Van’s Gluten-Free Waffles: Review and Giveaway

One of my daughters can hear things being discussed halfway across the house, especially when it has to do with something she likes to eat. 🙂 During the school year, both of my daughters usually have cereal and yogurt for breakfast. On the weekends, however, we try to do something different like pancakes, fruit, granola, eggs & bacon, or something that always brings a smile: gluten-free waffles!

Our go-to brand has been Van’s Natural Foods, for as long as my daughters and I have been gluten-free. Van’s makes many types of waffles so please note that some are NOT gluten-free. Their gluten free varieties are: totally natural, buckwheat, blueberry, apple cinnamon, flax and plain minis. And besides waffles, they also make gluten-free cinnamon french toast sticks. All of these products are made with whole grains and are also egg and dairy free, plus the waffles are sweetened with fruit juice.  The boxes are clearly labeled “wheat/gluten free” so just make sure you grab the right box.

While their gluten-free products are not made in a dedicated facility, but the verbiage on the box reads, “Our Gluten Free Promise: At Van’s, we are absolutely committed to upholding the highest standards of allergen safety. Every batch of our wheat free waffles is tested for the presence of gluten, dairy & eggs so you can enjoy them with confidence.”

A while back I gave away a few “free product” Van’s coupons on Facebook and was amazed by the number of people who wanted them. That prompted me to contact Van’s to see if they’d like to offer free product coupons for this giveaway along with an honest review from Yours Truly. They generously agreed and also sent me a few coupons to use for this review as well.

As I noted above, we have already tried and enjoyed a few types of Van’s gluten-free waffles (totally natural and apple cinnamon) but I was excited to try a few more varieties — along with my girls, of course!

The first type we tried for this review were Van’s GF blueberry waffles. There were 6 average-sized waffles in the box and, although it was hard to see them, they contained tiny dried blueberries and blackberries. The waffles were light and crispy and had a naturally sweet blueberry taste to them. All you do is heat them up as directed, top them as desired (you’re never too old for a smiley face, right?) and watch your g-free kids gobble them up.  I added maple syrup to these waffles and they were gone in a flash…

The second variety I’d like to call out are their plain minis, shown below. There are 32 of these cute little guys in each box and they are attached to each other in sets of 4 for easy toasting. You just pull or cut them apart after they are heated up. They’re the perfect size for dipping into syrup and whipped cream — our favorite way to eat both waffles and pancakes. Again, like the larger muffins, these also had a light, crispy feel and a naturally sweet taste (must be the fruit juices they use). These are super easy to top with jam, peanut butter, nutella, syrup or fruit slices and are a fun size for little hands.

We also discovered and became new fans of Van’s GF cinnamon french toast sticks, a product I had never seen before.  When I first saw them in the freezer at Wegmans, I had the feeling that they were going to be really hard and crusty but, in fact, (like Van’s waffles) they were actually light and crispy, yet substantial. I was pleasantly surprised by these little dippers, which we dunked into honey and syrup, yet which also tasted great plain. My daughters really enjoyed these and said they wished I had made more…

Donkey would be proud….all three of these Van’s products were just wonderful. We will definitely continue to keep our freezer stocked with them, much to my daughters’ delight.  I asked my girls if there was anything they would change about any of the Van’s products they tried, and the only thing they said was, “Can we have them at other times instead of just for breakfast?”  As a Mom, I can handle that — especially after seeing these fun ideas:

Want to try something more exciting with your waffles? Check these out…

And now for the giveaway:  Five random winners will each win TWO “FREE PRODUCT” coupons (retail value up to $3.50 each) courtesy of Van’s Natural Foods. U.S. and Canadian residents may enter.

To enter, please leave a comment below, letting me know how you will prepare Van’s gluten-free waffles for your g-free kid.  Plain?  Topped with something?  Made into a sandwich somehow? Will you try something fancy with them? Please share some ideas in order to be entered…

Giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, June 3, 2012. Then the 5 winners have 24 hours to get back to me, otherwise new names will be chosen. U.S. and Canadian residents may enter. Good luck!

Disclaimer: Van’s sent me a couple of free product coupons to use for this review. In return I only promised an honest review and was not compensated in any other way. Opinions are my daughters’ and my own.

