Hello and happy Friday!
I’m currently in the Atlanta airport on my way back to North Carolina after a great couple days in Los Angeles. I can’t believe how quickly the trip went by! As you guys know, I was in LA for the first ever Dole Food & Wellness Blogger Summit.
As Dole told us, they are “finally making it into the 21st century!” :) It was great meeting some of the Dole employees, networking with other bloggers, and getting some behind the scenes info on the fresh fruit and veggie giant. I was SO impressed with how passionate their staff are about nutrition, and it was great talking to them more about how to improve the health and eating habits of America.
Yesterday, we started our day with a healthy “breakfast for performance” demo in the California Health & Longevity Institute (CHLI) Wellness Kitchen.
The CHLI is attached to the Four Seasons Westlake Village, where we stayed (nicest hotel ever — I wanted to move in), which is across a courtyard from Dole itself! Their Registered Dietitian (RD), pictured above, led us through a session about the importance of breakfast and showed us some quick, easy, and healthy breakfast options. Right up my alley!
Did you know that if you don’t eat breakfast you will:
- Consume about 25% more calories throughout the rest of the day.
- Have a harder time regulating your blood sugar.
- Not start up your metabolism!
- Have no energy.
- Be hungry and super cranky (if you’re me) ;)
After the demo, we were served up the very food we were just shown how to make. We were also given all the recipes for these dishes — I’ll be sharing some of my favorites very soon :)
My plate — YUM! Definitely couldn’t finish all of this but had to try everything, obvi.
A beautiful Breakfast Granola Parfait:
The parfait was probably my favorite part of breakfast! Homemade granola mixed with fresh berries and fat free cottage cheese. So yum. I’ll definitely be sharing the granola recipe later! This granola would make an awesome Christmas/holiday gift for friends and family if you put it in cute mason jars with ribbons, etc. :)
Banana Pineapple Oatmeal Breakfast Cake — yum!
Fruit with Yogurt Honey Lime Dressing — I’ll be sharing this recipe soon, too! Such a fresh and light fruit salad, and super quick, too.
Almond Butter, Banana, & Honey Whole Wheat Toasted Sandwiches — this is my favorite go-to travel meal/snack and pre-gym or running fuel, minus the honey. You don’t need it with the sweet banana!
We also had oatmeal, cooked in the microwave with vanilla soy milk, that was topped with heated blueberry compote and roasted strawberries. SO good.
For the savory breakfast lovers out there — a Vegetable Scramble — the more veggies, the better!
Yum. I was really impressed with the breakfast — probably my favorite meal of the whole summit, in fact!
We dined outside in their pretty garden — we had some seriously beautiful California weather. Here I am with my girl Gena — it was great getting to see her again! :)
And with some of my other breakfast companions:
From left — Katie, me, Kathy, and Amanda. I loved this summit especially because I got to meet so many new bloggers! With the exception of Gena, I didn’t know any of the other bloggers in attendance before arriving — a lot of them are foodie food bloggers or mommy bloggers, and my circle of blog friends consists mostly other healthy living/20-something bloggers. So it was fun — everyone was really cool and I definitely made some new friends :)
Following breakfast, we had some informational sessions, including a Q&A panel where we were invited to ask questions of some of Dole’s staff members.
Dole is a $7 billion/year company (with fresh fruit making up 69% of sales, fresh veggies 15%, and packaged foods 16%) that works with over 9,000 small growers. Wow!
I asked two specific questions of Dole. The first — “Any plans to go organic?” Their response:
Dole does offer organic bananas and pineapple, and our organic bananas are the leading organic bananas. We tried piloting organic berries, but unfortunately consumers weren’t interested and sales were not successful, so we stopped, because we of course have a responsibility to make our business successful. We are continually looking into it, however, and following research on the relative health benefits of organic vs. conventional products. However, our conventional bananas and pineapples are virtually pesticide free because we are trying to be innovative in terms of pest management. We are the pioneers of deep plowing for bananas, which is a way to destroy pests, and also use vacuuming as a way to get rid of pests.
My next question — “How is Dole incorporating environmental sustainability into production and transport of products?” Their answer:
We are working to make our packaging more sustainable and have succeeded in making the packages we use to ship bananas reusable. We also have water management and pest management programs in action in order to protect the soil we are farming. For more information, check out www.DoleCSR.com.
One cool thing Dole has done recently is founding the Dole Nutrition Institute in 2003 to educate the public about the health benefits of fruit and veggie consumption. Obviously, they have a bit of an ulterior motive wanting consumers to buy fruits and veggies since that’s what they produce, but everyone I spoke with at Dole seemed genuinely passionate about nutrition and coming up with new ways to try to save our nation’s failing health. They are particularly interested in cultivating healthy eating habits in kids, and have developed a number of initiatives working toward this goal. They have started donating salad bars to schools to try to improve school lunches, for example, and have also come up with some adorable children’s books focusing on healthy foods, a children’s gardening kit, and some great teacher’s toolkits including nutrition lesson plans for kids. Check out www.doledepot.com for some of the materials!
They definitely practice what they preach, too. All of the following things are available to Dole employees:
- Healthy Cafeteria
- Free fruit & veggie snacks
- Onsite fitness classes 4 days a week
- Personal trainers
- Dole nutrition newsletters
- Junk food free vending machines
Apparently their healthy cafeteria is so good that 80% of their workforce eat there every day! For lunch, we were invited to check it out for ourselves :)
There were so many options I wasn’t sure what to try! Each featured dish had a sample plate displayed, and on the info sheet were all the nutritional facts for the meal. Cool! There was also a huge salad/fruit bar, and even a little farmers market near the check out for employees to pick up produce for dinner!
I ended up going for the Chicken Enchiladas — mostly because it’s something I never really make for myself, and these were healthy ones, to boot!
I was VERY pleased with my choice. These were AWESOME!
On the side, I had some refried beans, rice with carrots and other veggies, and roasted Brussels sprouts!
Dessert? Some watermelon and cantaloupe. I looooooooooove watermelon. So refreshing!
And to drink, a little container of skim milk. Because I’m 12 years old :) Heh.
I dined outside with Gena, Kathy, and one of Dole’s employees who was on the panel earlier in the day. He was really interesting and passionate about nutrition, and very open to asking if we had any recommendations for Dole itself or their products.
Check out our view! I would LOVE for this to be my cafeteria!
This post is getting slightly out of control, isn’t it? :) I will leave you in suspense about the rest of our day — stay tuned for:
- Some sneak peeks at new Dole products
- Pictures of me getting my butt kicked at my fitness consultation (if you miss my LA Boxing partnership, this post is for you!)
- An iron-chef style cooking competition
- A tasty, healthy dinner
- …and more!
I also have an (unrelated) post coming up with my favorite healthy (and easy) Thanksgiving recipes! Stay tuned and have a great night :)