“Eating well” and “living green” are the buzz words that appear just about everywhere people are trying to flog their new product, service or living concept these days, whether or not the product is actually good for your health or the environment.

At the 2010 edition of the Montreal Eat Well and Living Green Expo held at Palais des Congrès March 19-21, those words abounded at almost every kiosk for as far as the eye could see. The question really was however, just how good were some of these items for your health and how exactly was the product better for the environment?

Granted, the show will rent out exposition space to just about anyone who is willing to pay the fee and set up shop and visitors have only the words to go on that the purveyor gives and that is on the packaging so it really is a case of buyer beware.

While the Nation team – consisting of editor-in-chief Will Nicholls and myself – makes it a point to hit the show annually to highlight the best for our readers in the north, we were not impressed with everything we saw. At the same time however, we will admit that we did find some particularly interesting and tasty products.

The first thing that stood out was the staggering amount of chocolate being sold at what seemed like every third or fourth booth. Halfway through the show, after trying at least 10 different varieties of either all natural or organic or fair-traded chocolate products, we both looked at each other and sighed as we felt that the expo was saturated by people trying to push their sweet samples. At the same time we agreed that this was a little disturbing and inappropriate as anyone of our diabetic friends or relatives would have most likely needed some extra insulin to get through the show’s many aisles.

While there were a handful of products that were ideal when it came to “green living”, the show seemed to lack the amount of natural cleaning products, composting aids, local organic producers, and books related to all of these subjects that were well-respresented at shows in previous years.

With that said, here are the products that managed to turn our heads, tempt our taste buds and inspired us to live better (or not):

The first product that managed to get our attention was the display set up for Tribal Emotion energy drinks. While this product is not on the market yet, it boasts similar ingredients to many of the available drinks of that nature and essentially tasted like discount cola. Nicholls was however intrigued because he found that the product name was so amusing to him. Sure it bragged that each can contained five “plant tonics”, six essential oils and an alarming amount of caffeine but what that had to do with any tribe was beyond both of us. For more info: tribalemotion.com/accueil.php

These kinds of shows always feature a wide variety of supplements, vitamins and substances that can be added to smoothies to enhance their nutritional value. While there were many on hand who were flogging different varieties of “greens” products, we were somehow drawn to the Amazing Grass table.

“Amazing Grass is an easy and convenient way to get natural green leafy nutrition in your diet so on days when you haven’t had enough servings of veggies, this is an easy, concentrated and convenient way to do so,” said Brandon Bert from Amazing Grass.

While the wheat-grass drink, mixed with juice, wasn’t exactly the best thing we had tasted all day, it was incredibly healthy and even felt good to drink. Amazing Grass is on its way to becoming available in a wide variety of health-food stores in Quebec. For more info: www.amazinggrass.com

This year there only seemed to be one clothing vendor on hand at the show, but thankfully Ecocentrik Apparel had a lot to offer.

“We sell all organic or recycled products, mainly from Quebec; we like to give preference to local companies. All of our clothing is 100% organic, we have a selection of accessories that were all handmade in Montreal by local artisans with all recycled materials. We offer clothing and accessories for men, women and children,” said Patsy Clark from Ecocentrik Apparel.

This web-based company had a wide variety of adorable and playful baby clothes, washable organic diapers, children’s garments and stuff for the whole family on display. Ideal for the eco-conscious family, these products also make great gifts and are available online only at www.ecocentrikapparel.com

Veering over to the A. Vogel kiosk, the nationwide chain of health-food and natural-product stores, busy employees were showing off their latest products that have become available in their stores. What piqued our interest in particular were their “Le Fruit” fruit spreads. Available in apricot, blueberry, blackberry, orange, strawberry and raspberry varieties, not only did we find these products very flavourful and something that we would consider purchasing, but they were also all natural, sweetened with fruit juices and contained no sugar, preservatives or colouring agents. For more info: www.avogel.ca

Because there is nothing like a warm cup of soup on a cold, wet day, we were delighted to sample Massawippi miso soups. While miso, a Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans and barley or rice malt, is a dietary staple in Japan, it is not everyday fare in Canada. What is little known about it, according to Chantal from Miso Massawippi, is that it can help those with mild food allergies digest some of the foods they are intolerant to.

