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Friday, April 10, 2015

On the Hunt: Taste Testing Gluten Free Snacks

It's one thing to change your diet as an adult and this comes with it's own set of challenges. The same can be said with children who are old enough to have the situation explained to them and an ability to understand and communicate with you (albeit with resistance and different challenges I'm sure). But having to change how your toddler eats at 18 months after finding out she's sensitive to certain staples comes with it's own unique set of grey- hair sprouting inducing challenges. If I wasn't pregnant at the time and had wine as an option, trust me when I say I would have very much enjoyed a glass to mellow my nerves at the end of those days.  

The first two weeks were tough. Brutal. I went from having a toddler who could and would eat mostly anything to having to limit her choices and introduce new versions of foods with varying success; basically repeating history from a few months before when I introduced solids. But this time Ari had already tasted 'normal' food and she has developed a sense of taste beyond the bland rice cereal and purees of those earlier months. Suddenly I had a food critic on my hands who didn't understand why her culinary choices were being changed and why foods she could previously eat were suddenly off limits at play dates and birthday parties (anyone with a little allergy- sufferer can relate to the challenge of having to avoid snack sharing and the tantrums that can ensue). Meal times and snacks suddenly became  a battle zone as I tried to convince my little lady that these new options were not only yummy, but were frankly the only ones she now had. 

So began the hunt for alternatives to foods such as milk and anything containing dairy, bread, bagels (an Ari fave), and anything containing gluten (now what to do with the economy- sized bag of organic oatmeal I'd just picked up? For those with strong gluten sensitivities/ allergies you have to buy gluten- free oats). There are a few other things I have to look out for, but those are the two biggies. Ultimately, I know that reducing the amount of dairy and gluten products we consume is for the better, but as with most diet/ lifestyle changes the initial transition can be a bit of a hurdle. And even though Will has already made this transition, transitioning Ari was a lot tougher, especially since it impacted how I ate her around (think: suddenly something as simple as a piece of toast was off- limits and I'm not willing to buck up for an extra loaf of gf bread just so I can eat it around her. PS- the budget impact of this experience is a post in itself, but that's another story...). Upon getting the feedback from our naturopath about what we needed to eliminate, Will & I knew we'd be making more changes to the foods we had in the house- even if he allows himself some flexibility in how he eats, it's a little tougher with a toddler who can't communicate if she's in discomfort from something she ate. 

There are a lot of options available, but finding snacks that are healthy and have more taste than flavoured cardboard can be tricky. As I go through the trial & error of trying out new options I'm hoping to share my experiences with my readers in the hopes of helping you with your own dietary journeys and save you some time and money in the process. So when I got the chance to try out a box of gluten free goodies generously offered up by Lloyd James Naturals I jumped at the chance. In the box were various snacks, salad dressings, non- dairy butter alternatives, and sauces to try (I'll share about those in a later post). The opportunity to taste- test these products couldn't have come at a better time & we've enjoyed working our way through the products and finding new options that can be enjoyed by Will and Ariana. See below for the snacks we got to try & more info about them.

Coco- Roons

  • Organic, gluten free, vegan, & paleo friendly & made with non- GMO ingredients. These are a nice option for those with food sensitivities and special diets (note: these do contain almonds) when you're craving something sweet. 
  • 7 flavours available (I got to taste test 5 of them): Vanilla, Brownie, Almond Strawberry, Lemon Pie, & Cacao Nib (my favourite was the Lemon Pie flavour).
  • Similar to the coconut macaroons you find in the bakery of the grocery store but without all the sugar (unfiltered organic maple syrup is used to sweeten these & it's the 5th ingredient on the list- yay for not being loaded with sugar!). I also really liked that I could identify all of the ingredients and that there are no preservatives in them. (For example, here's the ingredients in the Lemon Pie Coco- Roons: dried unsweetened coconut*, almond flour*, unfiltered maple syrup*, cold- pressed coconut oil*, lemon zest*, vanilla extract*, himalayan crystal salt) * = organic.


Cheeky Monkey Puffs
 
  • Organic, gluten free, kosher, dairy & casein free, soy free, sugar free, vegan, & made with non- GMO ingredients.
  • 2 flavours: Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter Chili Pepper
  • These have the texture of cheesies/ cheese puffs but the flavour of peanut butter (I loved the unique combo of the Peanut Butter Chili flavour & the kick of flavour the chili added). 
  • Produced in a gluten- free facility, making them an option for those with a strong gluten allergy, but containing peanuts (I know the name gives this away, but thought I'd mention just in case, ya know?). These snacks aren't fried and again, the list of ingredients impressed me in the simplicity and quality of ingredients used. (I'm very picky about certain ingredients such as peanuts and corn being organic/ non- GMO given the amount of pesticides used with certain crops and/ or if they are known to be a common GMO crop unless stated). While these most likely aren't going to be school- lunch friendly given that they contain peanuts, they still make a great option for day trips, play dates, camping, etc. Ingredients (for the Peanut Butter Chili flavour): organic peanut butter, organic corn, organic palm oil. organic ground chili pepper, salt.

Brussel Bytes & Snip Chips
  • Organic, gluten- free, vegetarian, paleo- friendly (note: this refers to the Snip Chips not the Brussel Bytes), & contains non- GMO ingredients.
  • I got to try 2 flavours for each: Chili Pumkin and Tamarind Apple (Brussel Bytes);  Chipotle Lime Cilantro and Cheezy Herb (Snip Chips)
  • I'll start with the Brussels Bytes: I'll admit I'm not huge into kale chips, etc and so was a little hesitant with these but they grew on me. After digging into both and giving them a fair chance I'm not actually sure which flavour I liked more. Even if these don't sound that appetizing, the fact that they're made with nutrition- packed ingredients such as brussel sprouts, kale, carrots, and pumpkin seeds make them worth a shot (again, if you're already into things like kale chips these snacks will be right up your alley). 
  • Snip Chips: Despite the name, with dried unsweetened organic coconut as the second ingredient, these snacks are actually on the sweet side. If you can have cheese/ dairy, the Cheezy Herb flavour is yummy; if not I also really liked the Chipotle Lime Cilantro flavour. I would probably pick these over the Brussel Bytes just because I have a sweet tooth and liked the sweetness of them (note: these contain cashews).
  • As with the other products I've shared in this post, none of the ingredients gave me cause for concern, here are examples for each: Brussel Bytes (Chili Pumpkin flavour):  brussel sprouts*, raw cashews*, kale*, raw pumpkin seeds*, tamari*, coconut nectar*, carrots*, cilantro*, onion*, garlic*, apple cider vinegar*, vinegar*, cumin*, chipotle*, himalayan crystal salt. * = organic; Snip Chips (Chipotle Lime Cilantro flavour): parsnips*, dried unsweetened coconut*, raw cashews*, tamari*, pumpkin seeds*, coconut nectar, cilantro*, raw cumin*, garlic*, chipotle peppers*, apple cider vinegar*, dried onion*, lime juice*, himalayan crystal salt. * = organic). 
If you'd like to try these snacks out for yourself, you can find them in Choices and Whole Foods Markets, among others.

A special thanks to Lloyd James Natural Food Sales & Marketing for providing our family with all of these goodies to try. Visit their website & find them on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram to learn more.

To learn more about the products mentioned in this post, see below: 
Wonderfully Raw Gourmet Delights (Coco- Roons, Brussel Bytes, & Snip Chips)

Cheeky Monkey
April posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting