In case you hadn’t heard, I was recently invited to California to attend the first Annual Dole Food and Wellness Blogger Summit, which took place just outside of Los Angeles at the Four Seasons Westlake Village.
I know, I know. Couldn’t they have done better than the Four Seasons? Really?
All kidding aside, I, along with the rest of the bloggers, were treated like queens for the time we were there. The rooms, the food, the entire experience - was top notch. The Four Seasons Westlake Village, along with being a gorgeous hotel, is actually part of something so much bigger – it is part of the California Health & Longevity Institute. The CHLI is an amazing thing – an entity, if you will. Full scale medical facility. Spa. Wellness Kitchen. If you want to better your health from A to Z – this is the way to do it. I was beyond impressed with the entire facility, and believe that this type of approach to health should serve as a working model to the way healthcare should be for everyone – not just corporations that can afford to treat their employees to cutting edge, individualized medical and lifestyle care.
I was privledged to be able to have a one on one consultation with a Food Nutritionist, who, after looking at my health records, had developed a healthy menu plan (not a diet by any stretch) that would help to balance my body despite my difficulties with PCOS. PCOS can eventually lead to Pre-Diabetes, and because of my family history, I really don’t want to be on that path. I believe, as does the Nutritionist, that taking steps in my diet can act as a deterrant to that path. I had talked here at home with a few doctors about my diet and dealing with PCOS – and was told, quite simply, that my entire life would have to change. No carbs. No pasta, no potatoes. No bread. No sugars. No fruits or juices. Basically – meats. Beans. Green vegetables. I couldn’t accept that. I couldn’t accept that other vegetables and grains, in moderation, were NOT beneficial to my health.
And according to this nutritionist – I was right.
But enough about me.
Not only did I get to meet with this wonderful nutritionist – I was also treated to an hour of massage.
Bliss, I tell you.
We Food Bloggers tend to have knotty back muscles from our awkward computer usage – mine being that I use the computer at the kitchen table at an unusual angle. I’d say about half of us blog from the kitchen counter. It’s convenient, but can do a number on the muscles! Thankfully, my masseuse worked on my neck and back and fixed me right up! Many of the gals had facials – or acupuncture, or body scrubs – I wish we could have done it all!
When it came to eating – we DID. Dole and the Four Seasons had us eating a lot, and practically every bite was healthy. I can’t say I have ever eaten so many salads or vegetables in my life! We were treated to a wonderful breakfast in the Wellness Kitchen, where I especially enjoyed the oatmeal with berry compote and granola – delicious! Following that, we were taken to another set of gorgeous kitchens to sample many of the new Dole Products. My favorites had to be the new Asian Island Salad Mix. It’s a wonderful blend of salad greens and veggies, along with a fantastic peanutty dressing. YUM! I was hopeful that blend would be available here, but sadly, there are NO Dole Salad mixes that contain the dressings. Small town living, I tell ya.
Another product I couldn’t get enough of was the Real Fruit Bites. 80 Calories in little packages, like gummies – except fruit that is covered in yogurt. Let me tell you – the Coconut/Pineapple is AWESOME. The Apple is great, too! Loved those things!
One thing Dole is trying to implement for the New Year is a “Two A Day Banana Diet” – for those of us who are wanting to drop the holiday weight or start the year off right. It begins with incorporating 2 bananas a day into your meal plan. To help you with that plan, they had a Caribbean Salad there for us to try. I’ll be honest – I laughed at Bob, the gentleman who introduced this salad to us. it sounded horrible!! Beans and oranges and bananas in a salad? Together?
It freaking works.
1 can (15 oz.) reduced sodium black beans, drained
3 Tbsp. prepared salsa
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (I increased to 1/4 cup)
1 Tbsp. finely chopped red onion
1/2 tsp. grated orange peel (I increased to 1 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1.4 tsp. ground cumin
1 large banana, sliced
1 orange, sectioned
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy!
I wish our stay with Dole could have lasted longer – I felt like I learned so much! But, I have to admit, one of my favorite things about the summit was meeting some of my fellow bloggers. One in particular was Jenny from Picky Palate. I’ve followed Jenny for as long as I can remember, but to be hanging out with her? Downright awesome. I hope to see her again soon!
It was also great finally getting to meet Maria from Two Peas & Their Pod, along with her husband Josh. Josh tagged along for the trip, and managed to hang with us girls with no problem! I really enjoyed getting to know the both of them – so sweet!
There was such a diverse group of us, and it was hard to get time to spend with everyone, but I wish I could have. Marla and her green cowboy boots and that giant personality, Gena and her outspoken, vegan, New Yorker scrappiness, Kathy and her playfulness, Brooke and her amazing positivity, Amanda and her inviting attitude, Rachael and her spunk– all so endearing and special. I really do hope there will be a next time in the very near future!
Here’s the entire blogger line up – it was a fantastic group that I was blessed to be a part of!!
o Shaina Olmanson (Food for My Family) www.foodformyfamily.com, @FoodforMyFamily
o Jennifer Leal (Savoring the Thyme) www.savoringthethyme.com, @SavorTheThyme
o Brooke McClay (Cheeky Kitchen) www.cheekykitchen.com, @CheekyKitchen
o Kathy Patalsky (The Lunchbox Bunch) www.lunchboxbunch.com, @lunchboxbunch
o Anne-Marie Nichols (This Mama Cooks!) www.thismamacooks.com, @amnichols
o Katie Goodman (Good Life Eats) www.goodlifeeats.com, @GoodLifeEats
o Sandy Coughlin (Reluctant Entertainer) www.reluctantentertainer.com, @SandyCoughlinRE
o Anne Petraeus (Fannetastic Food) www.fannetasticfood.com, @fANNEtasticfood
o Maria Lichty (Two Peas and Their Pod) www.twopeasandtheirpod.com, @TwoPeasandPod
o Jenny Flake (Picky Palate) www.picky-palate.com, @PickyPalate
o Marla Meridith (Family Fresh Cooking) www.familyfreshcooking.com, @MarlaMeridith
o Gena Hamshaw (Choosing Raw) www.choosingraw.com, @choosingraw
o Shanna Coady (My Favorite Everything) www.myfavoriteeverything.com, @MyFavEverything
o Amanda Bottoms (Kevin and Amanda) www.kevinandamanda.com, @kevinandamanda
o Lorin Falcon (A Cowboy’s Wife) www.acowboyswife.com, @acowboyswife
o Amanda Acuna (Mommy Mandy) www.mommymandy.com, @mommymandy
o Jenny Flake (Picky Palate) www.picky-palate.com, @pickypalate
o Rachael Hutchings (La Fuji Mama) www.lafujimama.com @LaFujiMama
Thank you SO much to the wonderful folks at Dole – I really enjoyed meeting ALL of you. And many thanks to the CHLI and the Four Seasons – it was such an amazing learning experience!
For more information on Dole, please visit www.Dole.com.
To see all of the tidbits of info I picked up from our panel of experts, please refer to my Twitter page – I was tweeting the whole time!
OH! One last thing! Don’t forget about my $100 VISA Gift Card Giveaway with Ghirardelli! Good luck!
*Disclaimer – Dole provided me with this trip, but the opinions are 100% my own. Hotel photos are from Google.