An interview with Jill Motew, President and Founder of Zemas Madhouse Foods.
1) Children can be particularly picky when it comes to the sweets they like. On top of that, for a child who has certain food allergies, not being able to eat the same cookies or cakes that their friends eat can make them feel different and limited. What has your experience been with families who have one child with a food intolerance and one without? Do your baking mixes pass the taste-test of the child who can choose from anything he wants?
When I set out to formulate my baking mixes for my own five kids, I did so with the intent to create clean, non-GMO, highly nutritious pancakes, muffins, cookies, and more. My deep knowledge of ancient whole grains and superseeds from my own daily diet gave me the landscape to create exactly what I wanted to give my kids and make the finished product light, fluffy, and taste “normal.” Because I use only ancient whole grains that are gluten-free, and not rice flours, Zemas mixes achieve the goal I set out to do. My kids have no food allergies; this is a lifestyle choice for our family based on my need to create a foundation for health and wellness for my family. What I have learned over the years is that when a family has one member with a food allergy, the whole family takes that on. I made sure Zemas could safely be brought into a home by certifying them Kosher, Vegan, GFCO, and Non-GMO Project Verified. My allergy friendly, healthy baking mixes pass the test of my own five kids—no easy feat!
2) In regards to the gluten-free mixes offered, how specifically do you prevent cross-contamination, and how to you educate your team to ensure that your products are not contaminated?
All Zemas mixes are produced in a certified top eight allergen-free facility. There is zero cross-contamination. We have a manufacturing statement on each box alerting consumers.
3) Why did you find it necessary to create mixes that are allergen-free rather than simply healthier, cleaner mixes—or did that follow naturally?
Zemas ancient whole grains are naturally gluten-free and top eight allergen-free. I have been eating this way as a lifestyle choice for over 20 years and raise my family this way. I look at ingredients that give me the most bang for my buck and make me feel good. Producing the mixes in a top eight allergen-free facility is assurance for everyone else that the mixes are safe.
4) Some people with celiac disease argue that those who eat gluten-free as a choice rather than a medical necessity cause celiac disease to be taken less seriously than other diseases. You chose to eat gluten-free and feel better as a result (in combination with not eating processed foods or GMOs). What do you think is the difference between the gluten-free “fad,” the lifestyle choice, and the medical treatment?
For me, it was trial and error when I was younger to see what foods made me feel “bad” and “good.” I was 16 years old when I started down my personal healthy eating path with no formal nutrition education. Back then, no one spoke about food allergies, specialty diets, and food fads. It was only when I was older that I started hearing about all of those topics. I eat this way and raise my kids this way because we feel better. When my kids cheat, with a slice of pizza at a party, or candy at the hockey rink, they pay for it. They don’t feel good. Most of my boys and my husband have ADHD, so eating a clean diet, and avoiding processed foods, food dyes, and gluten help them sleep better, focus longer, build and repair muscle quicker, and feel better overall.
When someone is diagnosed with celiac disease and has to give up gluten, s/he still needs to replace the protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that were present in your whole wheat pasta or bread with alternative, healthy sources. In my opinion, rice flours, starches and refined sugars are not viable sources. Ancient whole grains like teff, quinoa, amaranth, and sorghum offer nutrients your body needs and is able to digest.
5) A common flour substitute for people on a gluten-free/wheat-free diet is rice flour. Is an increase in the consumption of rice flour concerning, given how many food products are made with flour?
I chose not to use rice flours in my Zemas baking mixes for a few reasons. One is that they give gluten-free products a gritty texture and fall apart easily. Second, they don’t offer nearly as much nutrition as gluten-free ancient whole grains and superseeds do. Third, they sit in your stomach like a brick after consuming, causing a feeling of low-energy.
6) It is a common complaint among those who follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons that gluten-free food is more expensive, less healthy, and less available. Why is it important to Zemas to provide healthy food when many consumers might choose convenience over health?
My perspective on food is that you are what you eat. Either way, you are going to spend money. I choose to spend it wisely on my food and not on doctor bills. Food can make you healthy and food can make you sick. It’s our choice which path we go down. There are many expensive gluten-free products on the market that are unhealthy because they are often filled with rice flours and starches, which I mentioned before can make you feel bad after you eat them. It’s easy for a parent of a gluten-free child to make a choice to substitute a “junk food” with a “gluten-free junk food,” but I try to encourage parents to teach their kids about healthy options rather than gluten-free alternatives to junk food. When kids understand how they can eat healthier, it takes them down a happy path rather than them feeling sorry for “missing out.”
7) The gluten-free diet can be an unhealthy diet if foods that provide the proper nutrients are not consumed in place of foods that have been cut out. What additional health benefits do your products offer aside from being allergen-free?
Zemas gluten-free ancient grains and superseeds offer an array of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in every bite. Our recipes can be made vegan and with eggs, but will always offer nutrients.
8) Your company’s focus is on clean and healthy eating, but the mixes you offer include cakes, cookies, brownies, waffles, etc. What would you say to someone who argued that no matter how healthy a cookie might be, it’s better to not eat it at all?
Being a mom of five active teens, some with ADHD but none with food allergies, I am realistic and know that if they are not eating healthy cookies, pancakes, and muffins in our home, they will go elsewhere. I don’t know any child or adult who doesn’t want baked goods, so I “Zemafy” family favorite recipes with a healthy twist.
Learn more about Zemas Madhouse Foods at zemasfoods.com.