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5 superfood snacks for g-free kids: healthy ideas from a RD

Here is a real treat for all of you fellow parents of g-free kids:  A guest post from Megan at www.thehappybellyproject.com who is a registered dietitian with a 4-year old daughter with celiac disease. I believe all of our children can benefit from her healthy superfood ideas. Enjoy! 

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Creating fun, kid-friendly snacks is a great way to get your little one to try new foods. Check out these ideas that all include superfoods—foods that provide a significant health benefit when you add them to your diet. Often as a dietitian I am telling people what not to eat. I love having the opportunity to encourage people to eat more delicious foods!

“Super-Nutritious Trail Mix”

    • Popcorn
    • Dark chocolate chips
    • Almonds
    • Gluten-free pretzels
    • Dried fruit

Mix all together and serve. Think outside the bowl! For a fun and portable snack pull out those plastic Easter eggs or other fun container.

What they know: Kids feel like they are getting a special treat just by getting to pick out which color egg they want their snack to be in!

What you know: Dark chocolate is full of good nutrients and antioxidants that help your brain, heart, and mood! Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. Almonds contain phytosterols, which promote lower cholesterol levels in addition to providing protein—a plus if your child is not a big meat eater.

“Yogurt Face”

  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Mangos or other fruit
  • Gluten-free pretzel sticks

Create a circle of yogurt on a plate. Use the fruit to create your own silly face, or a cat face, or even to abandon the face idea altogether and simply spell out numbers and letters for your little learner.

What they know: They won’t get in trouble for playing with their food. They get to create a masterpiece and then eat it.

What you know: Superfoods yogurt and blueberries make this a nutritious and delicious snack. Yogurt provides protein, calcium and probiotics, which are important for keeping young (and old) GI tracts healthy. Blueberries have been touted as one of the healthiest foods you could possibly eat; they’re full of antioxidants protective against many cancers.

“Magic Princess Wands”

  • Skewers
  • Mangos or other fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cheese cubes

Skewer the fruit and cheese. Add a strawberry as the topper. (I think Starfruit would also be a great topper; however, you’ll usually need to wait until it’s in season to find it at your local store.) With a 4-year-old daughter and a trip planned to Disney this year, Princesses are everywhere in our house! If you can relate, why not have them on your table, too?

What they know: Anytime little girls get to play “Princess,” it’s a good thing!

What you know: Cantaloupe is full of vitamin C, folate, and caratenoids, antioxidants that give cantaloupe its yellow-orange color and are important for eye health and immunity. All the fruits provide needed fiber, and you can sneak in a little protein with the cheese.

“Through the Forest

  • Broccoli
  • Cheese
  • Celery
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried cranberries or raisins

Create a forest with trees and logs with ants crawling on them! Let your kids get creative. What other animals can they imagine in the forest?

What they know: Their imaginations will run wild creating a story to go with their forest. Once one of the most feared dinnertime vegetables, suddenly eating broccoli that is a “tree” while pretending to be a giraffe sounds like a great idea!

What you know: Broccoli is a fiber-rich vegetable that has high levels of vitamin C (which helps the body absorb iron) and potassium (which helps ensure the nervous system, including the brain, is functioning optimally), and has even been found to inhibit many cancer cells. Protein found in peanut butter is a great way to keep those little tummies full until the next meal!

“Sweet Potato Power Chips”

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and sliced thinly. (The smaller and thinner you slice them the better! Only the small, thin ones really get the “crunch” like chips.)
  • Olive oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar

Coat thinly sliced potatoes with olive oil and season with cinnamon and sugar. (A large plastic kitchen storage bag works great to ensure all pieces get evenly coated.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Broil for 5 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn! Bonus: Baking these makes your house smell wonderful!

What they know: Chips are like junk food, right?

What you know: Sweet potatoes: Like the cantaloupe, the orange color indicates they are full of carotenoids, the precursor to vitamin A in our body. Carotenoids help boost our immunity, are strong antioxidants, and help protect our eyesight. Olive oil is a great source of mono-unsaturated fat, or “healthy fat” that may help protect our hearts and ward off the “bad cholesterol” LDL. It is also a good source of Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K.

