gluten free

It's Good To Be Gluten-Free... ?

If I could have a dollar for every time someone tries to justify eating junk food with “but it’s gluten-free,” I’d be one lucky lady. These days it seems like “gluten-free” is the universal get-out-of-jail-free card.  You simply attach “gluten-free” to a food label or a recipe and instantly all other elements are abandoned (hello! remember calories and sugar!?) and it’s the most instagrammable “health” food. Well guys, I hate to break it to you but double chocolate fudge caramel gluten-free cookies are still double chocolate fudge caramel cookies! They just don’t contain gluten. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Now that’s good news if you’re allergic to gluten and you’re craving a cookie. But if you’re not…?

I’m going to take this opportunity to dispel the misconception that “gluten-free” translates to “healthy.”

Let’s start from square one. What is gluten anyway?

Gluten is a protein commonly found in foods containing wheat, rye, and barley. It provides many starch products with shape, texture, and elasticity. So, there you have it. Gluten is not some people-eating-cancer-causing bacterium that’s destroying humanity one bagel at a time. It’s just a protein, and it’s been the foundation of the Western diet since the start of civilization.

So why does gluten get such a bad rep?

Celiac disease (CD), widely known as a gluten allergy, is an autoimmune condition that occurs in response to gluten consumption and can ultimately destroy the small intestine if not properly handled. This is a very real condition and should be taken seriously – by those who test positively for the allergy. A blood test is used to screen for CD and an intestinal biopsy will ultimately diagnose CD. The only treatment is strict, lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet. For some people, the allergy is so severe that using a utensil that had previously come in contact with gluten can cause painful GI symptoms for days.

In the early 1990’s CD was under-diagnosed. Now, the National Institutes of Health estimates that 1% of the population suffer from CD. This is largely why gluten has made headline news so often in the last decade.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) seems to be the condition that has people most confused. People with NCGS test negative for CD; however, they experience painful GI symptoms when they eat gluten-containing foods, similar to those of people who have CD. Furthermore, many people find that their symptoms subside when gluten is removed from their diets.

Where do you fall into the mix?

If you have been diagnosed with CD, you know where you stand: GF4L (gluten-free for life). No two ways about it!

If you fall into the “I feel my best self without gluten” category, you’re also going to try your best to avoid all products wheat, rye, and barley. Don’t be afraid to be a label detective. Ask how foods are prepared when you order at restaurants. Ask about additives in medications. Ask, ask, ask!

Whether you have CD, sensitivity, or want to try out the gluten-free diet for kicks, you should still understand that gluten-free does not mean healthy. In fact, it can mean quite the opposite. Gluten-free food alternatives must often compensate for taste and texture with increased amounts of other ingredients, so it’s not uncommon to see lots of sugar or fat in these foods. Furthermore, they’re often lower in various vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

If you’re going gluten-free in hopes to lose a few pounds, I recommend you reconsider your plan. Sorry. And sorry for not sugar coating it either. Again, gluten-free just means sans gluten. It does not mean “good for you.” To put things in perspective, let’s look at some other gluten free foods:

  • Cape cod potato chips
  • Doritos toasted corn tortilla chips
  • Ruffles original potato chips

Would you eat any of the above foods if you’re watching your waistline? Probably not! So, when you’re indulging in those gluten-free chocolate fudge ice cream sandwiches, enjoy every last bite, but understand that you’re INDULGING, and not eating a healthy snack. “Gluten-free” is not justification for eating dessert! Eat dessert because you’re human and you’re allowed to treat yourself. 100 percent of the time I prefer when a client admits “I was craving a cookie, so I had one!” versus “It was gluten-free so I had one.” See the difference!?

To wrap things up, here are my takeaways:

  •  If you have CD, you’re always gluten-free.
  • If you have NCGS, be gluten-free as much as you can.
  • If you’re none of the above, don’t use gluten-free as an excuse to eat unhealthy. It’s not. And now you know better.
  • Treat yourselves to dessert sometimes, gluten-free or not! You’re all hard working employees, employers, moms, dads, husbands, wives, girlfriends or boyfriends, or whatever you are – and you deserve it!



Power Balls

With Halloween around the corner, we decided to share one of our favorite sweet treats. These raw, nutrient packed bites serve as the perfect on-the-go snack or dessert. They solve that after dinner "I just need one bite of something sweet" problem. Because let's be real, we've all been there. We make them by the batch so they're ready to grab n' go. The high quality ingredients listed below offer protein, healthy fats, and fiber for a sweet and satisfying treat. 

energy bites

Ingredients (makes about 12):

1 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup shredded coconut
10 dates
2 tablespoons cacao powder
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
Pinch of salt

Topping Ideas:

energy bites
  • Coconut flakes
  • sesame seeds
  • Chopped pistachios
  • Matcha powder
  • Cocoa powder 


1. Add the cashews, hazelnuts and shredded coconut into the food processor and pulse until it turns to a coarse flour, about 10-15 seconds. With the machine on, add the dates one by one. 

2. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse for about 30 seconds.

3. Scoop a tablespoon worth of the dough and roll it into a ball. Place on a plate. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

4. Place your selected topping option in a small bowl, and roll a ball in the dusting until it is evenly coated. 

5. Refrigerate for about 30 min so they become firm. You can store them in the fridge for weeks, or freeze them for later use. 


