This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Nestlé.
As many of you know, I just got back from a trip to Washington, DC for the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) for Dietitians (& other health professionals). What you may not know is I had the opportunity to visit Nestlé Headquarters while in DC, which was pretty neat. I’ve partnered with Nestlé on this sponsored post.
I had the opportunity to get a tour of their Culinary Innovation Center, get served a full lunch, AND get to learn from their experts on their new Balance Your Plate initiative as well as plant-based food options. The event called Nestlé’s More Ways to Love Plant-Based Choices, had me a little skeptical at first. Why? Well, if you know me, you know I’m personally not plant-based. My favorite meal is probably a burger. However, as a dietitian, it is always important to go in with an open mind, as there are many ways to eat, and I have clients that have various needs.
That all being said, I learned A LOT and enjoyed the opportunity to meet a lot of movers and shakers in the food industry as well as other Dietitians. While I’ll never be fully plant-based, I can certainly always applaud the effort to encourage others to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible. That’s what a dietitian does after all, am I right?!
The first thing we were asked at this event was to share our first ever plant-based memory. I had to think hard about this because honestly, I’ve never put a title on the way I’ve eaten. If I had to classify it, it’d be a healthy balanced diet. That being said, the first memory I have of vegetables is when my mom used to give us broccoli growing up and I’d refuse to eat it. I would tell her I wanted a dog so that the dog would help me eat it. The best part was when we got our dog Amber, she also hated broccoli, so I still had to eat it myself. Bummer! Fast forward 20 years, and now I love broccoli – it was just not my cup of tea back in the day.
I encourage you to think of your first memory with fruits and vegetables and see how that has evolved or changed over the years. Maybe it has and maybe it hasn’t, but it can be a fun exercise to see how your thoughts and actions have changed around food over the years.
Plant-Based Food Trends
When I refer to a plant-based diet in this post, what I mean is a diet based on fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts & seeds. One thing that you can find as a common theme in any nutrition recommendation is that we all could benefit from more fruits and vegetables. They are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals to keep you full, healthy, and if cooked appropriately – happy.
It seems that plant-based nutrition and food trends are on the rise. While I’m not recommending you go fully plant-based, I am going to recommend you get excited about the variety that will be available. This is not only good for those that want to eat a more plant-based diet BUT it’s also awesome for those that have food allergies & intolerances. For example, having dairy-free options for those that cannot have dairy but WANT things like ice cream and creamer (because, balance), is pretty awesome. By making these items more available and more convenient for people, we can ensure they stick to foods that don’t harm their health. For me, that’s a win.
Nestlé’s Nutrition Health & Wellness Commitment
While Nestlé is not the typical brand I work with, as I usually work with smaller brands, it was nice to gain insight into what they focus on as far as health and nutrition. Talking to the dietitians & marketing managers on staff was very informative and pretty fun! They were very relatable and want the same thing most dietitians want – healthy food that fits the lifestyle of many. They also want more transparency in the label while preserving taste, cost, and convenience.
It was also obvious that they want to ensure that they are offering simple and delicious products that are also able to be plant-based for those who need and/or want it. They recognize that they are responsible for feeding millions and they need to ensure that they are providing good nutrition to the masses. For instance, we all know and love Häagen-Dazs but most of us associate it with dairy-based ice cream. Now, they are offering their similar, simple product but this time it’s non-dairy (and delicious, might I add) so that anyone can enjoy it, dairy-free/plant-based or not.
#BalanceYourPlate Initiative & Education
I wish I had more time to pick the brains of the dietitians while there. We only had 2 hours and A LOT to get through while there. However, it seems that they are working on a pretty cool initiative called #BalanceYourPlate. It sounds a lot like my Balanced Real Food Approach where I recognize we are busy individuals who want the best for our health.
We had the opportunity to join in on this movement by making simple side dishes in the kitchen. My group made this delicious delicata squash side dish that I’m hoping to recreate at home for you.
The #BalanceYourPlate initiative is a way to encourage healthy fruits & vegetables, while also offering individuals convenience with frozen & refrigerated options. It means you can have your cake and eat it too. While frozen and refrigerated meals may not always seem like the best option vs. cooking from scratch, it may be the preferred method for you, and that’s OKAY. If we can find products and brands that are transparent about their offerings, we can ensure that consumers have the best chance at a healthy balanced lifestyle.
Featured Nestlé Brands
Speaking of brands that consumers can use to build a healthy lifestyle, Nestlé has a ton of brands that can fit the bill. While only 4 were showcased during this 2-hour event, there are others I’d be interested in exploring as well.
Side Note: I was lucky enough to find out they also happen to own Chameleon Cold Brew, my favorite cold brew ever, and got to snag some before I left (and use it with their COFFEE-MATE natural bliss non-dairy coffee creamers).
Anyhow, I figured I’d give you some insight into the 4 brands that were featured and let you in on what’s coming down the pipeline and my thoughts on it all.
Did somebody say ice-cream?! Oh man, this was my favorite brand of the 4. I love ice cream and was pleasantly surprised by the Häagen-Dazs non-dairy collection. Not only was it delicious BUT ALSO each item had a featured ingredient.
Instead of just replacing the base with soy, almond, or coconut milk, they decided to feature the main ingredient including cocoa butter, coconut cream, and peanut butter. The peanut butter as a base for ice cream might quite literally be my favorite thing ever. I have yet to meet a chocolate peanut butter combo I haven’t liked and their Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Non-Dairy Bar was not a disappointment. The star ingredient was peanut butter and man did it shine.
I’m excited to recommend this brand to those that need to be dairy-free and also want to enjoy ice cream once in a while, since it’s all about balance, after all. Side note: you don’t have to be dairy-free to enjoy this.
COFFEE-MATE natural bliss
As most of you know, I take my coffee black. However, many of my clients do not. I get it; black coffee is an acquired taste. If you can’t find a black coffee you like, you might need to add some creamer to your drink. The good news is that COFFEE-MATE natural bliss coffee creamers are made with real, all-natural, no GMO ingredients so you can continue to feel good about your coffee.
Once I found the Chameleon Cold Brew on tap, I ran over, poured myself a glass and then came back to the creamers. I tried out the natural bliss Sweet Crème Coconut Milk Coffee Creamer and man was it creamy. If I had to take cream in my coffee, and didn’t have heavy cream on hand, I would use this brand as it’s light in sweetness, rich in creaminess, and low in ingredients. It has coconut milk (water, coconut cream), cane sugar, coconut oil, pea protein, baking soda, and gellan gum. Not too shabby if you ask me.
Oh boy, this was the toughest brand for me. I couldn’t eat any of the products, as Seitan was a big part of what they use. Seitan is wheat gluten, so that’s a no for me, unfortunately. However, I have used this brand in the past for vegan clients that need more sources of protein in their diet and it seems to be well received.
I was happy to see that the protein content has gone up in the Sweet Earth products. The one nice thing is that the crust of the Veggie’s Lovers Vegan Pizza was made with actual carrot & cauliflower as well as chia seeds which are all real ingredients I can support. That same pizza was topped with broccoli; Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and corn so the veggie content was quite impressive – I just wish it were gluten-free so I could try it!
Last but not least, we had Lean Cuisine Origins. Raise your hand if you were a Lean Cuisine fan in college. I know I was. I never bought it because it said “Lean” on it. Instead, I bought it because it was an easy option for dinner that didn’t taste like garbage. I haven’t had a frozen meal probably since college because I’m pretty committed to cooking food from scratch.
That being said, I’m always happy when convenience foods get a makeover. Lean Cuisine’s new Origins line is inspired by chef partners who work in top restaurants and draw inspiration from all over to provide new organic & plant-based options. I, once again, couldn’t try any offerings because they were not gluten-free, however, they said they have a ton of gluten-free options available that I might have to try out to let you know about!
Overall, this was a fun trip to Nestlé Headquarters and I’m looking forward to the company’s transparency and initiatives going forward. While I won’t be adopting a fully plant-based diet myself anytime soon, it’s nice to have options for those that need it (i.e. allergies & intolerances) or want it. Have you tried any of these products? If so, let me know!
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Nestlé.
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Laura Ligos, MBA, RD, CSSD says