Wednesday, June 4, 2014

They May Take Our Lives, But They'll Never Take Our Freedom (foods)

Do you remember when you were a child, how excited you got when your mom would give you those mini boxes of cereal? It was like a special treat. All of the colors, the sugary goodness and the yummy, syrupy milk that you got to finish it off with. Sitting in front of the television, watching Saturday morning cartoons (which doesn't even happen now) and just munching down on cereal in your jammies. Life was so easy then, so less complicated. There were no worries about the dyes and artificial sweeteners, no mentions of GMO's and certainly no guilt for your parents feeding you those foods that kept you so happy.

Flash forward to now- the cold, hard fact is that we are faced with a growing concern of what to feed our families. We are bombarded with health issues and which foods are actually safe to eat. We are forced to check labels and contact companies and then check again. Who knew growing up would be so difficult? And why can't we still watch Saturday morning cartoons! (Flintstones theme playing inside of my head).

I thought all of this was gone until I met a representative from Freedom Foods at the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in Georgia. There was a table laden with colorful cereals and so many samples- you should have seen my childrens' eyes popping out of their heads. But when I was asked if I wanted to try some, I hesitated. "I promise you, this cereal will surprise you." He started to explain that Freedom Foods products are manufactured in Australia and are free of gluten, wheat, nuts, soy, dairy and egg. This peeked my curiosity so I tasted a sample. Definitely a possibility. When I told Michael that I was a Food Allergy Consultant he handed me an entire box of Tropico's with his card and we decided that we had to get the word out together about these products.

The cereal box sat in my office for two weeks, which absolutely drove my children bonkers. The rule is that nobody touches any products that I need to review until I have taste-tested them first and taken my photos and notes. Why so strict? Because just once, I tried to allow a small tasting to everyone else and I was left with an empty wrapper, unable to give a review. And besides....it is just as fun to be able to silently torture my children. Come on, as a parent, this is just a given. The result? Our entire family loves this cereal (including my picky son who promptly finished the box the same day).

The Taste-Test The cereal reminds me of a cross between Fruity Pebbles and Fruit Loops. The colors are not as bright and vivid as other sugary cereals but they are still colorful. (This is a good thing- no bright orange and greens means no artificial colors or additives). There is no odd aftertaste, as sometimes found in many gluten free products and they are still just the right size for a toddler snack. Well, what the heck- for an adult snack too!

I also decided to pull the label information to compare ~
                      Fruit Loops*  Tropico's**
Serving Size:  1 cup                1 cup
Total Fat:       1.1 grams         0.5 grams
Sat Fat:          0.5 grams         0 grams
Sugars:           12.9 grams       8 grams
Protein:           1.1 grams        2 grams

* found at: http://www.nutrition.und.edu/foodpro/label.asp?locationNum=08&locationName=&dtdate=8%2F9%2F2011&RecNumAndPort=034013*1
** found at http://www.freedomfoodsus.com/tropicos/

Still Not Sure? I know, these may just be numbers to you. But what I do recommend is that you go back and check the ingredients of the other cereal and see what is listed.

INGREDIENTS:  KELLOGG'S FROOT LOOPS (Sugar, corn flour blend (whole grain yellow corn flour, degerminated yellow corn flour), wheat flour, whole grain oat flour, oat fiber, soluble corn fiber, contains 2% or less of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut, soybean and/or cottonseed), salt, red 40, natural flavor, blue 2, turmeric color, yellow 6, annatto color, blue 1, BHT for freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid), niacinamide, reduced iron, zinc oxide, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B12.)
ALLERGENS:  Wheat, Soy Beans. NOTICE TO CUSTOMERS - Because a food manufacturer may change the ingredients and nutritional content of its food products without our knowledge, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional value and contents of each food item. For more detailed information on a food Product, please contact the unit manager or the food manufacturer directly
You will notice many of the listed ingredients are artificial colors and dyes. Now, let's check the Tropico's ingredients:  Gluten Free Flour Mix (72%)  (Rice, Wholegrain Sorghum & Non-GMO Maize (Corn) Flour), Cane Sugar, Psyllium, Natural Colours (Turmeric, Fermented Rice Powder, Gardenia Flower Extract, Sweet Potato Extract), Rice Bran Extract, Tricalcium Phosphate, Salt, Natural Fruit Flavour, Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamin, Folic Acid). Hmmm, see, I know what all of those ingredients are. 

But, What About the Sugary Milk?!  No worries, I have this covered too! I am happy to report that although the leftover cereal milk does not have any hint of orange or pastel in it, it still leaves you with that milky after snack. I am also happy to say that NutriDaughter's first comment when she was done was "Hey mom, the milk still tastes good but there's no colors. Probably because it's all good stuff." Smart girl..wonder where she gets such wonderful information from?

Final Thoughts This cereal is a new must-have kitchen staple for us. The fact that the ingredients are healthy and I can let my children have (what they consider to be) a fun breakfast every once in awhile keeps all of us happy. The downside- I'm not sure I can find them easily in my area (sad face) but I intend to try to get them here. I also contacted the company to ensure our allergy concerns were covered and this is the fast response that I received "Thank you for contacting Freedom Foods. Our Bars and Cereals do not contain egg. Our biscuits however do contain egg and is processed in the same line of the bars. There is a cleaning  process in place to ensure that there is no contamination."

I was happy to see that they are not only listed with SnackSafely but they also partner with great organizations like National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, Canadian Celiac Association and the Non GMO Project (This turns up the warm fuzzy effect). Support and partnering tells me that this is a company who is serious about what they do and how they do it. I understand it's easier said than done but my wish is that all companies follow suit. I think it's best said as seen on the Tropico's box itself "These days, it's not enough to be health-conscious, we also need to be allergen-conscious." I believe this can be done, one box at a time.






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