Gluten & Allergen Free Expo Review

WOW!!! That’s the best word I can use to describe the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo I attended in Dallas this past weekend. Oh my goodness, we had such a good time both days, met so many great people/companies, found so many great products and learned SO much! If you EVER get the chance to attend one of these expos in your area, I HIGHLY suggest doing so – you won’t regret it! I thought you might like to hear about my experience, so here goes!

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First – the speakers: AMAZING! The speakers presented great information for those with Celiac Disease, Auto-Immune Disorders, gluten sensitivities, etc. There were speakers discussing cooking techniques, special diets, symptoms of these issues, etc. While I loved them all, my favorite was the class by Nadine Grzeskowiak of Gluten Free RN. She provided us with useful knowledge over Auto-Immune Diseases, Gluten Intolerance & Celiac Disease. What I liked best about her lecture was the wide range of symptoms to these various health issues. A lot of people assume that when you have a problem with gluten, you just have gut issues. She explained how it is so much more than that. Symptoms can include neurological problems, skin problems, immune system issues, etc. She also illustrated the connections between typical problems from in people with gluten sensitivities to those people with diabetes, depression, anxiety, thyroid problems, etc. Honestly why I loved her so much is that she literally spoke what I felt for so long. Her story was not the same as mine in her symptoms but it was in the sense that she had too hit her breaking point and had to fight to get better. I left the discussion with tears in my eyes knowing that everything I had been feeling wasn’t crazy. Your health needs should be approached holistically and everything in your body works together and this discussion reinforced this concept. Nadine was very blunt, honest and informative. She spoke with great confidence and passion which I truly appreciated. Overall, the consensus I received from the lectures is that do not settle for mediocre medical advice. Trust your instincts and know your body. If something isn’t right, check around – heck, get checked for a gluten sensitivity. If I hadn’t fought for my health and sought to find an answer, there’s a darn good chance I wouldn’t be writing this review today. Your body is an amazing thing, do you best to take care of it and give it what it needs – or eliminate what it doesn’t need!

Second – the vendors: GREAT! and also very giving – which explains the ridiculous amounts of goodies I was able to bring home for FREE! Honestly, tickets at the door where around $20/day. There’s a LOT more than $20 worth of products in that picture, plus that doesn’t include all the samples (all day long) and the great classes! Again, if you get the chance – GO! There were over 150 vendors at this expo – yes, 150! Honestly, that is the only bad thing I have to say about the expo – not enough time! If you went to all of the classes, you were hard pressed to check out all the vendors (even over a two-day span). I will admit that I did a lot more talking than I did sampling but for good reason. As a food blogger, one of my goals is to help provide my readers with valuable information or products. If you are from my area in SE Kansas, you know that food allergies/sensitivities are fairly uncommon and finding products relating to those diets is difficult. Before attending the expo, I had heard of a handful of vendors attending. Friends, let me tell you – there is MUCH more available than what we have in SE Kansas. Best of all, most of the vendors to do business online! No two hour drive just to get groceries from some of these vendors! I wanted to speak to each companies representatives at the expo to get a idea of not only the products offered but also the business culture. There were a couple of vendors that had a great convenience product, but not one that fits my idea of healthy food.  There were also a couple that didn’t know much about the sources of their ingredients, processing, etc. I strive to lead you onto products that are healthy, minimally processed, natural and convenient. Lucky for you, I found ALOT of companies that matched that criteria! In the coming weeks, I hope do be able to do some giveaways to get you familiar with these products and companies. My top 5 favorites were as follows:

1: Unrefined Bakery: This bakery is awesome and the owners are even better. This company is ran by a mother/daughter duo with food allergies. Their products are 100% Gluten and Soy Free!! They are out of Texas (have three stores there) but ship nationwide! They offer breads (paleo too!), cakes, cookies, bars, etc. I spoke a good deal with them and they are doing this for the right reasons. They are so very passionate about their work and their mission to provide healthy, nutritious and allergy friendly products. They are literally living my life’s dream by running a bakery! I seriously plan on purchasing from them in the near future. The daughter also suffered from leaky gut and healed herself using diet. She helped me realize that healing takes time and she is a great example of doing whatever you have to do accomplish something. Overall, great products, great people and great values!

