‘Ingredients for Change’ a Consistent Theme at Natural Products Expo West

by Melissa Diane Smith

“Ingredients for change” was the theme of a media luncheon this year at Natural Products Expo West, the largest natural foods and products convention in the world. It also symbolized what I saw at a number of talks, receptions, and food booths at the convention March 10-13, 2011.

I wrote a few months ago about growing trends toward gluten-free, organic, and sustainable foods in the restaurant business. I’m glad to report that those trends are evident in the natural foods industry, too. There is also growing awareness about the hazards of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and an increased push from many health food manufacturers and retailers to remove GMOs from their products and stores.

Several companies are going the extra mile to verify they offer safe food. Some companies have products that either have been certified or are enrolled in the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, a program of meeting strict standards for being gluten free. Others have products that have gone or are going through a non-GMO certification program called the Non-GMO Project. What’s really exciting is that several companies have products that are enrolled in both certification programs, meaning they will be Certified Gluten-Free and Non-GMO Project Verified! Those two labels are a combination that can give consumers extra confidence that they are getting nutritious, safe, uncontaminated food. However, just like I warn my clients and readers, I warned my partner and significant other who went to the convention with me that not all Certified Gluten-Free foods and not all Non-GMO Project Verified foods are healthy – and that sugar (or evaporated cane juice) is still added to countless foods. He quickly learned that that was true while walking around at the convention just a short time with me. Still, I would say on the whole, there are many more high-quality, health-enhancing, gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, unsweetened or minimally sweetened foods being offered than there were just a few years ago. (Check out my new book, Gluten Free Throughout the Year, for more info about companies and products that fit this bill.)

The increase in quality foods was especially evident at the media luncheon. The food that was served at this year’s media luncheon was simply the best food I have had served to me at any convention luncheon. There were many options there, but I centered my meal around pasture-raised tenderloin of beef, sauteed broccolette and radicchio, and a salad of baby spinach, quinoa, sunflower kernels, dried blueberries, and balsamic vinaigrette. That was followed by organic blueberries made with blueberry juice reduction and fresh mint, and a cup of unsweetened chocolate pu-erh tea. It was a scrumptious against-the-grain type meal. A whopping 70 percent of the foods at the luncheon were organic! If that meal is any indication of a positive change toward more sustainable, health-promoting foods that can come to our world, we and our environment have a lot to look forward to.

After the luncheon, three voices for change spoke. Chef Ann Cooper, known as the Renegade Lunch Lady, said that all of us should be pissed off at the quality of food given to all of us, but especially the food given to children in our schools. One simple action we can do to evoke positive change in schools is to get involved in the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign, a program founded in part by Cooper’s organization, The Lunch Box. Research and actual experience in schools show that when a variety of fresh produce items are offered in salad bars in schools, schoolchildren try new produce items, significantly increase their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, and learn eating skills that can serve them and promote good weight and health into adulthood.

Another ingredient for change: Participate in a “white-out”. A white-out is a term given by pediatrician Alan Greene, M.D., to drop the commonplace practice of giving processed white rice cereal as one of the first foods we give babies.  Processed white rice cereal acts just like sugar in the body and sets children up at a young age for liking sweets and simple carbohydrates that spike blood sugar levels and lead to obesity, Dr. Greene said. Our taste preferences are set very early in life, and we can use that to our children’s advantage. If you change kids’ first bites of food by not giving them processed white rice cereal, you can change their taste preferences later on in life and take a big step toward stopping what Dr. Greene calls the “childhood obesity tsunami” that is overtaking our nation.

Perhaps the most important ingredient for change is voting for the kind of food you want by purchasing more healthful, organic food in grocery stores and restaurants. It’s important to understand that throughout history, all food on this planet was organic until somewhere between World War I and World War II. We’ve been on a 70-year experiment into chemically treated food, and the experiment isn’t going well, said Gary Hirshberg, president of Stonyfield Farm organic dairy products. While the United States has food that seems cheap, it’s actually very expensive in terms of health and environmental costs. We spend much more on healthcare than countries that spend a higher amount on food. To remedy the situation, each of us individually needs to use our dollars wisely on organic, high-quality food. We also need to realize that because genetically modified crops have been allowed to be planted in our soils on a widespread scale, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for organic farmers to supply us with organic food that isn’t GMO-contaminated. Support organic farmers by purchasing the organic food they produce. To further help the cause of supporting organic food that keeps us healthy, write a letter to the President and First Lady, Hirschberg suggested, and tell them that if they really care about improving our healthcare, they need to support the viability and sustainability of organics.

Inspiring words, calls for simple actions we can do, and delicious, healthful food. Three ingredients for change worth knowing about.

Copyright © 2011 Melissa Diane Smith

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


See all Monsanto articles

Sign Up for the FREE Nutrition News & Notes e-newsletter

I want to be informed about local Tucson events
* Required Fields
Don't worry! I respect your privacy and will NOT share your personal information with anyone.

Most Recent Posts