Tag: natural products expo east

The Top 10 Healthy Food Trends from Natural Products Expo East 2015

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore for the second time.

The Expo gives companies who create natural, organic, and healthy living products an opportunity to showcase their stuff to a community of retailers, practitioners, business owners, press, and bloggers like me 🙂


The best way I can describe the expo is like Halloween for healthy foodies. It’s like you get to meet all of the people behind all of your favorite products and then try their new stuff.

Pacing is important.

When you’re basically sampling all day from 9:30 until 6:00, you get full quickly, especially since many of these foods have decent amounts of fiber, healthy fats and protein.

Each year, new food trends pop up, and even though my #1 philosophy focuses on eating as much whole, real food as possible, trends are fun and can make mealtime and snack time a little more exciting.

Here are the top 10 trends I noticed in the natural food space and some products I tried along the way!

Transparency matters. Tell us what’s in your product and where it comes from.IMG_2373

As consumers are taking a closer look at labels and ingredient lists, there’s a growing demand for retailers to tell us CLEARLY what is in the packaged foods they’re making and to simplify their products to have fewer ingredients.

Here are some standouts that prioritize transparency. No secrets here!

The “free from” (dairy, gluten, nuts, grains, soy, etc.) movement is in full swing.


Because of years of poor diet, chronic stress, too many antibiotics, and other environmental and lifestyle factors, many of us are walking around with compromised digestive health, not realizing how badly we feel until we start feeling better.

Since 70% of our immune system lies in and around our digestive system, it makes sense that an unhappy “gut” = less than awesome health.

While we’re in the recovery phase, (or if we have to be “free from” a particular food for life), it’s helpful to experiment with cutting out certain ingredients (for me it’s dairy and gluten) to feel better. These are some of my favorite “free from” brands. They’re all dairy-free and gluten-free and some are free from other allergens as well.

Gluten-free is the way to be (31% of the products at the expo were GF).


I got to meet Elizabeth behind Purely Elizabeth granola! She's a fellow IIN grad and a rock star!

I also got to meet Elizabeth behind Purely Elizabeth granola! She’s a fellow IIN grad and a rock star!

Paleo is still going strong.


As the free-from movement continues and we get back to our roots of eating real food, the paleo diet (no grains, legumes, dairy, sweeteners, processed foods) maintains its strong following.

Their philosophy is, “If man made it, don’t eat it.”

As someone who doesn’t eat gluten or dairy, I often buy products labeled “paleo” because I know they will not have gluten or dairy in them, which gives me some peace of mind!

Check out some of these paleo options:

Organic, grass-fed meats and dairy are the new standard.


Cows are supposed to eat grass, not grains. When cows are fed grains, they often get sick and have to be pumped full of antibiotics, which then end up in our food. This is no bueno for the cows or for us.

That’s why we want to buy grass-fed beef whenever possible.

To take it to the next level, grass-FINISHED beef is the gold standard because it means that in the last stage of their life, the cows were still fed grass rather than being fed grains to quickly fatten them up.

A few brands of grass-fed jerky to check out:

  • Epic bars & jerky (Bill loves these and we find them at Wegmans, Whole Foods & MOMs)
  • The New Primal jerky (cows are grass-fed AND grass-finished). You can find these at REI.

Move over coconut water. Maple water is the new kid in town.


With a lower sugar content and price point than many coconut waters, maple water is a new trend.

I first found out about them when we were in Lake Placid this summer volunteering at the Ironman triathlon. Drink Maple had a team competing there, and we ended up being at the same cafe as them the day after the race.

Maple water has a subtle maple flavor and naturally occurring electrolytes, so for people who can’t stand the taste of coconut but want an option aside from plain water, this is definitely worth trying!

…But coconut is still in LOTS of products and is being reinvented.


Hemp is the new flax.


Hemp is an excellent source of easily digestible, plant-based protein and is a great source of healthy fats and minerals.

