I attend a lot of Gluten and/or Allergy Free Expos and every time I go, either as a vendor or as a consumer, I always get something good out of attending. Here’s why you should consider attending one in your area:
1. You’re Newly Diagnosed: Overwhelmed, having a hard time knowing what’s correct information on the internet or where you should start? Expos always have a roster of great speakers who can help demystify the new world you’re entering whether with information or wonderful recipes to try. Try to attend as many talks as you can to get a superb overview of how you can take your next step.
2. You Were Diagnosed Ages Ago: You too should try to attend as many talks as you can at the show. There have been so many studies of late with Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance and food allergies that you just may learn something new.
3. Taste Does Count: There are samples galore at these shows, it’s actually a good idea to come with an empty stomach or you’ll be full really fast. I heard a child say to her parent, “I can eat EVERYTHING here?” with wonderment. It just doesn’t get much better than that. And whether you’re newly diagnosed or old hat, you’ll be surprised at how good specialty diet food is these days and just how much variety is out there.
4. Discover a Small or Local Food Processor: Big grocery stores are getting so much better about offering gluten free and allergy friendly foods and that makes it easier to get your groceries done in one place. Yet at the same time, they all carry mostly the same items and those are the bigger names in the special diet world. At a trade show you’ll find smaller processors with innovative offerings and wonderful local restaurants and bakeries that have delights you just won’t find in your large grocery store.
5. You’ll Be Surrounded by People Just Like You! Really, imagine a world where everybody “Gets It”. Every booth you go to, all of the speakers, all of the people around you are experiencing the same issues that you do. You can strike up a conversation with any friendly stranger and discover that you’re not alone. Priceless!
We just finished participating in the first ever sample kit that went out through a new service called Gfree Connect. The whole idea of this service is to make it really simple for you to get samples and coupons for a wide variety of gluten free products all delivered right to your door.
What I liked about it when the idea was presented to me is that it allows gluten free consumers to try products like ours that they don’t necessarily see in every grocery store. Sure, you’ve got your larger gluten free brands that are well known and easily available but you can also get regional samples that you can still get on the internet, even if they’re not available in your area. Plus, even with the bigger companies, they may be bringing out something new for you to try that you aren’t even aware of since your store may stock limited products.
And the pricing is really reasonable too from my perspective. The amount of time and effort you’d have to spend either cruising the internet or your local natural foods/grocery stores is worth the cost that they charge. I expect that this company will grow as more people get word and more companies choose to participate. At the recent Chicago Gluten Free and Allergy Expo, Gfree Connect had a table and they got a lot of interest and many people signing up.
Once the company grows, they may also be able to accommodate other sensitivites and food allergies as well so if you’ve got multiple food issues, keep an eye on them as they mature and refine their business. Check out their website at: http://gfreeconnect.com/
At 14, Megan is past the point of wearing allergy t-shirts and carrying her Nonuttin’ lunch kit that says, “Don’t feed me, I have a food allergy.” She does still have a medic alert bracelet though and that won’t change as she moves into adulthood.
So despite her advanced age, I certainly remember what it was like finding something that Megan would like and be comfortable with. So it was with delight that I found an allergy bracelet in Chicago on the weekend that I think she would have loved when she was in elementary school; the Allerbling bracelet.
It’s a 100% silicone bracelet with 5 openings to accommodate a medic alert symbol plus 4 separate spaces to put in your child’s major allergies. And since it’s customizable, you can choose from different symbols including the top 8 food allergens, strawberries, coconut, corn, chocolate and bees. Because it’s so bright, colorful and comfortable to wear (not to mention washable), I think it not only does the job quickly, but kids can also feel great wearing it and easily communicate their allergies.
Check out their website at: http://www.allerbling.com
I don’t want this blog to be a rant on other companies, truly. But I continue to see practices that you all need to be aware of out there while I’ve been traveling to various trade shows over the last month or so.
For example, at the biggest trade show, Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, “gluten free” was everywhere on booths and products. The funniest one was on chicken, yes, chicken. I realize that some chicken has seasoning added and so ingredients still must be looked at. But the kicker on the chicken is that they were frying it up in the booth for tasting, after dredging it in wheat flour!
I saw the same thing happen on a gluten free spread that was being offered on regular wheat bagels to sample. It wasn’t until a Celiac pointed it out to them that they realized that there was a problem with this practice. It’s kind of scary since they were attracting many of the attendees who were Celiac, not just because they were there as store buyers.
In some cases, when the person demoing a product is hired for the day, they don’t always know the ins and outs of special diets but in both of the above companies, the owner of the company was doing the demoing.
And that’s in addition to continued products I see that have a claim like “nut free” on the front with a disclaimer “made in a facility that processes tree nuts” on the back. To me, you can have one or the other, not both.
So for you, the consumer, all I can say is really check your items. Check your ingredients even if there is a “free from” message on the front, don’t assume that demos are safe, and contact companies if you have any questions. This really is a buyer beware situation where you have to take control.
How many times have you been traveling and either had safe bread products with you or found some safe bread products but you were afraid to put your safe product into the toaster? I’ve certainly been in that situation with my family and so I found a great little product that helps keep the toaster cross contamination out while allowing us to eat safely: Toast-It! Bags.
