Gluten Free Expo 2017

Last weekend I attended the Gluten Free Expo 2017, organised by Coeliac Australia. It was my first time there, and I found it really valuable to get to know which brands I can use and recommend to my clients who have CD or an intolerance to gluten.

Talks and demos

There were two stages were the event sponsors (Coles and others) ran cooking demos and talks for the audience.

Coles cooking demo Talk

Bread

It was really good to find out that gluten free bread is getting better and better. There are a few brands out there that are producing non-cakey, non-crumpety bread that are worth checking out: Schär with really good European-style breads, Genius Gluten Free with a sandwich bread that is remarkably similar to regular bread, Bakers Maison, with a pretty good (but expensive) sourdough and white loaf bread, and last but not least Deeks Bread, who make really good products (short and sweet ingredients lists) and a potato-based paleo loaf.

Genius Gluten Free Genius Gluten Free Bakers Maison bread Bakers Maison bread
Deeks bread Schar bread Simply Wize crusty bread Gluten Free Bakehouse bread

Ready-made meals

The other sector in gluten-free products that seems to have grown exponentially is that of ready-made meals. This is especially important for people who need to eat gluten-free but don’t have enough time or skills to cook every meal from scratch. A couple of companies that I particularly liked were The Gluten Free Meal Co., which offers a wide variety of really tasty meals and finger food delivered to your door and New Chinese Garden, with single-serve Chinese meals that are really tasty and free of crappy ingredients

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The Gluten Free Meal Co - butter chicken The Gluten Free Meal Co - meat lovers pizza bites The Gluten Free Meal Co - vegetable samosas The Gluten Free Meal Co - Korean beef
The Gluten Free Meal Co - meatballs and penne New Chinese Garden meals Rice King Jase's Kitchen frozen pizzas

Beer

The next category in order of importance is, of course, beer. Both O’Brien and Wilde were present and, because they were not allow to sell booze at the event, I had to come back for more samples multiple times.

O'Brien beer Wilde Gluten Free Beer

Beverages

Other beverages showcased at the expo included chocolate tea, hydration drinks, organic herbal teas and kombucha.

Chocolate tea Bolero hydration drinks Neo Organic Tea Opera Foods kombucha, etc.

Wraps and pizza bases

There were also a few brands of wraps and pizza bases, of which Julian’s Gluten Free pizza bases are worth mentioning, as they have developed a thin, crisp, non-cakey base that is very close to the real deal.

Julian's Gluten Free pizza bases Julian's Gluten Free pizza bases BFree wraps True Foods wraps

Snacks

Most of the products at the expo were snacks. Being a dietitian, I feel compelled to encourage people to eat real food for the bulk of their meals and avoid processed snacks. Having said that, there’s a time and a place to indulge on treats. A few of them that caught my eye were: Schar sweet and savoury biscuits and crackers, which are very close to the real deal, Carman’s seedy crackers, Simply Wize‘s Oreo-type cookies, and Syndian dips.

Schar biscuits Schar Simply Wize biscuits Carman's crackers
Carman's bliss balls Carman's protein bars Piranha probiotic snacks Piranha snacks

Roasted fava beans

Roasted chickpeas Crafted Blends quinoa chips Crafted Blends snacks
Food For Health clusters Food For Health bars Food For Health bites Syndian dips

Sauces

The sauces and meal bases had a strong presence, too, making it easy to whip up gluten-free Asian and Mexican dishes.

Spice Craft sauces Diego's Foods Ding The Recipe sauces Ayam

Baking

The flours & mixes section was represented by very well known brands such as Bob’s Red Mill and relatively new players such as Teff Tribe who make a range of mixes utilising teff (a low GI, high protein, high fibre gluten free grain), and Melinda’s Gluten Free with their low(er) carb range of cake mixes.

Bob's Red Mill Teff Tribe Teff Tribe Melinda's Gluten Free
Melinda's Gluten Free Melinda's Gluten Free Yes You Can baking products Yes You Can cake mixes

Food stalls

Finally, no expo is complete without food stalls. There were hot dogs, coffee, donuts and arepas, but I could not fit more food in my belly.

Hot dogs Coffee Donuts Arepas

For the full list of exhibitors, click here and keep your eyes peeled for next year’s expo.