CBD is also becoming a popular cannabis-based ingredient in edible and consumable products that one could purchase from a cbd distributor. CBD businesses have become extremely popular over the years as the demand for hemp/marijuana-based products is soaring in the market. With a wide range of potential benefits from pain relief to anxiety management to help with insomnia, it’s no wonder that sites like Gold Bee (you can view the products they have to offer on the company website here) are becoming more and more popular. This is also why great care and attention need to happen on all ends when it comes to these businesses, including when it comes to financials. There are banks that accept cbd business for those that are looking, they just need to do some research in their business based area to find the right ones.

Here are a few hemp-based brands to try:

Turmeric, the ultimate anti-inflammatory, is taking center stage.


The key component of turmeric that makes it such an anti-inflammatory and protective powerhouse is curcumin. Research suggests that curcumin’s protective properties play a key role in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease and inflammation.

An inflamed body is a sick and angry body, so we want to do anything we can to cool inflammation, and curcumin that can be ingested via brands like CuraMed, is definitely one of the best ways to do this. But this is just one company to consider, so to find the best one for you, make sure to give these products a taste too…

This final trend excites me the most!

There’s a focus on taking a step back to traditionally nourishing, gut-friendly foods like bone broths and sauerkraut.

Since 70% of our immune system lies in and around our digestive tract, eating foods that make our digestive system happy make our whole body look and feel its best!


And, that’s a wrap!

For a gluten-free, dairy-free foodie who is focused on prioritizing whole, real food made with integrity by people who care, those were some of my favorite finds at Expo East 🙂

Goodbye Plastic Baggies, Hello LunchSkins! {Perfect for Lunches & Snacks On the Go}

Whether you’ve been reading my blog for some time or are just stopping by, I want to take a second to let you know something about me as you read this post. One of the things I’m passionate about doing is helping people make upgrades to their lives to include more nourishing foods. The products I’m promoting in this post are being done purely because I think they’re super cool and make it easier to pack and eat healthy food, not because I am being paid by someone to promote them. I’m all about transparency!


Lunchskins are the perfect way to transport snacks, like my homemade donut holes :)

LunchSkins are the perfect way to transport snacks, like my homemade donut holes

I think everyone knows that we need to start using things like plastic free snack containers and stop using plastic products in order to do our bit to save the world. If we continue the way we are, there won’t be any resources left for us to use and nature will be in crisis. This is why when I first learned about these LunchSkins when I was at the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore this fall I was SO excited. As a blogger, I had the opportunity to take part in an amazing event that showcased thousands of products, foods, supplements and other items in the natural foods industry and community.

It was like adult trick-or-treating…only healthier! I had SO MUCH FUN.

As my dad would say, I was as happy as a pig in slop 🙂

I learned about lots of new products while I was there – some that I never knew existed and others I had tried before but didn’t know much about.

The coolest part was meeting the people behind the brands – Brad from Brad’s Raw Kale Chips, Mamma Chia herself, the Nibmor girls (a fellow health coach!), and Brendan Brazier, a triathlete who wrote the book Thrive and is the face of Vega protein supplements.

expo east

One of the companies I learned about at the expo was 3GreenMoms. They’ve created a product called LunchSkins that basically gets rid of the need to use plastic baggies. They were inspired to create their products when they learned this staggering statistic:

Every day, more than 20 million sandwich bags from school lunches go into landfills in the U.S.

This concern is very similar to that which started the move away from plastic straws and towards sustainable solutions like these metal boba straws.
Their mission was to create a solution to that problem and to do so in a way that was “fresh” and “colorful.” Their bags are lined with European pastry bag material, which makes them eco-friendly, food-safe and dishwasher safe. They come in lots of cool colors and designs and even have a place to write your name, too 🙂

Sneaking a pic of the 3 green moms at the expo!

Sneaking a pic of the 3 green moms and their display at the expo!


I’m an advocate of living in a way that is as health-supportive as possible, and until recently, the impact my choices were having on the health of the environment wasn’t something I thought or cared about…at all.