2: Mother Teresa’s: Oh goodness, this lady was a real treat. Teresa grew up in Italy and in the late 1950’s arrived in the US. Her products are original family recipes and are wonderful. I sampled the marinated mushrooms and the Olivati salad – both AMAZING! We bought a few things from her, including an aged balsamic vinegar. Teresa speaks very quickly and in a heavy Italian accent but I’m pretty sure she said her favorite way to enjoy the balsamic vinegar was over vanilla ice cream!! I truly love a business such as this – one that sticks to their roots and has wonderful tradition. She even said that after her business had expanded to the point where she couldn’t keep up with production, she had to hire a company to help manufacture her items. People started telling her that “it wasn’t the same”. Turns out, they weren’t buying “Momma T” approved ingredients. So she still buys the products and takes them to the packaging company!! Love it! Plus, her products are gluten free, no sugar added, no animal fat and cholesterol free.

3: Bare Belly Organics: Bare Belly provides NATURAL body products and sunscreen. No joke! My personal favorite was the chemical free bug spray. The ingredients: essential oils, witch hazel and flax seed oil. That is IT! My kids are like bug magnets – I can’t wait to try this product when it warms back up. Get this: when my son was very young (less than 2 years old), we found out he was highly sensitive to sunscreens. Yes, a child, in summers in Kansas, with red hair/pasty skin, sensitive to sunscreen. Picture a cute little boy with red rashes, swollen shut eyes, with lots of stuff coming out of his nose = not pretty. He was small enough that they didn’t want to do any skin allergy testing. Our plan from the doctors was to try different brands and kinds of sunscreens that used different ingredients to see if we could find one that he had less of a reaction to. Long story short – we didn’t have much luck until he kind of grew out of it. I WISH I would have had this companies products!! The sunscreen is made with zinc, shea butter, organic oils and aloe. Honestly, if you are looking for a clean, all natural product – start here.

4: Omission Beer: Omission was the blogger sponsor for the event. Not only did they give us some great swag – they also helped welcome us to the event. I had never heard of a beer company that actually processed their product  to make sure it fell within certain standards to qualify as “gluten free”. It is the first craft beer in the US that uses traditional beer ingredients but is specifically crafted to remove gluten. My husband is VERY picky about his beer – I’m talking Busch Light only kind of guy. He liked this beer! We even had to buy more at the store so he could continue “trying it out”.  If gluten is a problem for you but you love an occasional beer, try this! Or, if you are like us and have a significant other that is severely  sensitive to gluten, but you want an occasional beer – try this!! They have so many different product lines available also – lager, pale ale, ipa, etc.

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5: The Authors: There were a few authors here selling their books and telling their stories. I loved them. I’m a huge sucker for cookbooks and needless to say, I acquired a few more over the weekend! I loved Tiffany at GF Mom Certified – her story was great. She has overcome a LOT of negativity in her life related to her health to be the proud mom of 3 beautiful girls. I haven’t even read all of her cookbook yet, but I know I’m going to LOVE it!! Also, Chrystal over at Gluten-Free Palate has a great book out for all those bakers! It is Sweet & Simple Gluten-Free Baking. It features easy recipes that have 10 ingredients or less! I’ve already made the Gingersnaps and they were a huge hit! Smoothies are a big hit right now and I imagine will become even more popular after the holidays. If smoothies are your thing, check out Elyse at My Kitchen Shrink! She’s got a book out that is called Smoothie Secrets Revealed features great recipes and tips to promote a healthy lifestyle, healing and eating nourishing foods. She also offers a “FAB Camp” that is an 8 week program that helps people live a healthy live with food, attitude and body.

Okay – those were my top 5 based on what I like and what hits home the most to me. However, that doesn’t begin to illustrate the entire expo. There were SO many awesome vendors and speakers that I could write an entire book on the experience.  In the near future, I will give you some more reviews of the expo that will feature some of these other vendors also.

Couldn’t go to the expo?? Try this Send Me Gluten Free. It is basically a Gluten Free Expo in a box! It is a subscription program that allows you to have the company send you a box of GF goodies each month. Every month, the products are different. Plus, you’ll get discounts for rating products! Just an idea on price, if you order month-to-month, as in you don’t prepay for other months, the price is $30 (shipping included). As a blogger, I received an actual box they are sending out and it was full of great items. They also have a program called Find Me Gluten Free which basically helps you find gluten free restaurants or companies in your area. A vital resource for those eating gluten free!

