Top "Kid Picks" From The Gluten-Free And Allergen-Friendly Expo!
The Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo came to Atlanta a few weeks ago, and WOW. What a fabulous gathering of companies that have such a heart for people with food allergies, celiac disease and gluten intolerances.
This is the first time my family has attended, and we were so impressed. While my boys were not able to sample everything that was offered (as many gluten-free items contain other allergens that they are allergic to, like dairy, eggs and nuts), there was so much that my family was able to see and learn.
Before I get to our favorites "finds" from the day, I want to share general observations:
This event gave me the opportunity to have some good conversations. As you may know, while the law requires companies to label when using one of the top eight most common allergens as an ingredient, manufacturers are not required to indicate whether their product is made on shared lines or in the same facility with other allergens. Therefore, I talked to every single vendor about their manufacturing processes. I was very impressed by how much most of the vendors understood about allergies and the risk of cross-contamination. Having these types of conversations is always good practice for any food allergy parent, and I appreciated all that I was able to learn.
We are glad we went on the last day of the event, at the end of the day. This was not on purpose, but the only time we could fit into our schedule to get to the expo was right before they closed shop, and this was actually GREAT timing! The vendors were ready to get rid of their goodies, and we were definitely the lucky recipients. We walked out of there with boxes of cookies, bags of chocolate and a stocked with loads of bread samples! If I had to do it all over again, I would plan our trip for the exactly the same time.
It's important to do your own research to ensure that these products meet your family's particular needs, but here are some of the products we loved the most! Please note that this post is in no way "sponsored" by any of the companies below - this is simply my opinion and of my husband and four kiddos!
I honestly don't know what I'd do without these guys. I can't tell you what it means to a mom like me to go to my local, traditional grocery store (not necessarily a specialty store) and pick up a box of cookies in a pinch or grab a bag of chocolate chips that are safe for my egg, milk and peanut/nut allergic children. Enjoy Life has given me FREEDOM, and I will always be so grateful for what they have done for the food allergic community.
The major sponsor of this event, "Enjoy Life Land" was by far my kids' favorite part of the Expo! Their area consisted of stops along a little trail, and each station was stocked full of samples, including their mini chocolates, snack bars, cookies and chocolate chips.
This company is constantly adding to their already extensive line of products, and they recently switched their packaging to teal in honor of food allergy awareness. THANK YOU, Enjoy Life, for being such a lifeline for families like mine! Click here for more: https://enjoylifefoods.com/.
One of my favorite moments from the Expo was talking to the folks from Pure Knead. What a treat meeting the team behind this company! This Atlanta-based bakery is truly a food allergy unicorn... their bread is not only gluten-free, but top-8 free and made in a dedicated facility. A few other things: they have top 8-free bakery items like cupcakes and cookies available at Piece of Cake locations around town, and they even provide communion bread to local churches. I could not have been more impressed with their heart for food allergy & celiac families. Local friends, you can find their breads at Kroger stores. Click here to learn more about Pure Knead and learn more about how you can bring their products to a store near you: https://www.pureknead.com/.
Good Karma Flaxmilk
I am always excited to learn about new milk alternatives, especially those that don't contain soy. This line of milks is made with flaxseed and is actually really good. My kids loved the chocolate and vanilla varieties the most, but even this unsweetened version is extremely mild (even more so than hemp milk, which is what my dairy-allergic son regularly drinks and uses on cereal, etc.).
I discovered upon perusing their website, that Good Karma also offers yogurts (both traditional and drinkable variations). I'm looking so forward to checking out their other products!
Click below for information regarding Good Karma's allergen control policy and to find out more about where to find them (there is a store locator on their website).
This may have been the biggest surprise of the day for me. I appreciate the fact that there are so many dairy alternative cheeses on the market, but I'll be the first to admit that they aren't always as close to the "real thing" as I'd like. Well, let me tell you something... this Go Veggie parmesan cheese is fantastic! We sampled it on the top of popcorn, and my kids absolutely devoured it. I love an idea of an authentic tasting product that I can use on top of pasta or soup, or in homemade pesto... the options for this dairy-free parmesan are endless.
I look forward to trying more from this company, including their cheese shreds, singles and bars, and even cream cheese and spreads. Check out their website for information on their allergen policy and where you can find Go Veggie products in stores. http://www.goveggiefoods.com
This was a very special stop during our time at the Expo. The fact that Maggianos provided samples of their delicious gluten and dairy-free pasta pasta primavera was a treat all by itself. But, what really meant so much was the discussion I had with them about their restaurant's food allergy policy.
Maggianos has a solid reputation in the food allergy community, not only for their safety protocols but for their willingness to alter their dishes to meet the needs of patron's dietary needs. But, when executive chef Luca Bettini, from the Cumberland location here in Atlanta, looked at my boys and said, "If you come to my restaurant, I'll take care of you," it meant the world to all of us. There are no words to express how much that kind of commitment means to families like mine.
For more on Maggianos, visit their website at https://www.maggianos.com/. And, remember: when dining out, be sure to speak to the manager and chef about your particular allergies EVERY time. Even within an allergy-friendly chain like Maggianos, policies and procedures may vary among locations - so make sure to always have thorough conversations about your family's needs when you eat out!