Dole Food and Wellness Bloggers Summit Wrap-Up

Last week I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Dole Wellness and Nutrition Blogger Summit at the Four Seasons and Dole Nutrition Institute in Westlake Village California, about an hour outside LA. When invited to the event I was thrilled to get an insider's tour of the Dole company - a brand built by passionate people who love fruits and veggies just as much as me!

Ahead, my photos and 28 Wellness Lessons Learned from the Summit...

By the end of the summit, I was feeling quite warm and fuzzy about the Dole brand and their healthy values. (yes, I was drinking the KoolAid and loving it!) But seriously, Dole is committed to helping advance the health and wellness of the world. And what better way to improve people's lives than by feeding them fruits and veggies. And lots of them!..

Take-Home Big Picture Lesson: "Eat more fruits and veggies everyone!"

And again just in case you were skimming... "Eat more fruits and veggies everyone!"

Summit Eats. Dole practices what they preach because we were fed well! I gobbled up a lot of yummy fruits/veggies on this trip. It was easy to eat well. Plus, when you are talking about health/nutrition with other like-minded people, all you want to do is embrace health and wellness and share those healthy vibes with others!

Insider's Tour. The summit was enriching, eye-opening and fun! Visiting the Dole Cafeteria, the Dole Test Kitchen and meeting the many passionate Dole employees was a truly inspiring experience.

Food Bloggers are a Unique Bunch (love 'em)! I was thrilled to meet talented food bloggers from all over the country (list at the end of this post).

Lessons Learned. I learned nutrition tips, quips and facts - which I'd like to share with you. (facts follow my photos below)

Dole Blogger Summit Photos - Full Slideshow..

Yawn! Rise at 4am to board my JFK -> LAX flight. Kiss the kitty and hubby and out the door. And off we go.

I love a shiny California sunrise to get my day started...

So many amazing food bloggers at the summit..

My new vegan-NYC blogger BFF Gena from Choosing Raw...

Brooke from Cheeky Kitchen (love her!) and me...

Gena and I enjoying our vegan lunch...

We were fed plentiful amounts of glorious, healthy salads. Yes!..

Dole Cafeteria Salad Bar plate (eaten in the sunshine, by a waterfall)...

Taking photos was second nature to everyone at the summit. Ah, I love food bloggers!..

Must, get, angle, just, right...

Love these sweet ladies (Jennifer & Brooke)..

Me photog-ing in elevator of course..

There was even a Chopped-style challenge cookoff, I presented our dish...

Dessert Bruschetta: Dark Chocolate Crostini topped with Lime-Basil Marinated Pineapple w/ a Spicy Mango Coconut Milk Sauce..

...but don't worry, the judges liked it! In fact, we won our round...

..did I mention we all ate a lot of delicious salad??..

Nutrition Lecture Time! Good thing nutrition is my favorite subject...

The Dole Panel. Smarties...

28 Nutrition Lessons From the Dole Summit:

1) Eat Less Meat. The simple idea is to put less animal protein on your plate. And switch to a more plant-based diet. Vegans are on par here!

2) Veg Life: It's Getting Better. In the next 20-30 years it is predicted that more vegetarian/vegan food will be available and predominant. But this change will not happen overnight. Progress is happening all around us everyday though.

3) Eat Breakfast! There are several reasons to eat breakfast each day. 1) It perks up your metabolic rate and establishes your "point of satiation for the day". 2) Studies show that people who eat breakfast eat 25% less calories during the rest of the day than those who skip breakfast. 3) Breakfast has been shown to help improve cognitive ability - which is important for kids and school.

4) Eat Often, but don't obsess. There is not much evidence to support the "you must eat every 2 hours" theory. However, eating one big meal a day can mess up your insulin levels by spiking them at your 'big meal of the day'. Eat smaller meals throughout the day to keep your insulin levels in check.

5) What's a Healthy Breakfast?
Try non-processed oatmeal, fresh fruit and soy milk. Maybe a few nuts or almond butter too.

6) Avoid Instant Oatmeal. Instant oatmeal packets are usually high in sodium, sugar and preservatives. Stick with the natural stuff and add your own custom flavorings so you control the salt/sugar content.

7) Drink Soy! Dole encourages the use of soymilk. Studies say that soy does protect against cancer if you get two servings a day.

8) Eat Blueberries. Blueberries are high in antioxidants, and have a wide range of health-improving properties. All berries are "eat more" foods.

9) Frozen or Fresh. Don't be afraid of frozen fruit. It is often just as healthy as fresh fruit - and sometimes more! Sometimes flash-frozen fruit retains vitamins better than fresh fruit, which can sit on a store shelf and travel before reaching your kitchen.

10) Cook Veggies with Care. Could you imagine cooking pasta and simply throwing it on a plate without flavoring it? Bland, right? Well some people do just that with veggies. (While some of us do like au-natural veggies) you can easily boost veg flavor by cooking/seasoning veggies with care. Spices, herbs, vinegar, a touch of salt, pepper and more can all boost your veggie-eating experience.