I’ve used and tossed thousands of plastic baggies without thinking twice about it.

Over the past six months, Bill and I have switched from plastic containers to all glass or ceramic (Pyrex, mason jars, Corningware) and are in the process of making upgrades to other household products to make them safer (To learn more about why we did this, click here).

Our latest upgrade has been using LunchSkins instead of plastic baggies. Bill uses them to take his lunch and snacks to school, and I use them in my lunchbag at work or when I’m on the road traveling to meetings. Not only are we saving money by not buying plastic baggies, but we don’t have to deal with that nasty plastic bag taste that has a way of seeping into whatever food is stored in the baggie. I’m thinking of carrying on in a similar vein of doing our bit for the environment by purchasing foldable reusable shopping bags to save on the use of plastics when I’m out doing the food shopping for the week. They’re 100% natural, nontoxic and machine washable so I’m running out of reasons not to get one!


When I first learned about LunchSkins in September, I was trying to figure out the best time to share this information with you and thought the holiday season would be a great time to do it.

3GreenMoms make sandwich, snack, and sub bags as well as lunch bags and bibs. I just saw on their website that they have “wet and sweat” bags, which can be used at the gym or pool or for a baby and are meant to replace larger plastic bags.

Any of these would make a great stocking stuffer or holiday gift, especially for someone who has kids, brings lunch to work or likes to pack snacks! I plan to get some for some of the mamas in my life 🙂

Here’s the link to their website to check out their products. You can also buy LunchSkins on Amazon, and I even found some at a local store called Stebbins-Anderson and at Whole Foods.

Lunchskins are the perfect way to transport snacks, like my homemade donut holes :)

LunchSkins are the perfect way to transport snacks, like my homemade donut holes

Oh, and by the way, here’s the recipe for these delicious donut holes. I just posted version 2 (Orange Cranberry Breakfast Bites) the other day, and they are also delicious! Both recipes are paleo, gluten-free and vegan and are amaaaazing 🙂

Happy National Kale Day! {Plus a NEW Kale Salad Recipe to Try}

Happy National Kale Day!

In all honesty, I had no idea this was even a “thing” until I woke up this morning and saw it all over twitter.

We love kale and all of the amazing health benefits it provides. It’s a super versatile super food.


Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore and had the privilege of meeting Mr. Kale himself – Brad of Brad’s Raw Kale Chips. 

Total food nerd moment 🙂


I’ve featured kale in several recipes on this blog in addition to the one I’m sharing today! I use it in everything from salads, soups and sautees to smoothies and frittatas.

To celebrate National Kale Day, try one of these recipes, the *new* salad below, or one of the others on the National Kale Day website:

  1. Taste the Rainbow Kale Salad
  2. Upgraded Kale Waldorf Salad
  3. Mediterranean Chickpea and Sundried Tomato Kale Salad
  4. Mini Kale & Mushroom Breakfast Frittatas
  5. Peachy Keen Kale Salad
  6. Tuscan Bean Soup (scroll to the bottom of the page next to the picture of the soup)
  7. Caribbean Island Breeze Smoothie
Kale leaves after being pulled off of the pretty purple stems

Kale leaves after being pulled off of the pretty purple stems

I was on Facebook the other day and was intrigued by the headline, “The Recipe That Will Make You Fall In Love With Kale All Over Again” on MindBodyGreen’s page.

Being the kale lover that I am, I had to click on it.

Reading through the ingredient list piqued my interest, so Bill and I made it for dinner using the purple kale that we had in our fridge. I’m so glad we did!

The lemon juice broke down the bitterness of the kale (as it always does!), and the combo of the sweetness from the dates, complex flavors of the curry powder, bite of the ginger, tanginess of the tahini and crunch of the pumpkin seeds was a real mouth party!

kale salad

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 big bunch of kale (any variety), thinly chopped (about 5 cups)

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons tahini (usually in the international section of the grocery store)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 3 Medjool dates, pit removed and soaked in hot water for 10 minutes to soften them
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pinch of cayenne pepper

We topped ours with some raw pumpkin seeds for an extra crunch 🙂

Click here for the full recipe from MindBodyGreen!

