Gluten-Free Expo: How The Other Half Lives (and Eats)

Written by  Alisa Clickenger

Long gone are the days when “health food” is dry, crumbly, tasteless matter. Last weekend the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) held its annual National Conference & Gluten-Free EXPO. The EXPO at the Pasadena Convention Center on May 2nd and 3rd showcased food options now available for people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and others who seek benefits from the gluten-free lifestyle. Our reporter left the hall having eaten more than her share of healthy, satisfying and delicious food.

The Gluten-Free EXPO featured more than 100 companies exhibiting the latest and best in gluten-free products and services. The food was deliciously varied, and the samples were plentiful. Each attendee was given a shopping bag of coupons and samples, and the booths themselves gave out both eat-in and take-home samples. Paleo, sugar-free and vegan foodstuffs were also plentiful at the EXPO.


The stars of the EXPO were likely the Hunters Heroes Healthee Hero Squad and the F.A.R.T. Blog – Food Allergy Revolution Time. Co-creators Marclay Richardson and Brett Zambrovitz invented seven characters with different food allergies and diverse personalities, working together as a team. This line up offers a greater range to connect with children on an emotional level. Through fun adventures, Hunters Heroes aim to educate and increase awareness of food allergies, the importance of teamwork and the benefits of an active lifestyle.

Richardson was diagnosed with Celiac Disease fifteen years ago. “With no one to turn to for help, Brett and I began to brainstorm ideas on how we can help,” said Richardson. “We built a website to help provide information then we got the idea to create animated characters to help provide a missing link on our society: superheroes with current and relevant issues such as food allergies, bullying, and social peer pressure.”

Steven Rice, founder of Authentic Foods, was a speaker at the EXPO. Rice holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Southern California, and now works creating baking mixes that will keep you from wishing you could eat gluten again. His company helps Celiacs get the proper nutrition in their diets with gluten-free baked goods that taste as close to, if not better than the same baked goods with gluten.

Erica Dermer is a gluten-free girl trying to survive in a world full of wheat. Dermer was a speaker at the EXPO and she’s created the Celiac and the Beast blog, blogging about her own gluten-free journey as well as offering product reviews. “I started Celiac and the Beast years ago because I wanted to share my stories of life, love, and snacking with the gluten-free online world,” said Dermer. “I couldn’t have been happier speaking at the 25th anniversary of Celiac Disease Foundation at their annual conference and expo. Being able to share how to live a happier, healthier, and tastier life gluten-free is what I set out to do when I first started.”

Pamela’s Products had a booth right inside the door. Pamela is a real woman whose grandparents started one of the first health food stores in San Francisco. She spent her summers in her family’s bakery packing rice and soy cookies for people with special dietary needs. After college she left the family business to start her own independent company founded on the premise that wheat-free and gluten-free foods can taste great and that everyone should have food delicious enough to celebrate.

The company Pamela’s Products continues to lead the industry with award winning decadent and delicious gluten-free foods, of which we had several samples. Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix is the #1 selling gluten-free mix and is one of the top 3 gluten-free brands in the US.

Dr. Schar USA Inc. handed out fliers depicting the gluten-free lifestyle pyramid as well as a quick guide to the gluten-free lifestyle. Not so different than a “normal” lifestyle, limiting the amount of sweets, oils and sugars and choosing lean meats such as poultry and fish as well as beans, nuts and seeds for protein.

Five servings of fruits and vegetables per day plus at least six servings of gluten-free grains like brown and wild rice, quinoa, and buckwheat are the ticket. Round that out with at least thirty minutes of activity every day as well as drinking plenty of water and you have the recipe for healthy gluten-free living.

About Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is one of the world’s most prevalent and under diagnosed genetic autoimmune diseases, and a cause of considerable suffering among the three million American children and adults affected. However, when celiac disease is detected early, serious illness – including cancers and coronary heart disease – can be prevented.

The ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale, damages the small intestine of people with celiac disease, leaving them unable to absorb nutrients. Celiac disease is also linked to other autoimmune disorders and conditions, including type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, and neurological and vitamin deficiencies, which makes diagnosing and treating celiac disease crucial for the health of those afflicted.

2015 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Celiac Disease Foundation. CDF is the leading national organization improving the quality of life for all people affected by gluten-related disorders.

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