Gluten Free Expo

Review: Thr1ve (Sydney CBD)

One of the big challenges people find when starting a Paleo journey is eating out. I think it takes a bit of research and a mindset shift to be able to make good choices. On the rare ocassions I haven’t brought my lunch to work, my go-to choices have been a large salad from Salad Plus (formerly Saladworks), roast chicken and salad from Coles or a sashimi salad from a sushi place in Wynyard station. Now I can add Thr1ve to the (top of the) list.

In the midst of the usual food court suspects in the MLC centre (Martin Place) there’s a “revolutionary” blackboard announcing high-protein, low-carb, no added sugar meals. Yes, this is not precisely the advice that you get from the government (which by the way works wonders to make the population fatter, sicker, and more dependant on the pharmaceutical/medical industry).

Thr1ve

Thr1ve offers good food and supplements (also exercise programming but I’m not sure how it works) with a Paleo/Primal bias. According to their website, that means that most of their menu complies with the following characteristics:

  • No added sugar.
  • No processed carbohydrates.
  • No grains.
  • Nutrient dense vegetables and fruits options.
  • High quality animal and vegetable protein options.
  • Superfood and herbal garnish options.

Thr1ve

Thr1ve

Thr1ve is open Monday to Friday for breakfast and lunch. These are some of the things I found really appealing:

  • The option of having raw almond milk (or A2 milk, for those who do dairy) as a base for smoothies.
  • The option of customising your smoothie with “superfoods” (their protein/greens products, acai, bee pollen, lúcuma, or maca), nuts/nut butters (including coconut butter!), medium-chain triglycerides (MTCs), seeds, and spices.
  • The signature coffees: one with coconut cream and cinnamon, the other with MCTs and grass-fed butter.
  • The breakfast bowls with three free-range, dairy-free scrambled eggs as the foundation, instead of an early morning surge of insulin-spiking, gut-irritating carbohydrate (i.e. bread, cereal, porridge).
  • The lunch bowls and salads featuring quality protein (grass-fed beef, free range eggs and bacon).
  • Coconut oil mayonnaise. No explanation required.
  • Paleo treats made basically with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
  • Interesting stuff for sale: their protein and greens supplements, plus Paleo/Primal books (for example, Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint and my favourite cookbook: Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed).

Having said that, it’s good to point out that the menu is not 100% Paleo/Primal (as a business they must cater for conventional wisdom believers, I guess). You will find things like soy milk, brown rice, oats, legumes, toast and bread rolls. Do not eat those.

In my first visit I ordered the B.L.T. chop chop salad, crisp free range bacon, boiled egg, chopped iceberg lettuce, chunks of tomato & watercress, with a balsamic honey mustard dressing that is served separately. It was good and packed a very generous amount of chopped bacon that kept me well nourished for the rest of the day, which does not happen with other takeaway salads.

BLT chop chop salad

BLT chop chop salad

BLT chop chop salad ($9.50)

Note: this salad has been replaced (upgraded, I should say) by the K.B.A. (kale, bacon and avocado) salad with roast bacon, kale, avocado, hazelnuts, hazelnut oil, orange and lemon juice, salt and pepper, mixed greens base, served with an orange wedge and watercress garnish. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s in my radar. Something else that has changed with the new menu is that now you can mix-and-match the dressings.

On my second visit I had breakfast after an early morning workout (yes, I used it as an excuse to have a smoothie). Although all the signature smoothies sound really tempting (for example, salted caramel – dates, banana sea salt, and cashew butter), I ordered a custom one with raw almond milk, mixed berries, banana, and coconut butter (no sweetener). I ordered it with PerformaProtein but apparently they forgot to add it. Bummer.

The breakfast bowls are customisable too: besides the three scrambled eggs (or three egg whites with one yolk) you can choose brown rice (just because you can doesn’t mean you should), wilted spinach or roast tomato. You can also add free-range bacon, smoked salmon, grilled Tasmanian salmon, spicy tomato salsa, smashed avocado or roast veggies, for a fee. Mine had three scrambled eggs, roast tomato, and smashed avocado.

Breakfast bowl & custom smoothie

Breakfast bowl ($8.50 + $2 for the avocado), custom smoothie ($6.90 + $1 for the coconut butter)

The smoothie was good but a bit watery compared to the ones I used to make at home back in the day. The eggs were slightly too set for my liking, but not bad. The peppery roast tomato was juicy and flavourful. I’m not very sure about the smashed avocado: it wasn’t fully mashed, nor completely chunky… I think it gives the wrong impression that they don’t care too much about presentation.

