Thursday, May 7, 2015

Gluten-Free and Me at the Expo

This past weekend, I attended the Gluten-Free and Allergen Friendly Expo held in Schaumburg, IL; a Chicago suburb. Despite not being a celiac, I am gluten intolerant or as I understand the term to be "non-celiac gluten intolerant". My food allergen priorities are soy and eggs. Of course, fragrance is first when it comes to non-food offending substances. 

Bloggers On Board

Massel, headquarted in Australia (I love Australia), sponsored the bloggers at this event and supplied our beautiful red boxed "swag bags" containing many of their products. Massel produces natural gluten-free bouillons and seasonings used to enhance any recipe. These seasonings, although, labeled beef, chicken and vegetable are completely vegan using all vegetable ingredients. Unfortunately, I am unable to do the "happy dance" yet as they are not #soyfree, and for me, soy-free is a must. We all appreciated their generosity and support.  In the meantime, I will anxiously await the soy-free version. 

As expo bloggers, we met Saturday morning prior to the opening for the public.  Many of the other bloggers have been on the road to gluten-free eating long before me. I know becoming gluten-free is going to as life changing as is fragrance, soy and egg free and I need all the assistance I can receive. Here is a short list of a few of the few bloggers that I met.


Finding Soy-free and Gluten-Free Vendors

At this expo, I found a lot of snacks and products that I can eat that are soy, egg, and gluten-free. I am not used to buying prepackaged foods as I had given up on breads and crackers in my search for soy-free. Additionally, I found it easier and cost-effective to make my own bars and sunflower butter, however here I found great alternatives. 

My Gluten Free Education

There is much to learn about living gluten-free.  With only two days, my intent was to speak to many of the vendors and finding soy-free egg-free and gluten-free food, for that reason, I didn't attend as many of the educational sessions as I should have. I did attend the "Nutrition and Gluten-Free Baking" session given by Vanessa Maltin Weisbrod, who is the Executive Editor of Delight Gluten-Free Magazine. I learned quite a bit about the different gluten-free flours and the different qualities of each flour for baking, as well as, the need for binders, other than eggs, when baking. She discussed the need to use a blend of flours in certain recipes. Additionally, she gave a tip on cutting the fat in baking by using an avocado instead of butter. Your dish may have a mint green hue, but you will cut the fat
  
One of the educational classes I missed was "Gluten Free 101: Get All Your Questions Answered" by Jen Cafferty. Jen Cafferty is the Founder and CEO of the Gluten and Allergen-Free Expo (www.gfafexpo.com) and Host of Living Free (www.livingfreetv.com). She is a nationally recognized expert on cooking and living gluten and allergen free. Moreover, since I am learning to cook most of my food and purchase not so much prepackaged, this should have been a must for me. Because of other obligations, I missed it. I will check out her website at www.gfreelife.com and check out her book at the local library before purchasing. 


Gluten-Free Certified

As a "foodie", we "foodies" like food. When we have intolerances and allergic reactions to foods we once loved it can be disheartening and when you have to tell your child they can't eat something...wow the debates and negotiations abound! At this expo, it was enjoyable watching the children's expressions of excitement knowing they can try the gluten-free samples and not worry about getting ill. 

The Gluten Intolerance Group (GFCO), a Gluten-Free Certification organization,  tests and certifies other companies that they are certified gluten-free and are then issued a internationally recognized certification symbol with that designation. My assistant, my daughter, was all over the place sampling and finding gluten-free "yummy food". 

I was grateful I didn't need my mask for the event. Yes, there were quite a few  fragrance offenders, however, I managed to get through two days with minimal effects. 
  
"I found the red apple lipstick booth"


I'm excited that I found a lot of soy-free items. Finding soy-free products can be challenging. One of the vendors I wanted to sample was Red Apple Lipstick. 


As you many know, Valana Minerals will always be one of my "go to" soy-free gluten-free beauty suppliers though I found out they would not be attending this Expo.  However, when searching the list of vendors, I found that Red Apple Lipstick was to be an exhibitor and my excitement skyrocketed. I heard they had bright red lip shades that were soy-free. Amazingly, I didn't think about searching for gluten-free makeup prior to becoming part of the blogger community for this expo. My search has always been for soy-free products.



It wasn't until joining in on the discussions at the Gluten Free Facebook Group, that I  understood that those with celiac or a gluten intolerance need to avoid gluten, like I avoid soy, in their beauty and personal products. Finding gluten-free make-up is equally difficult to find as soy-free. 

After two days, I was wiped out but, all in all, I'd say this was a successful weekend. There are a few more expos scheduled throughout the U.S. here's the link gfafexpo.com.  If you haven't previously attended and have the opportunity I urge you to go. As a gluten-free newbie, I feel I can be successful with this next stage of my dietary journey. More posts will follow about some of the other vendor finds so stay tuned and follow me on Instagram @scentfreesavvy for more pics. 

And, of course, if you are entering this stage (gluten-free) with me... subscribe... stay awhile and as always I encourage you to be savvy and scent free.