Goal: Make a Career out of GF Taste Testing

Have you ever dreamed of a place where you could enjoy an endless amount of gluten-free samples and discover the newest gluten-free products and trends on the market? Sounds too good to be true, right? Yeah, I thought so too. But, this place actually does exist, and it’s called the GFAF Expo! Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to go to this Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly (GFAF) Expo in Secaucus, New Jersey, which is one of the several locations where the expo is held around the country. I attended the expo with one of my besties who doesn’t have celiac disease or need to follow a GF diet, but is supportive and down for free samples. We both had a blast eating the day away!

Throughout the day, they offered a variety of classes taught by GF experts, but we were too busy stuffing our faces to attend these sessions. Let’s be honest, we came to eat. So, we did just that. One of the many products that I sampled at the expo was ProYo Frozen Yogurt. I visited this booth several times and sampled all four flavors: Blueberry Pomegranate, Banana Vanilla, Dutch Chocolate, and Vanilla Bean. Every flavor was delicious and super creamy like ice cream; however, it’s loaded with probiotics and prebiotics and doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients. Although it’s also high in protein with 20 grams of protein per serving, it didn’t leave a chalky feeling or bad aftertaste in my mouth. It comes in a tube, and you can even use it as a base for smoothies or smoothie bowls.

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Major side note: ProYo is labeled as certified GF, and I didn’t have any problems after I consumed it at the expo. I happened to research this product on my own after the expo, and I noticed a statement on their website’s nutritional information that indicates that their products are “processed in a facility that also processes wheat” (along with a few other allergens). This doesn’t necessarily mean that they process their product using the same equipment, and if they do share equipment, the product could still test below 20ppm of gluten and technically be considered gluten free (although some people may still have a reaction from trace amounts). But, when I see a product that’s labeled as certified GF, I think of something that is free of gluten and manufactured in a dedicated GF facility to prevent the risk of cross-contamination. Apparently, this is not always the case. More than one product that I willingly sampled at the expo before asking to read the label first was labeled as GF but contained a similar allergen advisory statement. Definitely a learning experience. Personally, I follow a strict GF diet as a medical necessity, and I typically try to avoid products that contain this statement as a precaution, so I wish I had known this before I sampled this product several times. I was also surprised to discover this information about ProYo and kind of bummed because this is such a great product! Like I mentioned, I felt fine after ingesting this product (although I never had obvious GI symptoms when I ingested gluten before my diagnosis, so this may not be the best indicator for me). I figure that ProYo’s advisory statement is most likely intended to cover the company’s butt, in case someone did get sick. Technically, the product should still meet the requirements to be labeled as GF, but I don’t like the idea of knowingly putting something into my body that has even the slightest chance of causing a reaction. It could be completely safe and I may sound overly cautious, but I’ve seen pictures of the intestinal damage in my body caused by ingesting gluten in the past (trust me, it wasn’t a pretty sight). So, I’m not taking any chances with my health. If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, I would recommend consuming this product and other products with similar statements at your own risk depending on your level of gluten sensitivity and how your body reacts. If you don’t have any issues with gluten and just stumbled upon my blog and now think that I’m slightly insane, feel free to enjoy this delicious product! Ok, end rant. Back to the good stuff.

My favorite GF discovery from the expo was KeVita Sparkling Probiotic Drink. Don’t worry, this product is totally safe and free from cross-contamination. Phew. I sampled the Mojita Lime Mint Coconut flavor, which kind of tasted like a refreshing limeade, but it’s so much better for you. These drinks are loaded with probiotics, which are essential for a healthy gut and especially important if you have any intestinal damage from celiac disease, like I do. Probiotics are your friend. I can’t wait to try the other flavors of KeVita! I have my eye on the Strawberry Acai Coconut and Hibiscus Berry flavors. KeVita also makes kombucha, which is one of the latest crazes that I have been wanting to try for awhile. It’s basically a fermented, sweetened black or green tea. I sampled KeVita Master Brew Pineapple Peach Kombucha, which tasted so good that I decided to totally geek out and pose for a picture while holding a bottle of it. I may have been a little too excited.

Bunches of Crunches Coconut Cacao Granola (try saying that five times fast) made by Bakery on Main was another amazing GF find of the day. I got to take a couple of sample bags home with me from the expo and wish I had been greedy and taken more. No shame. This super flavorful granola is made with GF oats and ancient grains, so it’s a good source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and fiber. It also provides the perfect amount of crunch without being too dry. I just ate it straight from the bag because once I tried one piece, I couldn’t stop eating it. But, if you have more self-control than I do, this granola would be perfect as a topping for yogurt or an acai/smoothie bowl.

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There were so many other great GF products that I got to sample at the expo (mostly baked goods, so I was on a sugar high for the majority of the day). There were also plenty of opportunities for me to channel my inner model for random photo shoots. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy posing with giant silverware?

Overall, it was a fun day of sampling GF products, and I came home with a bag that was filled to the brim with more samples and even some full-sized products. It seriously felt like Halloween came early this year when I started dumping out the contents of my “trick-or-treat” bag (and double-checking the labels, ugh). But, for real—is there a career that will allow me to taste test GF products all day? If this exists, I need to apply asap! Follow my blog as I continue to discover more unique GF finds!

~Lauren~

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