Jen Cafferty makes it look easy, producing huge Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expos in large cities across the country, launching a new television show, consulting, creating recipes, blogging, and raising two children with her husband in Chicago. I asked Jen her perspective on the Expo she founded, food trends and how she stays healthy.
Jen views the Gluten Free & Allergen & Friendly Expo she founded in 2008 as going beyond food to a variety of lifestyle topics, from medical information, dining, travel and kids’ issues to daily coping. She likes to make it a welcoming and useful event for people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and a gamut of food allergies. Everything sampled or sold by the vendors is gluten-free. The vendors must also label the foods for nine common allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, soybeans, corn and sesame seeds. In addition to the labeling, Jen encourages attendees to double check for safety by asking each vendor about specific allergens.
As the producer of the Expo, Jen has had the opportunity to observe trends over time in gluten-free and allergen-free foods. The quality is getting better now, and the prices are starting to go down, she says. Although there are more healthy products available, the majority of products are not in that category, as most people are seeking gluten-free and allergen-free versions of their favorite comfort foods.
Jen feels the key to staying healthy is to determine the foods that best suit your body, taking into account changes over time at different life stages. She maintains her energy by emphasizing fresh foods; staying gluten-free; minimizing corn, dairy and cane sugar; and taking probiotics and vitamins. Her entire family is gluten-free. I coaxed a list of her family’s favorite foods from her: lentils, chicken nuggets by Allergy Free Foods, San-J Asian sauces and Pamela’s pancake mix. I was surprised (and somewhat relieved) to learn that this recipe developer and food blogger prefers to cook savory foods or bake from mixes so she can avoid baking from scratch and measuring.
Jen will be hosting the new television show she is developing at the Expo in front of a live audience. Look for it on Saturday afternoon. Jen reminds people to buy their Expo tickets ahead of time, as it may sell out. The dates are Saturday and Sunday, February 9th and 10th. For more information on vendors, speakers, classes, and to purchase tickets, go to www.gfexpo.com. If you just can’t make it this year, don’t despair; Jen is already planning next year’s Expo for the San Francisco Bay Area.