Originally created for containing grilled cheese sandwiches in a toaster, they are now well used and loved by many with special diets who want to use a toaster while visiting family or a breakfast buffet with their own safe bread product. You simply slip your own bread (or thinly sliced bagel, muffin, etc.), into the Toast-It! Bag and then pop it into the toaster. Gluten free breads may need a second run through but then you can just slide out your item and enjoy.
The website says that they also work in toaster ovens and on grills like the George Foreman Grill. I do know of someone who tried it successfully in a toaster oven but I’m not sure if that was on the toast or bake setting. I’m also not sure if they might work for something like a small individual pizza but it’s certainly worth a try.
If you’re traveling for the holidays or travel a lot for work and need to take your own food with you like we do, this handy little product could be a life saver (literally) and you no longer have to take your toaster with you. They can even be washed at home, dried and reused several times. Take a look on their website at: http://www.toastitbags.com/
When I go to business trade shows, I often end up meeting many other food manufacturers, especially if I’m displaying in a booth with my sales broker. Since we are together for a couple of days, we get to know all about each other’s products and often go home with samples in our suitcases. This is how I found one of of my favorite gluten free items, GoGo Quinoa spaghetti.
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So You’ve Been Diagnosed with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance…
It’s not easy being gluten free, at least to start. Like anything, you will soon become used to your new buying habits and menus and your gluten free life will become what you consider normal.
But when you’ve first been diagnosed, it can be really disheartening to go to the store and discover that a lot of what you used to buy is now off limits. You may even find yourself mourning an old favorite which could be anything from pizza to perogies.
I recently contributed to an article about baking on a gluten free diet which was compiled with other contributors. Unfortunately, some of the suggestions are only in the US, such as Betty Crocker mixes, but this is a really handy article either if you need someplace to start or someplace to find new inspiration. http://thestir.cafemom.com/food_party/110610/best_glutenfree_baking_essentials_the
I got to try the Gluten Free Bisquick in May at the Celiac Disease Foundation conference in Los Angeles where I had pancakes made with the new product and it was really very good (especially with syrup!).
If you’ve tried any of the products mentioned, or can suggest any of your own (and perhaps where you can find them), please do!
If you’re unfamiliar with the company Divvies from New York State, they manufacture and package yummy goodies that are all free of peanuts, nuts, eggs and dairy. Offerings include everything from cupcakes and cookies to chocolate bars and candy. The candy and chocolate items are made in their own separate building from the bakery so are also wheat/gluten free.
We’ve partnered with Divvies on different occasions to bring Divvies products to Canada through the Nonuttin’ website although we do not carry Divvies products year round. We’ve found that the products are always delicious, safe (founders Lori and Mark Sandler’s son Benjamin has various food allergies ) and beautifully packaged.
Lori Sandler’s “The Divvies Bakery Cookbook” is no exception. It’s a visually beautiful book, looking as pretty and delicious as a Divvies bakery box full of cookies. But I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I also had my teenage daughters look over the book since we do a lot of home desserts due to our family’s food allergies and my girls are big baking fans. They certainly found recipes and pictures that inspired them to want to bake. And recipes aren’t the only treasure trove in this book; Lori provides helpful tips and personal suggestions throughout the book.
Not all recipes are “baking” but are ideas for fun treats that may help you creatively deal with parties and events where you’re either serving for many or sending that special treat with your allergic child. For example, there is a recipe for chocolate covered bananas – not rocket science but something I’d never thought about serving to kids.
Our family no longer has all of the allergies in the book so in the majority of the recipes, it would be an easy switch back to an egg, for example. However, some of these substitutions listed, including silken tofu or applesauce, would certainly improve the nutrition of many recipes so you might want to try it anyway, purely for that value. I found that some of the substitutions suggested are not available in Canada but Lori has picked well known brand names so Americans should find most items readily available at the grocery store.
Although there are many recipes that are gluten free naturally or could easily be substituted (such as gluten free oats for traditional oats), there are several recipes that would need to have a practiced gluten free flour hand to be free of gluten, dairy, egg, peanuts and nuts. So if you you are just avoiding wheat/gluten but not the other allergens, this may not be the book for you. Overall, multiple allergy fans will find this a book to cheer about! See www.divvies.com for ordering information.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post and there’s been a good reason; I’ve been locked in my closet with SunCups. Not really, of course, but not too far off the truth. Read more »
If you’re a subscriber to my enewsletter, you know that I like to showcase other special diet websites and products that I feel could be helpful to our Nonuttin’ clients. One such company that we’ve been getting to know is Nutrition for your Condition. The ladies who began this company know how difficult it is to go anywhere and eat safely so they put together a travel kit that anyone with a special diet could easily take with them to school or on the road or plane.
I asked Crystal Paulitzki, one of the founders, to provide our followers with a bit of information about their company which she has done below. She’s also graciously offered Nonuttin’ clients a discount coupon for use when purchasing any Nutrition for your Condition products. Here’s what Crystal had to say: Read more »