Giving Tuesday is a time to highlight ways to give back to the community, which is an important part of our mission all year long. In fact, did you know a portion of every sale goes to help provide nutritious lunches for low-income children through the non-profit A Better Course? Since 2013, we have donated 2% of our cash flow to A Better Course, but we don’t stop there. We also send bars to victims of natural disasters including hurricane and fire victims. So, every time you purchase ZEGO products, you invest in better nutrition for low-income kids and provide safe, disaster relief snacks for people with dietary restrictions. Giving back is something we are extremely passionate about, which is why we wove this into our legal structure.
A Better Course strategically selects and designs on-the-ground programs, conducts research, analysis, and advocates for improved nutrition for low-income children and families. Specifically, we support A Better Course’s work on improving access to healthy foods through public programs such as school meals, CalFresh, and making that food safer by advocating to improve transparency in our food system regarding allergens, pesticides and GMOs.
We are grateful to our partners and funders, without whom the work would not be possible.
That mission is also why every year we do a master-case giveaway of snacks to one lucky school. It is our biggest and favorite giveaway of the year.
Whether your child has food allergies, or attends a peanut free-school, having snacks that are available to every child regardless of allergies is so important. This fall, the winner was Hockinson Middle School in Brush Prairie, WA! We interviewed the school counselor Jessica Ambrose to learn a little more about their school. In the middle school, they don’t prohibit allergens, but they do specifically flag every child with food allergies so that teachers and staff are all aware of a child’s food allergies.
Jessica’s family has several food allergies as well, which is why she really understands how important it is to provide safe snacks. In fact, she keeps a basket of fresh fruit, and a drawer of safe snacks so that kids are able to get something good for them to eat any time they are hungry. For some of their students, they rely on these snacks to make sure they get enough food for the day. Since the school does not have funding for something like this, she and other teachers fill up the snack box out of their own pockets. We were so happy to be able to give her a boost with the master case!
At Hockinson, they try not to use food (especially candy) as rewards. Instead, they use a token system with a store for them to earn rewards. This way every child can be included. They have several students with peanut allergies and other allergies, as well as students who are vegan or diabetic.
Jessica said “We love ZEGO snacks for kids who have food allergies or diabetes since they are low in carbohydrates and have no added sweeteners. These are the perfect snack for our school because they work for all of our kids.”
How to Make Sure You Don’t Miss the Next School Giveaway
Do you want your school to be the next winner? Make sure you sign up to get our email updates and we will be sure to let you know when we do the next school giveaway! Then all you will have to do is nominate your school to win, and get all your friends and family to nominate them too. And maybe your school will be the next winner!
When you sign up, you will also get our Mix-In Recipe Book for free! Full of fun ideas for you to try.
Allergy friendly lunches can be a challenge sometimes. And when it comes to school lunches, sometimes you have to think about allergies that affect the whole school, such as if your child goes to a peanut free school (even if they themselves don’t have nut allergies).
Here we are to the rescue with some fresh ideas for you!
Allergy Friendly Asian Inspired Bento Box
What is in this box:
This is a fun box with some different items that you might not think of to put in a lunch every day. The nice thing is you can pack one for your child and one for you too! The spicy sweet of the Lemon Ginger bar is the perfect addition to all these flavors.
It is naturally vegan, nut free, and wheat free. You can easily make it soy free by substituting tamari with another sauce that you love. Sushi can be a fun activity to make together as a family the night before, and can be made with many different types of ingredients.
An important thing to double check with these foods is for fish and shellfish. Sometimes those ingredients can show up in something like kimchi, so check that it is a recipe that works for your dietary needs. The other good news is that this box is stocked full of probiotics and antioxidants!
If your child is not a fan of traditional sushi, then you can make “fruit sushi” by rolling out a ZEGO fruit bar for the seaweed, adding sweet sticky rice, and pieces of your favorite fresh fruit. Mango or something tropical would be especially good.
Nut Free Bento Box Idea
What is in this box:
This is not only nut-free, but also gluten-free and vegan. If you don’t need to be gluten-free, you could easily swap out your favorite pretzels and bread for the gluten-free versions. Peaches and cherry are flavors that go together well, and the kale chips add some nice crunch and veggies.
You can make the kale chips yourself, or buy your favorite allergy-friendly brand.
What is also nice about this combination is several protein sources without meat, dairy, or eggs.
While sandwiches are a staple in many lunches, you can also twist it up for some variety. Consider putting Sunbutter and Mix-Ins on a rice cake, or cutting up your favorite ZEGO flavor with toast and any other spread – like this delicious avocado toast!
Dairy Free Bento Box Idea
What’s in this box:
Most of the boxes in this list are dairy free, but this is proof that there are lots of ways to get protein without dairy! The mini-muffin can be gluten-free if you want. And if you can’t have soy, you can swap out the roasted edamame for a handful of Mix-ins, or dried peas or lentils.
Lime and sea salt make the beans a little more interesting. You could also add salsa to the beans if you want a bit more spice.
One of the great things about ZEGO bars is that they can be slipped in a lunch box in addition to a full bento box in order to get in a little more nutrition in an easy grab package.
Soy Free Bento Box Idea
What is in the box:
There are a LOT of flavors going on in this box, which is why a Sunflower Date bar seemed like a good fit. It adds more protein with a nice smooth taste, that goes well with the beet hummus and crunchy veggies.
If you haven’t started experimenting with your hummus choices, you should give it a try! There are a lot of different flavor options. And the crunchy sweet of the raw sweet pototo slices is a good way to add variety to the normal dipping vegetables that you might think of.
If you hae corn allergies, you can always swap out the corn chips for rice cakes, pretzels, or whatever other crunch dipper you like.
Egg Free Bento Box
What is in the box:
- Multi-grain tortilla chips
- Grape tomatoes
- Snap peas
- Three different kinds of hummus
- Sunflower Date ZEGO Bar
Here is another twist on hummus and chips. This one includes multi-grain chips, a couple different veggies, and siracha carrot, white bean, and black bean hummus. The Sunflower Date bar adds some subtle sweet to the box.
Again, there are always other chip choices to suit your needs, and get creative with trying different types of veggies as a dipper!
Wheat Free Bento Box
What’s in this box:
- Apple Cinnamon Mix-ins
- Spinach patties
- Dairy-free yogurt
- Hard-boiled egg
- Black grapes
This box is almost like a brunch box! The spinach patties are almost like hash browns, and the yogurt is ready for the Mix-ins to be added for an instant parfait. It has a lot of variety in nutrients and a high protein content. If you need to skip the eggs, the Mix-ins still provide a high-protein alternative. Maybe include both flavors if you want to make it egg free!
Pick whatever type of yogurt meets your dietary needs, and add some probiotics to your meal in the process.
Bonus: Allergy Friendly Snack Ideas
Sometimes all it takes to liven up a lunch or snack is to present it in a different way! For example, make fruit kebobs with ZEGO bars, or intermingle the bars with fresh fruit on the kebob. You can also use small cookie cutters to cut out shapes from your bars to give your kids a fun treat to look forward to.
Which of these ideas are you going to try?
Spring means flowers, spring break, warmer weather – and for some people seasonal allergies. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, seasonal allergy symptoms can affect up to 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children. That is a lot of sneezing and itchy eyes!
The good news is there are things you can do to reduce your allergy symptoms.
Tips to Reduce Seasonal Allergies
The best thing to do is to reduce your exposure. Unlike with food allergies, where the goal is to reduce your exposure to zero, with pollen allergies the best you can do is minimize the amount of exposure. For example, it is totally worth it to hire a lawn service (or the teenager down the street) to mow your lawn and do other yard work.
Another good practice is to make a “no shoes in the house” rule so that none of that is tracked in. Maybe make a sign as a reminder, and to let guests know too.
If you get Allergic Living magazine, you might want to check out their article as well. It gives lots of great tips, including things like remembering to change your furnace filter. You might want to use these tips to create your own seasonal allergy spring cleaning checklist!
Seasonal Allergies and Food Allergies
What many people don’t know is that there are certain foods that can make seasonal allergies worse. Certain foods have enzymes that are similar to the pollen that is causing your allergic symptoms. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology has a great list to cross reference as a starting point for your allergies. For example, if you are allergic to ragweed, you might notice some oral allergic responses from some melons and banana. This can be scary for people with food allergies if you don’t know what is causing the increase in symptoms.
Of course, always check with your doctor for your own best treatment plan, and to ask how food and seasonal allergies may interact with you personally.
Allergy Friendly Spring Roll with Pear Dipping Sauce
Spring is not all pollen though – it can also inspire some fun recipes! Such as this allergy-friendly Spring Roll!
Recipe for Spring Rolls:
-Rice paper wrappers (choose a brand that is allergy-safe for your allergies)
Herbs (chopped or whole leaves):
-1 bunch of fresh basil
-Fresh cilantro (optional – some people have very strong opinions about cilantro!)
Veggies (sliced long and thing)
-Red Bell Peppers
-Green lettuce leaves
Add any other veggies you like! Feel free to experiment!
Soak the rice paper until soft, layer the herbs and veggies in the rice paper, and roll up
-1 ZEGO Just Fruit Pear bar or 1 ZEGO Just Fruit Raspberry bar
-Juice of 1 lime
-Garlic cloves crushed (1-2)
-Tamari if not allergic
-Coconut aminos or miso
Add everything above to a food processor and blend until smooth
What is your favorite spring recipe?
If you want to understand food trends, then Expo West 2017 was the place to be. My feet are bruised from walking on concrete floors and holding meetings in hallways for 3 days. I saw every one of a dizzying array of over 3,000 local, national and international companies showing their wares in Anaheim at the Natural Products Expo West show last weekend. It was amazing to see so many products all in one place!