Ingredients for the salad. This is the best (and cheapest!) tahini we've found. We bought it at a Mediterranean grocery store/cafe nearby called Cedar Cafe

Ingredients for the salad. This is the best (and cheapest!) tahini we’ve found. We bought it at a Mediterranean grocery store/cafe nearby called Cedar Cafe

I Met The Food Babe: 6 Lessons I Learned About Living On Purpose

When a once in a lifetime opportunity comes along, we don’t want to miss it.

Last week was one of those moments for me.

I had the privilege, honor and joy of meeting Vani Hari AKA the Food Babe and spending one-on-one time with her.

I met her earlier in the day in the press room at the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore – an event showcasing the up and coming trends and products in the natural products industry. I had wanted to go for years, but it’s expensive, and prior to this year, I didn’t have the credentials needed to get in to the event.


As a blogger, I found out that I’m considered “press” and got to attend for free! 🙂

I was like a kid on Christmas, brimming with excitement about what I would learn and thrilled that I would be spending the day with other like-minded people who share my passion. (Stay tuned for a post on my favorite food finds at the expo!)

About a week before the event, I saw a post on the Food Babe’s Facebook page about an exclusive fundraising dinner for GMO-labeling that would be held in Baltimore the Thursday of the expo.

Had I read that right?

I couldn’t believe that one of THE leaders, mover shakers and change agents in the health and food industry was going to be in my hometown of Baltimore…and that I might have the chance to meet her!

Millions of people have rallied behind Vani in what is known as the Food Babe Army to support the charge she is leading to get the junk out of our food supply and demand that the food industry be transparent about and remove the harmful chemicals they’ve put in our food.

Subway, Kraft, Chick-fil-a and most recently, Starbucks, have felt the restlessness and discontent of the Food Babe’s followers and the collective power they have to spark change.

Despite my initial reservations about the cost of the dinner and the fact that I wouldn’t know anyone, I had a feeling it would be worth it, so I bought my ticket to what would ultimately be a sold out event.

It was a perfect late summer night, as all of the attendees gathered on the rooftop level of The Inn at the Black Olive restaurant with a delicious, local, organic spread laid out before us.

We listened intently as several of the speakers shared updates about what is happening in the movement to demand labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food supply.

As dinner was winding down, I finished my conversation with my neighbor and looked to the other side of the room where Vani was chatting with a few other people.

I met the Food Babe!

I met the Food Babe!

Hoping I might have the chance to talk with her one-on-one, I lingered a bit. She signaled to me that she wanted to talk with me as she mouthed, “Are you leaving?” from across the room. I turned to the side, assuming she must have been talking to someone other than me.

I realized she wasn’t.

“Who, me?? Nope, not going anywhere!”

I was beyond thrilled that she was going to make time for me.

For the next 20 minutes or so, Vani sat with me, giving me her undivided attention, as she graciously listened to me recount some of my health journey and share my passion for why I do what I do and how I pursue my calling to help others transform their lives through food.

I asked her if she had any words of wisdom to share with me, any lessons she had learned along the way.

I tried to take in what she shared and store it in my memory for later, as I wasn’t writing anything down while we talked. I’ve captured the gist of our conversation below.

6 Lessons I Learned from The Food Babe

tell you no rnk

Vani experiences this first hand just about everyday.

Whether it’s Starbucks telling her they don’t want to meet with her or a grocery store kicking her out, she doesn’t let rejection or dismissals like that dismay her.

They just fuel her fire even more and give her yet another reason to keep fighting for what she and many others know is right.

No matter what you’re going through or what fight you’re fighting, be encouraged that you are doing it for a reason. Don’t let anybody tell you no if you’re fighting for what’s right.

go for it - 2


getreal - rnk

One of the things Vani told me was that she held herself back more than anyone else.

