Soda and snack companies sponsoring nutrition conferences may not be as bad as you think- find out my take:
Disclosure: I have no financial ties to any companies mentioned in this post at the time of printing.
Yes, I said it, but hear me out. I’m OK with soda companies sponsoring nutrition conferences. Hint- it’s not as simple as you think. One very important thing I’ve learned from working in the media is the sound bite never tells the whole story. I have attended the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) for the past seven years. Each year there is some huffing and puffing in the media when they obtain the sponsor list and see companies like PepsiCo among the many conference sponsors. The most recent controversy arose with the publication an article in Time just before the start of this year’s FNCE in Boston. While it seems obvious that dietitians would want nothing to do with soda, the headlines do not tell the whole story. I assure you, we are not standing around in large groups with big gulp sized cups of syrupy soda, and for the record, I have never and would never suggest that a patient or client add regular soda to their daily diet. However, the point being missed here is that large companies we perceive as solely soda companies are the parent companies to many smaller brands. Do you eat oatmeal? Enjoy hummus? How about OJ? Do you consider those nutritious foods? Well, at the very large PepsiCo sponsored booth at FNCE, I sampled products from Quaker, Tropicana and Sabra, three brands I love and regularly enjoy myself as well as recommending them to my patients and clients. It’s difficult enough in this world to educate and persuade clients to incorporate healthier items into their lifestyle. If we punish smaller brands who offer wholesome, nutritious foods just because they are affiliated with a larger brand we don’t deem healthy, who does that help? Just saying.
As an RD, I studied A LOT of science. Chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, biology, microbiology, nutritional biochemistry and much more. If I stumble upon a product I believe is unhealthy eg: soda, I am certainly comfortable making that assessment and moving on. RDs understand the importance of professional integrity and the responsibility we bear to share science-based information with our patients, clients and media. We are quite capable of looking past marketing materials to find healthier products in a company’s portfolio. The same goes for snack foods. The Time article mentions Nestle as a company that makes candy and snack foods. Well, they also produce Lean Cuisines that are nutritious frozen meal options and Libby’s canned pumpkin which contains one ingredient- pumpkin. I don’t feel that creating recipes with Libby’s pumpkin equates to supporting candy manufacturers, do you? I also love Nestle’s adorable decorative bottled waters to encourage water consumption for kids. That’s a good thing, no? I even ordered a bunch to hand out for Halloween after seeing them at FNCE.
In all honesty, though these companies garner a lot of the attention, they make up a very small part of the FNCE exhibit floor. Check out what I found at this year’s FNCE-I assure you, these products reflect the majority of what we see at nutrition conferences and also hit on the latest trends.Soda and snack companies sponsoring nutrition conferences may not be so bad- find out why:… Click To Tweet
Balance by BistroMD offers chef-prepared meals made with fresh ingredients delivered to your door. No subscription necessary, you purchase what you want a la carte. There are different options to meet varying dietary needs.
Morningstar Farms veggie bowls are low calorie, tasty vegetarian and vegan meal options such as Chik’n Tikka Masala, Moroccan Medley, Chick’n Pot Pie, Japanese Soba Noodles and Italian “Sausage” Bake.
Q Cups offers organic quinoa in a cup that’s ready in 5 minutes! Flavors include Organic Quinoa with a hint of sea salt, Southwest Barbeque with black beans, corn and red pepper, or Savory Garlic and Mushroom
Eat Smart Superfood Salad Blends are an obsession of mine. I love the awesome variety of flavors and veggies you can purchase. Enjoy them as part of another recipe or as the base of an entrée salad. My favorites are the cabbage and veggie blends because they don’t get soggy so you can enjoy them for a few meals. Huge time saver!
Veggie Fries have taken it up a notch with these “healthier” fries made from chickpeas, red peppers and potatoes. Kids love them and you can feel great about serving them to your family while packing an extra nutritional punch.
SILK Protein– new to the scene is this almond and cashewmilk blend with as much protein as dairy milk, though the source is pea protein and brown rice protein. Only 2 grams of sugar as well. Nice.
Hemp Heart Toppers by Manitoba Harvest– new on the market are these awesome hemp seed mixes in both savory and sweet varieties to add to salads and soups or oatmeal and yogurt.
“Natural” foods made without added preservatives:
This Dietz and Watson Originals Buffalo Style Chicken Sausage is delicious! I’m a sucker for spicy food but it’s hard to find a sausage with nutrition facts that make me smile. These are tasty AND pass my label test. YUM!
PurePB Powdered Peanut Butter– It’s no secret that I’m a huge powdered pb fan, and I was blown away to learn that my Apple Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie won the #ClutterFreePB Fall Smoothie Contest sponsored by Crazy Richards. Their PurePB is just peanuts- that’s it. Some other brands add salt and sugar. I’m a fan of starting plain and adding in what you need. Love this stuff!
Honorable mention to:
Chobani for the incredibly creative and delicious yogurt combos served daily. What a menu!! The roasted beet and quinoa tabbouleh with pomegranate vinaigrette was unbelievable.
Lipton for making Matcha Green Tea bags. Matcha is a hot trend for both tea drinkers and creative culinary peeps. It’s exciting to see a mainstream supermarket brand offer matcha so everyone can enjoy it. I personally love the slight metabolic boost it provides 🙂
Let’s not forget the many whole foods and commodity boards featured at FNCE including strawberries, walnuts, pistachios, avocados, almonds, raspberries, citrus, pears, blackberries, dried plums, cranberries and many more.
I would LOVE to know how others feel about the topic at hand. Should the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics avoid accepting sponsorships from “soda and snack companies” even though the products they choose to feature at exhibits are nutritious? Please weigh in and leave a comment below!
UPDATE: After the posting of this blog, I was interviewed on the Farm to Table Talk podcast to discuss my motivation for writing the article and my views on “Junk to Table” at FNCE. I’d love to hear your thoughts!!