Overall, the expo was completely worth the 6 hour drive for us, the hotel stay, etc. I would do it all over again in a second! Next time, we’ll bring the kids! It is a very family friendly atmosphere, and there is plenty of samples kids would enjoy also! The expo is offered in many cities across the US. Plan on attending one of the upcoming expos in 2015. Check out the dates and locations here.  I would especially like to thank the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo for allowing me to attend and review this great event for you. The event was very organized and all of the staff was extremely helpful. I imagine there is SO much behind-the-scenes work that goes on and requires a lot of time, energy and patience – know that it doesn’t go unappreciated! I just want to thank all of the GFAF Expo staff for putting on such a great event! I can’t wait until next year!

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I’ll leave this post with some reviews of other vendors you might be interested in – if you have any questions about the event, I’d be happy to answer them for you!

Saffron Road Food: This company was very interesting to me. They offer a wide variety of products that feature convenience foods, such as frozen entrees, chickpea snacks, sauces and broths. What I like about this company is they have strived to take the flavors of the world and make them available everywhere. For example, you can get lamb broth – with clean ingredients! They said their sauces were a huge hit across the US. I didn’t sample any but the flavors sound amazing – Lemongrass Basil, Tikka Masala, Thai Red Curry, Moroccan Tagine, etc. Most of their ingredients are pretty clean but I appreciate their value for the quality of ingredients they use. For example, they source meats and ingredients from family owned farms all over the world. They are antibiotic free, sustainable, etc. They are very passionate about where their products come from and always have been. Plus they are a pretty large company with just a few employees making it a success! You can also order a few of their items online!

Hail Merry:I’m not kidding when I say that this company has practically saved my life. They offer various healthy snacks, like macaroons, tarts, etc. They are ALL amazing! It is probably by far by favorite snack company I have found. The reason: their tarts. They are like mini little cheesecakes without dairy, gluten, grains, eggs, soy, etc. If you are allergic to nuts or cocoa, you may be in trouble but otherwise, you should be safe with these. They are so delicious! Anytime I’m at Whole Foods, I stock up. They are a quick energy boosting treat you can feel good about – natural, clean ingredients!

Bob’s Red Mill: If you read my blog, you know that I’m a HUGE fan of Bob’s. They offer TONS of baking flours, mixes, cereals, etc and they have a HUGE gluten free line. We love their bread mixes and their oatmeals. I purchase all of my specialty flours from them – if you order direct from their website it is usually cheaper. Big news from them at the expo is the launch of their 1:1 Gluten Free Baking flour. Basically, it is a flour blend that is a direct one-to-one ratio for white or wheat flour. That takes out all the guess work of adding binding agents, etc. Can’t wait to try it!

NoGii: You may have heard of this company. Elizabeth Hasselbeck is the celebrity face of the company. I had never tried their products but they have come out with a Paleo line for their bars and it is amazing! Their non-paleo bars contain grains but otherwise they are similar in taste and texture. I’ll have a deal for you soon with this company!

Pamela’s: This brand can be found in SE Kansas. Wal-Mart features some of their products even. What I didn’t know about the company is that the founder, Pamela, is not gluten intolerant. Basically, she has been able to capitalize on a fast growing gluten free market. She tests her gluten free products directly against the wheat containing counterpart to make sure the products they sell taste as similar as possible. Let me tell you – we have found a new Fig bar (just like the a Fig Newton). Husband is so happy.

Pascha Dark Chocolate: I couldn’t have went to a food expo and NOT talked about chocolate. Prior to the expo, I knew of a handful of companies that made a quality chocolate without using dairy, soy or junk. I have now found a new one in Pascha! They have great chocolates in bars or chips and are available online – no gluten, dairy, or soy!

Simple Mills:This company provides quality, simple foods that do not use refined sugars, gluten, or GMOs. They have many baking mixes that can be easily adapted to whatever dietary needs you have. They even have Paleo friendly products.

As most of you know, I am still in the healing process and my diet is extremely restricted. I will be posting a review of our trip in general to help show you how you can travel without eating out and save money! Be on the lookout for that post soon!    

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