Prior to going into blogging and activism full-time, she was working at a bank but was repeatedly encouraged by family and friends to drop the corporate gig and pursue her passion for food and health as a career.

She had been reading the book The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte at the time and developing clarity around her purpose and what she really wanted to do with her life.

Vani said the book asks questions that help you “get real” with yourself about what you’re meant to do, which is exactly what she was trying to do two years ago in the midst of a career transition.

After going through the questions in the book, she said she felt SO clear about what she was supposed to do with her life. She just hadn’t taken that next step to make it happen.


The tipping point came on New Year’s Eve two years ago when she and her husband were at the top of Machu Picchu in Peru. Her phone (which hadn’t been working for days) suddenly came on, and in her email inbox was a notice from her job indicating that her current contract was about to expire.

She had to let them know whether she wanted to renew it.

With encouragement and affirmation from her husband, Vani made the decision in that moment not to renew her contract and to go after her passion as an activist and consumer advocate full-time.

If there’s something that makes your soul come alive and fuels your passion, go after it! You have been given that desire and that fire for a reason.

Following Vani’s recommendation, I ordered the book and am already loving what I’m reading! You can find it on Amazon if you want to order it for yourself to help you develop clarity about what you’re meant to do.

betterplace - rnk

Vani got a little choked up when we got to this part.

In her corporate job, she said all she was doing was making more money for the bank. That wasn’t cutting it – not for someone as purpose-driven and intentional as she is.

She wanted to do something that would impact people’s lives and make the world a better place.

“How do we want to be remembered when we’re gone?” she asked.

“I do this because I want to help people. I want to make a difference.”

Whatever you do with your life – whether you’re raising the next generation as a stay-at-home parent, nurturing and training kids as a teacher, guiding and coaching people through challenging areas of life, like finance or health, or simply serving people with kindness and humility – commit to making the world a better place just by being in it.

Haters - rnk

I took some creative liberty with the exact wording on this one, but here’s the gist of what Vani said in a speech earlier that night:

“The more progress we make, the more haters come out.”

All the more reason to keep fighting.

Vani shared with me that one of the challenges she runs into is that people question her credibility and qualifications to do what she does.

“I’m not a doctor or a food scientist,” she acknowledged.

But, you don’t have to be a doctor to impact people’s health and change their lives.

I face a similar feeling of inadequacy at times. “I’m not a dietitian or a nutritionist,” I tell myself. Some could use that as a reason to dismiss what I have to say about food and nutrition.

My dad? He’s an organizational consultant who is an expert at helping people and businesses get “unstuck.” He’s so good at what he does, he could have his own TV show and easily write a book. His background? Secondary Education and American History.

People come to us for guidance, advice or a listening ear because they can are inspired by our passion, know how voraciously we pursue knowledge and see our commitment to excellence.

But, most importantly, because they know we genuinely care.

So, no matter who we are or what our training is or isn’t, here’s the truth:

We know enough to help someone.

We don’t have to have a particular title or training to make a difference in the world. 

What we do need are passion, intellect, a desire to relentlessly pursue TRUTH, and persistence to “stick with it” when times get tough or we’re discouraged.

share rnk

It’s going to take all of us coming together to make change happen.

It can’t be up to one person.

Sharing information is how we spread messages about what is true, right and good. Share what you learn with your friends, family, workplace, community, etc.

The Food Babe knows that much of her reach and success are due in large part to the Food Babe Army rallying behind her on social media and in their communities, doing their part to get the message out to their circles of influence.

The more we share information intended to make the world a better place and help people, the greater our likelihood of having an impact.

If you have information or a skill or tool that can help another person, share it!

My hope is that you walk away from this post inspired and ready to stand up for whatever you believe in,  whatever fuels your fire, whatever makes you come alive.

One person can make a difference. The more we support each other, the greater the ripple effect each of us can have on the world.


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