This weekend Mike and I ventured out to Raleigh for the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. It was a great day of free samples, lectures, and meeting new and interesting people.
Note: This was written last year, but I hadn't republished it on the new blog until now.
A few of the highlights from the event:
Samples galore. In addition to the numerous samples to eat at the event (more on that later) we were delighted to walk away with a baggie full of granola bars and goodies. Other samples included individual cookies, peanut butter samples (as well as soy-based peanut butter substitute), nut bars, and gluten free pretzels. We also walked away with our fair share of coupons for different products and grocery stores.
Free Magazine Subscription. Yes, you read right. For only $10 per ticket to the event, if you registered and paid ahead of time you got a free subscription to Delight Gluten Free Magazine! Score!
Meeting new people. As we made our way from vendor booth to vendor booth we got to chat with some really interesting people including some of the lecturers. This may be the doctor in me talking, but the best part for me was getting to hear people’s stories about how they got to be gluten-free or finally got diagnosed with Celiac disease. It’s sad that so many people get doctor shuffled so many times before the appropriate diagnosis is made. One woman we spoke with said that she had been to every “-ologist” before she went gluten free. Stories like this remind me why I do what I do and give me a new-found love for functional medicine.
Lectures. Admittedly, Mike and I were so busy in the vendor area that we didn’t get to sit in on too many classes. However, the ones that we did get to listen to were very good and had a strong turnout.
The one thing I would have loved to have seen done differently: More inclusive/attentive to other allergens in samples. I got really excited at the first few I saw- big, shiny banners that said companies’ products were free of gluten AND dairy (and often times much more like soy and egg). As I happily reached out for a sample on the table I proclaimed “wow, I guess I don’t have to ask about dairy in these! This is great!” gesturing to the banner. This, however, was not the case. The representatives quickly corrected me and said that while their mixes do not contain dairy, the samples made for the event were made with dairy. The banner simply implied that you could use your own dairy substitutions at home to make their products dairy-free. Ugh. This was true of pretty much every company that was selling boxed mixes (cookies, cakes, brownies, and the like). Small bakeries and individually owned companies were a little more inclusive of the dairy-thing and generally had at least one vegan or dairyless option.
Admittedly, this would probably be hard to enforce from the organizers perspective, but a girl can dream, right? I suppose the organizers could politely ask their vendors to make their samples without other allergens, but I can honestly see the appeal of using dairy and eggs in samples. The vendors ultimately want their products to sell, so they want to use whatever they can to make their stuff taste good. Eggs are often a crucial ingredient to hold baked goods together (especially in the absence of gluten!) and dairy is just plain-old delicious.
And now for the one true “con” of such events. The sad reality of any event like this is that the vast majority of what you are sampling is going to be highly processed. There was one vendor that I can recall that catered to the grain-free/paleo crowd, but that was about it. I always advocate and try to teach people that there is a right and a wrong way to go gluten free (or rather, a better and a worse way). If you go gluten free and simply replace your gluten-containing junk food with gluten free junk food you’re only going to go so far and many people see no improvement making this change. If, on the other hand, you start replacing the processed foods in your life with things that don’t contain gluten anyway (good quality meats, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds) you will likely reap much more of a benefit.
I admit it; there is still a place for some processed food in my life. Every now and again I make a boxed brownie mix or eat a granola bar in a pinch… I just try to make sure that those foods are eaten as infrequently as possible. Our bag of granola bars and processed treats will likely last us a really long time, so I’m okay with bringing home a bag of loot like a kid on Halloween! Maybe by the time their Charlotte event rolls around in the spring we’ll be ready for more samples.