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Tasty, New and Natural: A Registered Dietitian Shares Her Finds From a Western Foodie Convention

Posted: 03/23/2012 6:49 pm

The Natural Products Expo West, held earlier this month in Anaheim, Calif., is always an interesting show. As one colleague tweeted, it's a "Disneyland of new, organic, processed junk food." However, amidst the crowd of 22,000 who attend and the more than 1,500 exhibitors, there are some tasty finds at this mecca for foodies.

I go with a list of companies whose new products I want to sample. Once I'm there, I try to decipher what the theme or trends are for each year. Although it was not clear cut, a few things kept popping up this time:

  • Peanut/nut butters: Peanut butter companies are now putting their natural nut butters in individual packets -- perfect for travel and school lunches, and of course making it less tempting to eat the entire jar! Companies showcasing their various nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew, etc.) packets were Barney Butter, Peanut Butter & Company and Artisana, and they all tasted quite good.
  • Lentil chips: Next were lentil chips, as if they are somehow healthier than potato chips with the same old preservatives, additives and sodium.
  • Noodles: "Miracle Noodles" come in various flavors and are made of purified water, konnyaku and calcium hydroxide. Konnyaku is a type of soluble fiber that apparently has been used in Japan for hundreds of years. They claim it has no calories or fat and just goes through the body undigested. They really have no taste and just absorb whatever flavors you put on them. If you really wanted some noodles on your plate without the extra carbs, this might be a good alternative.

Here are some of my favorite finds:

  • Number one is H20 Spring Water. The founder, Julie Atherton, started the company out of her passion for finding an environmentally-friendly alternative container rather than plastic bottles, which contain BPA and endocrine disruptors. The water tastes clean and fresh and the recyclable container is easy to carry and comfortable in your hand -- I know, since it was my sidekick for most of the show.
  • One of my favorite foods is fresh ricotta cheese. Bellwether Farms, a company that makes great sheep's milk yogurt, was showcasing their new "basket ricotta" -- hand-dipped ricotta that was beyond amazing -- I even asked for a second taste and can't wait until it comes out in two weeks.
  • And then there were the veggie burgers. My beef (pardon the pun) with veggie burgers is: multiple ingredients, mostly carbohydrates and GMO soy. Hilary's Eat Well makes two veggie burgers -- one called "The World's Best Veggie Burger" and the other one called "Spicy Adzuki Bean Burger." Although not a significant source of protein (only four to five grams) they are made of good ingredients -- millet, quinoa, organic sweet potatoes, coconut oil and miscellaneous spices. I would use this as a healthy carb to add more protein to a meal -- you could eat these with eggs instead of hash browns, or enjoy one topped with melted cheese on top and a salad.
  • I can't count how many times a day clients ask me if there are any healthy soups to purchase. At the show were some called Wild Veggie with six different flavors, including broccoli, red bell pepper, carrot, butternut squash, beet and edamame. They had a great taste, making this a nice way to get your vegetables. And, they are in easy-to-transport portable containers.
  • And finally, another resounding topic with my clients -- what about bread? I tasted gluten-free bread made from Arnel's Organic Buckwheat Bread Mix that actually tastes good without toasting. Don't misunderstand -- I am not recommending eating more bread. However, if you want bread once in a while, this brand is made without wheat with good ingredients. It comes as a mix to make and contains the same amount of carbohydrates as regular bread, so eat in moderation.

After a long day, I had a full bag of samples -- kind of like a healthful Halloween. A lot of treats, no tricks, with some tasty foods discovered along the way.

Susan is the author of A Recipe for Life by the Doctor's Dietitian. For more information, visit susandopart.com.

For more by Susan B. Dopart, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., click here.

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