strenuous workout. I always keep one of these stashed in my bag as a healthy, ready-to-eat option.

Orgain Vegan Shake ($28 for 12;

If you prefer sipping a shake to eating a protein bar, and don’t have time to whip one up yourself, this bottled option is a nice go-to. Although many ready-to-drink shakes are made with whey (dairy) protein, this one is formulated with brown rice, chia, flax, and hemp seeds, packing 16 grams of plant protein per bottle. I also appreciate that there's no trace of corn syrup or artificial additives, making it a clean packaged shake you can feel good about drinking!


The Good Bean ($22 for 12 bags;Â

Pulses, which include beans, lentils, and peas, are the latest and greatest superfood group. They offer plenty of weight loss and health benefits, and make for simple yet satisfying snacks. Roasted chickpeas satisfy a salty craving, and help meet your protein and fiber needs. (One ounce contains 20% of the recommended daily serving of fiber.) Even the sea salt flavor from this brand won’t blow your sodium budget: At just 185 mg per serving, it's just 8% of the daily recommended limit.


Skinny Pop ($25 for 6 bags;Â

I personally don't like the word "skinny" because it makes me think of dieting or under-eating, but I’m obsessed with Skinny Pop—especially the black pepper version. The ingredient list includes non-GMO popcorn, sunflower oil, salt, black pepper—and that’s it! As a member of the whole grain family, popcorn provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and “good” (or unrefined) carbs. To avoid over-doing it with the grains, I'll omit them in my dinner, and nosh on Skinny Pop afterwards, while enjoying a Netflix or HBO escape.


Alter Eco Dark Chocolate ($8 for 2.8 oz;Â

I eat a little dark chocolate every single day (yes, that's totally healthy!), and this brand is my absolute fave. Not only is it 70% dark, organic, and a fair trade product I feel good about buying, but it’s also completely dairy- and soy-free (which is tough to find in a chocolate bar, even when it's dark). This melt-in-your-mouth bar is made up of just a few ingredients: cocoa beans, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, and fleur de sel (sea salt). And with just 72 mg of sodium per 5 squares, it only comes to 3% of the daily recommended maximum. But this delicious sweet and salty combo keeps me away from other less nutritious goodies, like my hubby’s stash of candy and chips.


Rise Protein Bar ($22 for 12 bars;Â

Here's another simple, clean bar that offers a non-whey option. I especially like the lemon cashew flavor, which is a lighter, fruity alternative to the usual chocolate protein bar. Once again, the ingredients are minimal and recognizable (are you sensing a theme here?). It's got cashews, coconut nectar, pea protein (a pulse), and lemon extract. At 15 grams, this bar provides a similar amount of protein to a single serve contain of Greek yogurt, and you can easily tuck it in your bag or pocket for a quick bite when hunger strikes.


Meet Cynthia Sass at the Health Total Wellness Weekend at Canyon Ranch April 22-24. For details, go to

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Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her newest book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.