Fellow parents: Do you have any other healthy snack ideas? If so, please comment below…thanks!

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Megan is a registered dietitian and mom to a 4-year old daughter with celiac disease. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, daughter and son where she works with patients with kidney disease. She blogs weekly at www.thehappybellyproject.com on all things related to living, loving and learning about the gluten-free diet and celiac disease.

Supporting the Center for Celiac Research through “Making Tracks for Celiacs”

This past weekend my family and I participated in “Making Tracks for Celiacs” along with extended family and friends, most of whom join us every year for this event which means so much to us. We have been doing this twice a year for almost 5 years now — forming a team for the Buffalo walk and going just as a family to the Rochester walk.

This is the 11th year for “Making Tracks for Celiacs,” which is an annual fundraising event, organized and managed by the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland. These events around the country have raised almost $2,000,000 to date. The money is used to increase awareness and support research (75% of funds) as well as national and local celiac projects (25% of funds).

Currently there are annual events held in these states: AL, FL, KY, MD, MI, MO, MN, NY, OH and VA, and are usually planned by a local gluten-free diet support group such as the one I belong to.  Check out the main website for “Making Tracks for Celiacs” to learn which cities hold events, which locations are walks versus run/walks, and how you can get involved! Some will be happening soon but others aren’t held until Autumn, which leaves you plenty of time to put a team together — or just enter yourself and/or your own family.

We choose to get a local team together because it is a really great way to show support and love to g-free kids, and it’s important for them to see the “regulars” who attend and donate year after year.  It’s cool to show them how the numbers don’t dwindle off, either — this year we collected the most money we ever have, and had more walkers than any other year, including many who join us annually. My girls know they are not forgotten and that they are backed by many friends and loved ones on their gluten-free journey. It’s something they look forward to every year.

Our team this year was called “Team G-Free Kid” and together we raised $545 to donate to the Center for Celiac Research, along with entry fees paid by over 20 team members. Even though that seems like a lot to us, other “go-getters” have already collected thousands of dollars each for their teams! If you’d like to collect donations (it’s not mandatory) you can easily start your own personal donation page or team page through CeliacWalk.org, and email your friends and family about it. Registration is simple as well. Everything you need to know is in the green column on the lefthand side of that site.

For the first few years, Morgan was the star of our team, but now Lindsey shares the spotlight, too, since she’s been gluten-free for over a year now. We also had a newly gluten-free and casein-free friend (below) and his family join our team for the walk this year, plus dozens of other kids in attendance.

At both of the walks we attend, there is always a ton of stuff for kids to do….clowns, balloon artists, face painting, fake tattoos, stickers, bounce houses, games, local mascots in attendance, special kid goodie bags, story time and all kinds of things. Obviously, different locations will have different activities, but from what I hear, most, if not all, are very kid-friendly.

At this year’s walk, the organizers were also selling these awareness bracelets which support the Center for Celiac Research. For more details on these, please read this post.

There are also a good number of local and national gluten-free food vendors at these events as well, giving out free product samples, coupons and learning material… Many thanks to the generous companies who donate goods towards these walks!

And if the other events are anything like the two we attend, rest assured that you will bring home a crazy amount of gluten-free samples, bars and full-sized product packages. And, if your friends and family are anything like ours, much of their food (from their own goodie bags) will be passed back for your family to enjoy.

All in all, we get a lot out of these walks. When you are among so many other gluten-free folks, there is a huge sense of camaraderie, and you know you are supporting a great cause: celiac disease (and non-celiac gluten sensitivity) research and awareness. Our daughters feel special — especially at the walk where we form a team, and they are always excited about all of the samples they get to try and take home, knowing everything is gluten-free and there’s no need (for once) to question anything. The walk itself is good, healthy family time that you can really soak in and enjoy, knowing that you’re making a difference and that your kids are swelling with pride.

If you are nowhere near any of these walks, you still have three options…
#1: Get some people together and start one (see “How to start your own walk” on CeliacWalk.org) in a new location; #2: Donate online towards the cause; or #3: Try something different: Join Team Gluten Free for any race around the country. How does it work? Read more about one family’s experience here.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit back and let everyone else take action…

As we like to say, “Celiac disease isn’t contagious, but awareness is.
Please help spread it!”