This post was sponsored by NOW as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own. Make sure to keep reading for the fun giveaway at the very end of this post!
With the movement toward healthy and natural foods and the rise of vitamins and supplements, have you ever felt a bit overwhelmed by all the options?
I struggle just picking cereal from aisle six at the grocery store let alone trying to pick the best multivitamin for my kids (but really, I can still remember that feeling over overwhelm the first time I tried to buy a prenatal vitamin while pregnant with Lincoln).
Two weeks ago, right before the madness of moving into a tiny apartment in a big city with toddlers started, I spent a few days in Chicago with the wonderful NOW Foods team learning about their company and getting a glimpse behind the scenes at a supplement + natural food company.
As a busy mom, it felt like a vacation to get away and “work” for the weekend and I relished a full queen size bed to myself for an uninterrupted 9 hours at night. Our two days were packed full of fun activities and experiences that introduced us to some of NOW Foods’ 1400+ products and their methodology. At the end of the post I’m sharing a few things that are on my radar for my own health + my family’s nutrition after this weekend along with an AWESOME giveaway of over $500 worth of product.
Here’s the weekend at a glance:
Arriving at the hotel:
I checked into the Eaglewood Resort and Spa, a short drive from Chicago O’hare Airport, with a few other influencers I’d met at the on the drive over . We spent a couple minutes freshening up before enjoying lunch and conversation on the patio overlooking the golf course.
After a quick nap and a little bit of email catch-up, we headed a cooking demonstration by Suzy Singh, an R&D chef for Now Foods. Her energy was contagious as she introduced us to some of their products while showing us ideas for simple family dinners. She taught us how to whip up our own sauces (homemade ketsup!) and an easy recipe for some delicious home-made baked chicken nuggets.
This is when the fun really began and we started the Iron-chef competition. We were divided into teams of three and given 45 minutes and our own prep station to prepare a variation of the chicken dish we’d just sampled. It was a fast way to make friends, try something new, and get some hands on experience with the Now Foods products.
For me, I’m less likely to try cooking with something I haven’t used in the kitchen before. If it isn’t in my mom’s kitchen at home, it likely isn’t in mine only because it’s a bit out of my comfort zone. I loved this part of the activity because it introduced me to a few new simple cooking techniques / recipes that I’m excited to use for a few more meals that are kid friendly and mom approved.
From the evening, my favorite new products were the Avocado Oil and the Smoked Ghost Pepper Coconut Oil.
^some of the entries – how well plated are they!
After the competition was over (our team didn’t place but we did get called out for the best chicken of the night with our pecan crusted chicken nuggets with a ghost pepper avocado whip with enough of a kick to keep you warm on those chilly fall evenings), we ate dinner al fresco and got to know each other before it was time to head back to the hotel.
*A few years ago I tried a gluten free brownie mix for gluten free dinner guests and they were so awful (the brownies not the dinner guests), I never tried them again. For dessert the Now team served their gluten free brownies and they were about 32 times better. And so chocolatey.
Even with the time difference, 6:45 wake up call for yoga came early but it always feels good to start my day with a bit of exercise. It was my first time trying plio – a mix between Pilates and Yoga with a heavy dose of cardio.
Following our morning sweat session, we headed indoors for a little DIY beauty demonstration. As an essential oils newbie, it was interesting to learn about the benefits and the uses of the product (who knew there were SO many!) and I came away so excited to start using a few of the Now blends in our home.
We made our own foaming handwash + oil roller between hearing about what’s on the horizon for Now beauty products and the benefits of natural products when it comes to your skin.
Behind the Scenes: Touring the Now Foods Production Plan
Ben spent the three years working at a manufacturing plant in Ohio where I never saw his workspace. When he came home, I’d spend my evening hearing about production lines and safety checks so it was really fun for me to get a closer look at a (much larger) manufacturing facility.
We had a full access tour to Now Food’s largest production plant and some detailed explanations about what goes on to get products ready for the shelves.
A few things I was impressed with during the tour:
- Women! The first thing I noticed as we toured laboratories was the number of women in white lab coats behind the glass.
- Standard for quality: It is a RIGOROUS process to test products to ensure they’re up to the safety and quality standards of Now Foods. We got to see how the products were made on the first floor and then how the products from the batches are tested in the laboratories on the second to make sure they meet all the claims on the labels. It makes me feel confident about consuming/ using the products we came home with because I can trust what’s on the label is actually what’s in the bottle.
^The NOW Foods CEO met with us a few different times during the weekend and you really got a feel for the company culture as you watched him interact with the other employees
^all of us in our hair nets
^pretty sure Lincoln would have had a field day …and wanted to play on all the equipment
We spent lunch and some time afterward learning about NOW Foods’ lines for sports nutrition and women’s health. For someone with little experience taking vitamins and supplements, married to someone who has 4 different canisters of powders to take before or after workouts, it was really eye opening (and I’ll give Ben less of a hard time now).
I was most concerned with what I learned about food labels in the US and the decline in nutrition in the regular foods we eat. Did you know that an apple today actually has far less of key nutrients than apples just 40 years ago? And the FDA labels don’t accurately reflect these changes in nutritional makeup OR the recent studies about actual nutritional needs of the human body.
It has me convinced of a few things, considering a few others, and committed to learning more about all of it.
Things I’m Considering After My Visit:
- A multivitamin for everyone in the family: This is the most practical takeaway for me along with the simplest. Now I just need to order the daily vitamins for both kids and both adults so that our body has the basic nutrients it needs.
- Easing into cooking new things with a few new healthy products: We’re not going gluten free or vegan over here and I still planning on making chocolate chip cookies every week, but I’m excited to explore some new products and how they can make feeding my family just as easy but a bit more healthy.
- Pre + post workout nutrition: The gym has become a regular part of our daily routine over the last two years and I’m excited to start looking into things beyond protein shakes after a hard workout.
- Essential Oils: This one I actually started on this weekend. I plugged in my first diffuser and opened Now Food’s “Smiles for Miles” blend. I’m just dipping my toes into the world of essential oils + natural beauty and, if you’re interested, maybe I’ll share a bit more along our process.
I really loved that, after this weekend, I found a brand I can trust with a suite of products that cover everything from Lincoln’s toothpaste to Ben’s pre-workout. It means I don’t have to do 20 minutes of research each time I want to get a new product just to make sure it’s safe for our family and doing what it claims to. I also really loved those 9 uninterrupted hours of sleep.
NOW Foods sent me home with some awesome products I’ve been trying out over the last few weeks (and quite a few more that I haven’t even got to yet) and they’re going to send one of you THE SAME box filled with goodies. It’s over $500 worth of product and I’ve come up with a handful of ways for you to enter below!
Rafflecopter not working for you? Leave a comment letting me know something you struggle with in keeping yourself or your family healthy to enter: