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?
We have big news to announce – ZEGO is now a B Corporation! I love talking about our company because ZEGO is so much more than delicious, Free From snacks. But it’s hard to convey all we hold dear in a Tweet or Instagram post. If you had the time, I would want to tell you we are a family-based business that grew out of a desire to provide delicious and nutritious snacks that are safe for nearly everyone to eat–no matter your dietary restriction, that we are passionate about providing food safety data through dynamic labeling, and how we use our labels to communicate food safety information to you. I would tell you we believe you have a right to know what is in your food and encourage you to demand it from all the companies you buy from – especially when it comes to toxins like glyphosate or cross contact with allergens.
I would want you to know that we are about more than transparency, nutrition and taste. I would want you to know that we work hard to support U.S. farmers by buying locally and regionally grown food for our products. We use our packaging to inform consumers how they can advocate for a cleaner food supply, and that we donate 2% of our revenue to improve nutrition for low-income kids. As you see, it takes us awhile to tell people about all we do, which is why we are so happy to be officially certified as a B Corporation!
What is a B Corporation anyway?
B Corp for business is similar to Fair Trade or USDA Organic for food, but much broader. It covers how you treat your employees, your corporate governance, and your commitment to protecting the environment and giving back to your community. Because not every question on the assessment is relevant to every type of company, to get certified you must score 80 points out of 200. ZEGO scored a full 113!
Being B Corp certified allows us to use one symbol, the B badge, to show that we care about a lot more than profit. It means that we strive to make our business a force for good in our community and in our world.
Why Did We Get B Corporation Certified?
We didn’t get certified as a marketing tool. We got certified as a B Corporation because it’s not enough for ZEGO to be an independent “good guy” company. To be a force for good, we need to join forces with other B Corp food companies to define new, higher standards both in food labeling and food / social responsibility. By working together, we can encourage other food companies to follow the same path. The benefits will be felt for generations.
It is part of our bigger commitment to always improving and setting the standard for transparency for food companies!
What Does Our Being a B Corporation Mean to You?
We have been doing the things that B Corp certified us for since we started ZEGO back in 2013, but it does make a difference to be certified. The certification actually holds legal weight as it is woven into your corporate legal structure. Most importantly, because re-certification is required every two years, you can be confident that as we grow, we will hold true to our values.
How You Can Help
So, here is our call to action for you — It truly matters if you support companies that are making a difference by how they do business. It’s simple, we can’t be a force for good if we don’t have enough sales! So when you are choosing which product to buy, look for the B Corp logo, help us spread the word about ZEGO and other B Corp companies, and ask other companies that you love to consider getting certified! Most of all, thank you for your support.
As a runner, protein running snacks that nourish my body are a necessity. And since I run frequently it needs to be something that tastes good too. While you usually get to hear from Colleen, I’m very excited to share why I choose to fuel my runs with ZEGO, but first, let me introduce myself. My name is Danielle and I have the pleasure of helping run the day-to-day operations at ZEGO. Since I started two years ago, we have added delicious new flavors and grown as a company.
How My Love of Running Began
I first started running in college with the sole goal to get in shape for my wedding. I would run the same two loops around both Willow and Watson Lake in Prescott, AZ. None of my friends were into running, so this became my “me time”. After college, I moved to Indiana, got an office job, and needed a way to release tension, clear my mind, and stay in shape. Running was a clear choice as it was something I had grown to love – It’s a great way to explore new cities and meet new people.
I soon registered for my first half marathon – The Mini-Marathon, which is the largest ½ marathon in the country! Race day arrived and, as luck would have it, it was one of the hottest and most humid days on record! I was missing that the crisp, high desert air. A couple hours later I crossed the finish line feeling depleted and unhappy with my time. I told myself I was never going to run another race again. But that feeling didn’t last long as I soon forgot how miserable I was and could only remember the adrenaline of race day. Since then, I have run several other halfs, and I completed my first full marathon this past February at the beautiful Surf City course in Huntington Beach. With all this training, I have certainty been victim to injuries, and come to know snacks to avoid, snacks to live by, and that post-run high runners love to talk about. Running gives me time to myself, and allows me to decompress.
On most days, you can find me and my dog, Kaibry, running through Golden Gate Park or the Presidio in San Francisco. Currently, I am training for the San Francisco marathon in July, and ZEGO bars fuel every single one of my long runs.
What I Look for In A Running Snack
Thankfully, I do not suffer from severe food allergies like many people these days, so I don’t have to think about allergies when I choose a running snack for my pack. However, I still care about what I put in my body. Success as a runner, especially a long distance runner, relies on being able to provide your body with healthy fats and protein, along with being quick and accessible.
If any of you are runners, athletes, or just always on the go, you know how hard it is to find a snack that gives the right answers to the questions:
- Are there artificial ingredients or “natural” flavorings?
- Is it Organic / Non GMO?
- Is it gluten free?
- Is it loaded with too much protein for your body to easily digest?
- What is the sugar content (too much and/or poor quality)?
- Does it contain artificial sweeteners?
- Does it contain animal products?
- How does it taste?
That list doesn’t even cover the various food allergies or other restrictions you might have!
As you can imagine, most sports drinks and energy snacks do not check all the boxes, which is why I am so thankful for ZEGO bars. Not only do they pass the taste test, but they also have a delicious flavor and great texture – and I’m not just saying that because I work for ZEGO! 😉
Why I Choose ZEGO When I Run
ZEGO bars do not contain any natural (or artificial) flavorings, which is incredibly hard to find. In fact, “Natural Flavorings” is the fourth most common ingredient found on food labels. It outranks other common ingredients like salt, water, and sugar! CNN has a great article explaining why natural flavors aren’t as “natural” as they sound – and they do a great job breaking down the very slight differences between natural flavors and artificial ingredients.
ZEGO bars also meet the Organic / Non GMO criteria. The Seed+Fruit bars are certified Organic and do not contain GMOs. All of the Just Fruit and Fruit+Chia bars are also certified Non GMO, which is perfect for keeping your snacks as clean as possible.
Every ZEGO bar is certified vegan, which means no whey protein or other animal products. This allows our bodies to digest the bars easily. As a runner, the last thing I want is to consume something that is going to upset my stomach. The protein in ZEGO bars is from Sacha Inchi Seed protein – which is amazing! It contains more omega 3 fatty acids than salmon, and is also the least processed protein on the market.
But no matter how good for you a bar is, it doesn’t do any good if it is unpalatable. I can’t tell you how many pre or mid run snacks I have purchased only to spit them out because they taste terrible. Seriously, though, every ZEGO flavor is amazing (and again, I promise I’m not just saying that! 😉 )
Right now, I am gearing up for the San Francisco marathon, and have been enjoying a ZEGO Apple Cinnamon bar before every run. On my long runs, I like to hide a spare ZEGO Chocolate bar in my back pocket to refuel, along with a ZEGO Just Fruit Raspberry bar. These are perfect refreshing snacks that will give you just the right amount of energy boost to finish out those last couple of miles. Bonus – they don’t melt, so they travel well in your pocket or car!
What Fuels Your Run?
Whether you run, play sports, or are busy on the go, I can’t recommend these bars enough. I mean, how can you go wrong with a snack that tastes delicious, is loaded with easily digestible superfoods, and is changing the food industry by providing unprecedented levels of transparency. (Curious about what I mean by transparency? Take a look here to learn about how we’re revolutionizing the food chain and industry!).
Why do you choose to run? Have you tried ZEGO snacks as your running snack option? We love hearing from you, so keep sharing your pictures and stories with us! It helps us stay motivated and encourages us to continue to “Raise the Bar”.
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!
We’ve all heard of virgin and extra-virgin oils. The name denotes a higher quality and has a specific meaning that varies depending on the type of oil. Extra-virgin olive oils have an acidity of less than one percent, while regular virgin olive oils have an acidity of less than two percent. Both are mechanically, rather than chemically, processed. Virgin coconut oil (there is no such thing as extra virgin coconut oil) is oil that has not been refined, bleached, or deodorized. The true definition of virgin coconut oil is a bit more complicated than that, and you can read about it here. Virgin oils, especially virgin coconut and olive oils, have greater health benefits than their more heavily processed counterparts.
Unfortunately, companies selling these products often lie about the quality of their oils. A study by the National Consumer’s League found that over 50% of olive oil products labeled extra virgin were not extra-virgin. Another study found that nearly 70% of all imported oils failed to meet the exacting standards that an extra-virgin label demands, though only 10% of domestic olive oils did.
The truth about coconut oil virginity may be even worse. While the International Olive Oil Council provides some standards for olive oil, coconut oil has no international body regulating it. Many heavily refined coconut oils claim to be virgin, and nobody is moving to stop them. In fact, there is concern that some companies rebottle coconut oil that has already been processed and damaged at a high heat level and call it virgin because the secondary bottler does not do additional processing.
The next time you need to buy olive or coconut oil, do some research first. While finding which brands of olive oil are truly extra-virgin is difficult because even true extra-virgin olive oil can lose its virginity on the shelf or in transport if exposed to direct light, a quick but deeper look into a coconut oil’s label or website may tell you more.
- If it is a copra-based coconut oil, it is not virgin.
- Get your extra-virgin olive oil from a darkened bottle on the back of a lower shelf to minimize the chance that it has lost its virginity in the store.
- Call your favorite coconut oil companies and ask if their oil is heat processed in its import (all coconut oil is imported) to the U.S. and ask how they process it when they bottle it here.
I’m not often a fan of more government regulation, but I think that we do need stricter regulations on these oils to make sure that consumers get what they are paying for. Lying about the quality of a product is fraud, but it’s only a problem for the company if it is caught. And, because no one is really checking, that rarely happens.
Credit for images:
By Liam Puknys, guest blogger for ZEGO
I generally distrust anything claiming to be a “wonder drug”. They are incredibly rare, and even seemingly miraculous “wonder drugs,” heck, even vitamin supplements, often have harmful side effects that we only discover years after widely using them. The smallpox vaccine drove its target, which used to kill one-fourth of all humans, to extinction in the wild, but also caused a mild sickness. Antibiotics, perhaps the greatest wonder drugs of all time, decimate opportunistic infections and have saved millions. But even with antibiotics there is trouble, as antibiotic resistance has become a real threat to the ability this class of drugs to continue protecting us.
Even still, antibiotics have been very successful over time in repressing once fatal infectious diseases. The problem rising in its stead is autoimmune disease. It seems for many of us, our immune systems are malfunctioning. In fact, over 23 million Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases today, such as Chrones, Colitis and Celiac Disease and that number is rising. That does not count other diseases like depression and diabetes that can also have autoimmune causes. In comparison, cancer affects about nine million.
We are still developing ways to fight this new pandemic. There is no proven wonder drug yet. However, recent research has pointed to a new drug, low dose naltrexone, as possibly being the revolutionary remedy that could help curb our “autoimmuning.” Naltrexone is an FDA-approved drug that you may have heard of because it stops heroin and opioid overdoses (it saved the artist known as Prince a few years ago). What does this have to do with your immune system?
It turns out that endorphins, your body’s natural opioids, play a vital role in regulating your immune system. They signal your T cells, which are the coordinators of your body’s immune system. Naltrexone blocks your brain’s opioid receptors.
In a large dose, this stops an opioid overdose. But, taken in small doses over a period of time, naltrexone causes your brain to send a signal to your body to make more endorphins. The extra endorphins help better coordinate your T cells and improve your immune system’s response to just about everything. By improving the functioning of your immune system, low dose naltrexone, or LDN, has the potential to enable your own body to cure these otherwise incurable autoimmune diseases.
We still do not understand the full potential of LDN> We need to do more research on it. The preliminary results are promising. A recent clinical study showed 65% of Chrones and Colitis patients participating showed marked improvement in symptoms, even without any dietary changes. Other studies have shown that taking LDN results in reduced inflammation, but much of the evidence supporting this is anecdotal or has not had rigorous review
Still another recent study by affiliates of St. George’s University in London suggests that LDN may even help your body fight off cancer. We need to do more research on this drug to learn more about its benefits and its side effects. However, the side effects so far seem to be minimal.
One of the most interesting parts of LDN is that patients are reporting very few negative side effects. The most severe seems to be moderate trouble sleeping in the first week, though this tends to fade quickly and is easily solved by lowering the dose. In fact, patients are told they may see an improvement in their mood over time from the increased production and uptake of endorphins—what a welcomed change of pace on a drug warning label!
And, in addition to the minimal side effects, LDN is cheap, ranging $45-$90 for a monthly supply, though it needs to be purchased from a compounding pharmacy, which can be hard to find. There is a benefit to using a compounding pharmacy, though, if you have food allergies. You see, the LDN dose is so small they need to use a filler, like lactose or cellulose, to make the pills a size that is easier to keep track of. So if you have allergies, a compounding pharmacist can use a safe filler for your medication.
Low dose naltrexone has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat autoimmune diseases and possibly cancer. What I like most about is is that, unlike many other drugs, it doesn’t try to overwhelm or supercede your immune system. It addresses to root of the problem via your T cells and encourages your body to fix the disease itself.
While we still need to conduct more research surrounding the drug, if you have an autoimmune disease, or multiple (my doctor rejects the diagnosis of numerous autoimmune diseases and just say that you are “autoimmuning”), ask your doctor. Many doctors are not aware of LDN treatment, so you may need to give them time to research it. It is prescription only, though, so you’ll definitely need your doctor’s support.