Sitting Down with Jessica Mandelbaum, Co-Founder of PANATEA

Who better to sip matcha lattes with than the queen of matcha herself, Jessica Mandelbaum.  Jess and her husband Dave are the founders of PANATEA, which in our opinion, is the Beyonce of matcha brands. They have successfully made the ancient art of drinking matcha a relevant component of modern culture. So much so, that they have even launched a culinary grade matcha, meant to be used in original recipes and cooking. Here you'll learn why we stand behind the matcha movement and be sure to check out the recipe we concocted when we were left in the kitchen with a can of their new, culinary grade matcha powder. Guess what? Now you can get creative in the kitchen with your own matcha powder! Use the code tovita10 for a 10% discount. We can't wait to see what you come up with!


What led to the creation of PANATEA?

It was really out of necessity. Dave (my husband) and I have always lived generally healthy lifestyles. Coffee doesn't agree with us; it makes me feel jittery and it hurts Dave’s stomach, so we were always looking for healthy alternatives. We randomly discovered matcha here in NYC, at a random spot in Chinatown. We bought a package and started drinking it every morning. It wasn’t high grade matcha and we didn’t have a whisk to make it properly, but we experimented. We loved how it made us feel. Our skin was better and our energy levels were more sustained. We began investigating the market and realized that there was a clear opportunity to create a relatable and approachable matcha brand, with superior quality matcha. And thus, PANATEA was born.

Where and how do you source your matcha?

After teaming up with our Japanese tea master, who has over 20 years of experience, we traveled to Japan together. She guided us through the matcha farms and helped us find the most exquisite tea leaves. It has always been a priority for us to stay true to Japanese culture by not bastardizing the tradition, while still providing a modern spin on the whole process. Matcha has been around since the 12th century. Buddhist monks used to drink it before meditation and Samurai warriors before battle, to help them get in the zone and feel focused energy. PANATEA brings this ancient superfood to the modern healthy consumer.

How does PANATEA compare to conventional green tea? Or coffee?


With matcha, you’re consuming the full leaf. Matcha leaves are hand picked, steamed, dried, and then ground into fine a powder. When you drink conventional green tea, you only consume what’s steeped outside of the tea bag into your water; 10% - 20% of the nutrients depending on the variety and preparation. Whereas, with matcha, you consume 100% of the benefits. It's considered the ultimate superfood because it enhances antioxidant activity, supports metabolism and promotes energy and alertness.

In terms of caffeine, matcha has less caffeine than coffee. It contains about ½ the amount as espresso or ⅓ cup of coffee. It’s digested differently in your system though, giving you 4-6 hours of sustained and focused energy. Matcha also contains amino acids that help to give a calming jitter and no crash!

How else do you use matcha in your diet?

Right now I use our Ceremonial Grade matcha traditionally with water, or make a latte with a nut milk like coconut milk. I also love shaking up matcha with lemonade. It’s a really versatile ingredient too - you can add it to your morning smoothie, yogurt, pancakes, waffles, and even salad dressing. This is where our brand new Culinary Grade matcha really comes in!

What’s in store for PANATEA?

Our Culinary Grade matcha officially comes out this Fall! We actually just gave our community an early look this week though (check it out). We took a survey and found that 90% of customers are using our Ceremonial Grade matcha in their cooking/baking. We therefore decided to source a Culinary Grade matcha geared more toward this type of use. While it has a comparable nutrition profile, the flavor profile is stronger, so it’s better suited for cooking and baking as an ingredient in food, versus drinking it straight. The new white tin is double the size and lower in price too, more ideal for everyday food consumption.

Favorite PANATEA recipe?


I love smoothie bowls. They’re fun to make, they’re pretty, nutrient-dense and delicious! You get a lot of bang for your buck because you can mix in protein, greens, matcha, etc. For these, I use our Culinary Grade matcha, because it's mixed in as ingredient. I also love our matcha waffles.

If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things:

  1. A soma water filter

  2. My phone ( + a MEGA mophie)

  3. My husband, Dave

Food or ingredient you would never touch?


What is it like working with your husband?

The highs are high and the lows are low. It works for us. He handles more of the bigger picture vision and marketing, while I handle more of the day to day operations. I trust and respect that he’s doing a better job at his responsibilities than I could ever do, and vice versa.

Your motto to live by?

The journey is the reward. It’s not always about what's waiting at the end, but rather about enjoying everything along the way and taking away from it whatever you can.

PANATEA is all aboutA Ritual For Life.” This has also become a motto for me personally. It’s important to have a routine for yourself and carve out time to do the things that make you feel good. Part of what differentiates us (aside from quality) is that we encourage you to bring matcha into your own home. We have tons of cafe partners, from Fika to Hu Kitchen, so you can try PANATEA in different forms. But at the end of the day, our goal is for you to be able to make it your own way, in the luxury of your own home. Drink it, shake it, bake it, mix it - we hope you make it a part of your everyday routine.

Lastly, I always say “everything in moderation,” including matcha :)

With all of the amazing recipes PANATEA has to offer, we had to get creative to come up with a matcha recipe with the Tovita touch. What did we come up with?  Matcha breakfast tacos!


matcha breakfast tacos

Ingredients (serves 4):

For tacos:

  • 2 bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1 tablespoon of Panatea culinary grade matcha powder (link)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash of cinnamon
  • For cooking- coconut oil or olive oil based cooking spray

For Fillings (get creative!):

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup almond or peanut butter
  • 1 cup berries
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds


  1. In a blender, mix together all of the taco ingredients until pancake dough-like consistency. The tacos should be a nice bright green color due to the  matcha powder 
  2. Heat skillet with coconut oil or cooking spray and cook 1-3 tacos at a time to avoid breaking. You should get about 8 tacos from the dough
  3. Spread either nutbutter or greek yogurt (or both!) on the taco, and fill with berries, coconut, chia seeds, or whatever other toppings your heart desires.
  4. Fold and eat like a taco. Enjoy!