11) Cut Back on Saturated Fat. Men should have no more that 16g of saturated fat a day - women and kids, 10g a day! Plant-based foods are usually lower in saturated fat than animal products.

12) Heart Disease in Women.
Heart Disease kills more women than breast cancer each year.

13) Get the Facts!
A great consumer website for getting nutrition facts:

14) Breakfast Idea! Yes, simple almond butter and toast plus banana is an excellent healthy breakfast. Choose bread that is high in fiber and whole grains.

15) Healthy Homemade Holiday Gift. Make homemade granola and wrap it in festive wrapping to give as gifts.

16) Too Much Cheese. In 1920 Americans were eating 3 lbs of cheese a year. Today we are eating 32 lbs of cheese a year - that's per person.

17) Eat More Fruit and Veggies! Only 40% of Americans are eating enough fruit. And only 5% of Americans are eating enough vegetables per day.

18) Healthy Cafeteria.
The Dole cafeteria is a good model. It serves no red meat, no fried foods and limited amounts of low-fat dairy. All a part of DEW (Dole Employee Wellness).

19) Dole Trends! Check out Dole's new Garden Kit, donated Salad Bars in Schools, - newly relaunched, Dole on the Go, and the Dole Fruit/Veg Counting Book for kids.

20) Go With Fiber. Listen to the "story of fiber" as it becomes more complex - and beneficial to one's health - studies are finding. There are different types of fiber. One that is "prebiotic fiber" which helps feed the healthy bacteria in your intestines.

21) Eat More Plants for Less Calories. Want to lose or maintain your body weight? Load up your plate with fruits and veggies.

22) Poor Economy is Good for Something!
More people are buy whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains. Consumers are trending away from loading their shopping carts with processed foods, which can often be more expensive. Buying whole foods can save you money.

23) Easy Fruit Salad Recipe. Take a can of Dole Pineapple and toss with assorted fresh chopped fruit. The dole Pineapple juice will keep the fresh fruit bright and zesty while resisting browning.

24) Cabbage is Great! Eat more cabbage, slaws - rich in fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals.

25) Lesson Learned: "You really cannot eat too many vegetables!" Use your grocery money to buy lots of fruits/veggies instead of exotic expensive ones.

26) A Few Eye-Opening Nutrition Facts.
-Eating the recommended amount of fruits/veggies is on par with not smoking.
-80% of cancer is caused by poor nutrition, inactivity, obesity, and cancer-causing agents in our food (like sodium nitrates and nitrites)
-33% of women and 50% of men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
-90% of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by eating more fruit/veggies.
-Average adult only eats 2 servings of fruit/veg a day! Needed: 3 fruits and 7 veggies.

27) Eat Healthy-Fat Nuts. But don't go overboard. 1oz. is about 10-12pieces.

28) Small Steps: Don't Get Frustrated. Small goals are better because they lead to large changes over time! Small steps are the key to improving your lifestyle wellness.

Food Bloggers at the Event:

* Shaina Olmanson (Food for My Family), @FoodforMyFamily
* Gena Hamshaw (ChoosingRaw), @ChoosingRaw
* Jennifer Leal (Savoring the Thyme), @SavorTheThyme
* Brooke McClay (Cheeky Kitchen), @CheekyKitchen
* Susan Whetzel (She’s Becoming DoughMessTic), @doughmesstic
* Anne-Marie Nichols (This Mama Cooks!), @amnichol
* Katie Goodman (Good Life Eats), @GoodLifeEats
* Sandy Coughlin (Reluctant Entertainer), @SandyCoughlinRE
* Anne Petraeus (Fannetastic Food), @fANNEtasticfood
* Maria Lichty (Two Peas and Their Pod), @TwoPeasandPod
* Jenny Flake (Picky Palate), @PickyPalate
* Marla Meridith (Family Fresh Cooking), @MarlaMeridith
* Shanna Coady (My Favorite Everything), @MyFavEverything
* Amanda Bottoms (Kevin and Amanda), @kevinandamanda
* Lori Falcon (A Cowboy’s Wife), @acowboyswife
* Amanda Acuna (Mommy Mandy), @mommymandy
* Rachael Hutchings (La Fuji Mama) @LaFujiMama

A special thanks to DOLE, Chris Y, Four Seasons Westlake and all the folks who helped organize this summit. It was a truly inspiring few days!

Peruse DOLE.COM for lots of nutrition facts and recipe ideas!

-Facts From: All the above facts were quoted from the Dole Summit (many from (RD CDE) Paulette Lambert's Nutrition Lecture - as well as other Dole reps throughout the summit.) Visit if you have questions regarding any info. They have a vast amount of nutrition info on their site as well as in their new book The Dole Nutrition Handbook.

DISCLOSURE: Dole paid for all my expenses relating to the Dole Blogger Summit, including transportation, accommodations, meals and spa treatments.

And remember to always consult with your doctor about your own personal healthcare.

And while facts and stats can be eye-opening - they never tell the whole story.

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