That was more than enough of a breakfast for me but I couldn’t resist the temptation of trying one of their signature coffees, specifically the mountain coffee: a long black with MCT oil and grass-fed butter. (A note on the butter: I panicked when I saw the dreaded pale yellow plastic container all artificial butter imitations come in and asked to see the ingredients. While it was not just cream and salt, it wasn’t that bad. Not Pepe Saya quality, but not crap.) I was expecting them to just stir the MCT oil and butter in the coffee (that’s what I do at home) but this is where the magic comes in: they blend a glug of oil and a super generous spoonful of butter with some coffee and add it to the rest of the pour. The result is frothy, creamy, unctuous, and delicious. At $4.90 it’s not precisely cheap, but to be fair it’s served in a large takeaway cup and can easily be considered a full breakfast. Even though I had trained that morning I was full for 6+ hours.

I will definitely post follow-ups as I work my way through the menu.

Thr1ve
Shop 28, MLC Centre
19-29 Martin Place
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9221 3885
www.thr1ve.me

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Easter dietary disaster

Some months ago I read an article about Orthorexia nervosa. This is a new pathological condition discovered by an American MD, Steven Bratman, that consists in an obsession with healthy eating. Because people suffering from this disorder are so fixated with what they eat, that they may end malnourished, sick or even dead. Not to mention all the guilt, depression and loneliness that such a lifestyle can lead to.

Some people who know me could think that I suffer from this condition but I’m not that nuts. Yet :) I do get a bit obsessed with eating healthy, and people notice it. For example, in the office I get the “looks very healthy” comment at lunch at least two times a week. I usually don’t eat cake in the monthly birthday celebrations or snacks on Friday afternoons (when people catch up with drinks). I would never eat an egg and bacon roll for breakfast or a donut for dessert. At home I keep mostly healthy food (the unhealthiest I can think of is bread and crackers, which are often eaten by Alvaro, plus baking ingredients: flour, dark chocolate, cocoa, cornstarch, sugar, etc). When I feel that I really want a treat I often cook it myself (it tastes better that way!). That’s Michael Pollan’s rule #39 (Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself), and has been one of mine for several years.

But eating healthy foods can be tricky because you can get sick or fat eating only healthy foods, because it all depends on how you eat them (quantity, variety of nutrients) and how active is your lifestyle. I must admit that even when I try to eat a big percentage of whole, healthy foods, I usually eat more than I need. That’s why I’m usually in maintenance mode, and not in fat burning gear, where sometimes I should be.

And it all gets worse on the weekends, specially long weekends. I spent Easter in Canberra meditating with a bunch of other crazy Buddhists. I had decided to eat sensibly because I need to keep my body fat in an acceptable level before my big 16-day eating feast in Lima. But I just couldn’t do it. For starters, we didn’t had our meals in restaurants, but in a lovely couple’s house, buffet-style. Breakfast consisted in bread, a wide range of spreads (peanut butter, Nutella, Vegemite – nobody touched it, butter, jams), coffee and milk. On the last two days I prepared porridge that I ate with fruit and peanut butter for a bit of protein. Still, I ate too much just because there was more. Lunches consisted in a sandwich bar: bread, butter, cheese, ham, salami, chutney, lettuce, tomato, pickled cucumbers, canned beetroot, mayonaise, mustard. Dinners varied and were, I think, the healthiest of all three meals. They were served school-cafeteria style, with a person measuring portions.

In the centre, where we did all our meditation, there were often chocolates and other snacks. I ate some of those, just because they were available and free (Latin American mindset taking over). I drank quite a few soy cappuccinos and lattes in the first two days until my stomach started to complain. And at night I lost the little control I had during the day. I think that it’s because alcohol messes with my brain. It’s not that I drink a lot, I just need a beer to start craving whatever unhealthy snacks are available for nibbling. As I said before, at home that’s not a problem, but elsewhere there are always potato chips, crackers or Doritos. And everybody knows that those foods are specially formulated to make you want more, even when you’re stuffed.

During the last few years I’ve found a few tricks that sometimes help me stop eating. Brushing my teeth is a great one, but it’s not always possible. Washing my hands is another good one, specially because I can’t stand having sticky or greasy hands. My goal is to train my brain and body to work together in saying “no” to foods (or edible food-like substances, as Pollan calls them) that have no nutritional value and, most importantly, I don’t really like. I guess I have a lot of training to do.