Overall, the message of the show was clear – our bellies hurt, and our kids (and some of us) have serious food allergies. Those two things kept showing up again and again in the products we saw and tried.
Trend 1: Probiotics
To help our digestion and improve our gut flora, probiotics and fermentation were suddenly the #1 marketing angle of new companies – replacing last year’s coconut waters (the most clever put probiotics in their coconut water). And it wasn’t just naturally fermented and cultured beverages, yogurts and cheeses, it was everything from jelly beans to cookies to tortilla chips, drinking vinegar to pickle juice! I’ll cover the nutrition issues with the added probiotics in another blog, because today I want to tell you about the trends and our favorite new products.There are questions to explore about whether added probiotics more marketing than health.So, let’s move on to the other trend—allergy friendly food.
Trend 2: Allergy Friendly
Now, just like with gluten free, this will take some navigating for the allergen community – not every company could tell me how often they test for cross contact and some seemed puzzled by the question. We hope to convince them of the value of batch testing and reporting the results to consumers through the QR code on the product package like we do at ZEGO in the long run.But the fact that there were a lot more companies marketing they are free from problematic ingredients and allergens is good news nonetheless!
After all, now that buyers for grocery store see this trend growing, they are more likely to buy more free-from products for their stores. This will make it easier for all of us to meet the needs of our special diet friends and family. Maybe allergy friendly will follow a similar path to gluten free, with the next step being an “allergy friendly” section in the store.
Our Top Product Picks
Enough about the trends, let’s move the really fun part – the companies and foods we loved! We are picky at our house, despite our many food intolerances and allergies, so when we say it’s good, we really mean it. Here is what Kelsey, my teenage daughter, and I want you to know in new products. (Note: please call these companies to confirm their allergy situation in the facility, salespeople at food shows don’t always have the correct facts!)
Cassava and Plantain Chips. Free of virtually everything! The only other ingredients in their facility are Palm Oil, Salt, Cinnamon. This was the first one I ordered when I got home. You have to buy in bulk, but they are worth it! You can order on their website: http://artisantropic.com/
Paleo Chocolate? Yes! And it is the best we’ve ever had and no soy/dairy/refined sugars!
They are in distribution so ask you favorite store to start carrying them if they don’t already. And, check out their restaurant next time you are in NYC. https://hukitchen.com
Fluffy, true sandwich bread. Seriously. You don’t even need to toast it and it is delicious! Some versions have added pea protein so be aware of that if you have a peanut allergy or a sensitive stomach. Free from most everything else. (www.happycampersgf.com)
Also in stores in Washington Oregon, Nor Cal, So Cal and on-line.
Snack Clusters – seriously good baked soft cookie clusters. Very clean ingredients, grain/gluten/soy/dairy free, contains peanuts and tree nuts. Lower in sugars than most similar products. We ordered these last night on-line. www.wholeme.com
All purpose flour and sorghum grain you can pop stovetop.
The popped sorghum is PERFECT for people allergic to corn, delicious and fun.
We had a warm muffin made from the flour and it was fantastic, but it does have tapioca and potato starch which can irritate tummies.
Free from milk/soy/peanut/gluten. Check on treenuts if you are allergic, they aren’t listed on the packaging, but I think they are free of these as well. http://www.nulifemarket.com
Veggie Noodle Co
No time to spirulize your veggies for your paleo meal? No worries, Veggie Noodle has a beautiful array of pre-spiraled options for you. Find them virtually everywhere east of the Rocky Mountains but not out West yet (sniff sniff). http://veggienoodleco.com/
Vegan frozen pops made from fruit and veggies. I ordered these in bulk already! Seriously, I just ordered $125 worth (bulk sales only on-line) – they are that good and my food allergy daughter is waiting by the door for them to arrive. Colorado, So Cal, PNW, Louisiana and some in the NE states. www.froozer.com
Organic Vegan Gelato – most delicious ever of all the companies we tried. Egg/milk/soy/wheat but free some flavors contain tree or peanut and equipment is shared. Find them in San Diego and LA County but not on-line. Hopefully, they expand to your hood soon or you can pick them up on your next visit!
Superfood smoothie from fruit and veggies—better than juice because they retain their natural fiber.
Shelf stable! Use coconut but appear otherwise free of the top 8 allergens. https://www.nokaorganics.com/
“Tummy Friendly” brand of hot cereal and cookies with added probiotics, gluten/dairy/soy/egg free. National distribution. https://nurturme.com/
Best cookie and brownie dough we’ve tasted. Soy/gluten free, contains nuts. LA only and on-line. www.becausecookiedough.com
Do You Want to Try These? Enter to Win!
If you didn’t get to go to Expo West, don’t worry, we will bring the show to you! We are doing a giveaway Friday March 23 at 7pm ET, 4pm PT on Facebook Live. Turn in a leave a comment about which of these new products you are most excited about and we will randomly choose a winner to receive a gift bag with a selection of these amazing products for you to try!