“There are people who are allergic or intolerant to some foods, but I am not talking about major allergies where they have to go to the hospital. What you can do is take some miso, because it is a live food product that contains friendly bacteria and enzymes, and mix it with the foods and the enzymes will help break down the molecules. Say with milk, you have the lactose and the sugar and this will help them digest it. It will help to create smaller molecules,” she said.

The folks at Massawippi, an Eastern Townships-based company, also said that their product was better than most on the market because it is longer fermented, organic and oxygenated to improve the quality of the seasoning.

While neither of us was sure about the product’s medicinal claims, we both agreed that the varieties of soup we tried at their kiosks were quite scrumptious and would purchase them if we were to see them again in a store. For more info: alimentsmassawippi.com

Over at the Purest Foods table, Rob Duncan was happy to provide us with samples of the company’s line of brownies that are made from the packaged premixes sold on their websites. While these brownies did contain cane sugar, what made them appealing was what they didn’t contain.

“Our entire line of products are gluten free, yeast free, corn free, lactose free, dairy free, whey free, carrageenan free, and contain no artificial sweeteners, colours or flavours,” said Duncan.

Featuring an entire line of pancake mixes, food batters, gravy thickeners and desert mixes, these products are ideal for people who are intolerant or allergic to certain substances. For more info: www.purestnaturalproducts.com

One of our favourite finds of the day had to be Sunland’s Thai ginger and red pepper Valencia peanut butter. Though Sunland was showcasing five different flavoured organic peanut butters, our Asian-inspired pick was just right for all of the peanut sauces and salad dressings we envisioned ourselves making with this product. Rich and sweet due to the sweet nature of the Valencia peanut, we immediately shelled out the $5 for the jar though we were almost as convinced to buy their onion-parsley, vanilla-current, dark chocolate or caramel flavours which were all equally delightful, healthy and low in sugar. For more info: www.sunlandinc.com

Le Commensal, Quebec’s premier chain of vegetarian restaurants and grocery-store products, were showcasing their latest product to hit store shelves, their new line of vinaigrettes. Featuring five unique flavours, Nicholls and I sampled several varieties and were quite impressed.

Nicholls tried the Mustard & Rosemary, which he liked and envisioned using it for a chicken recipe as these vinaigrettes are quite versatile. Just because they are from a vegetarian gourmet restaurant, it doesn’t mean that the products could not be used in preparing meats or anything that does not fall under the category of vegetarian gourmet. We also sampled the Quebec-meets-Asia inspired maple syrup and goji fruit vinaigrette which was well paired mix of flavors. For more info: www.commensal.com

Being a lover of pestos and tapenades, a dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil, I was happy to see that Le Grand products had their own stand at the event. Available in most grocery stores, Le Grand produces a handful of traditional basil-style pestos, with and without nuts and cheese, spicy and mild olive-sun dried tomato pestos and now a new line of “aromatic” sauces. They had the lemon confit and pumpkin seed variety on site to taste and it was like a dream. Fragrant, crisp and tangy, this product would be ideal on pasta, chicken breast or fish. For more info: maisonlegrand.com

With life in the bush and his next hunting trip forever on his mind, what seemed to pique Nicholls’ interest the most were the City Snacks freeze-dried fruits.

“City Snacks are freeze-dried fruits that have a shelf life of 18 months and they are 100% natural, nothing has been added to them,” said Nick from CDS Brokers, the product’s distributors.

Available across Canada, this product is a mere few months away from being available in just about every grocery store in Quebec and is perfect to eat anywhere, anytime because it is all fruit and nothing else.

For anyone out there who looks to smudging in their spiritual pursuits but has found it difficult to deal with the heavy smoke that can come from burning traditional herbs, Earth Eagle Native Products had the perfect solution, smokeless incense.

Vincent Lévesque, a Huron from the Wendake reserve, was on hand to demonstrate the products. According to him, all of their sage, cedar, juniper and sweet grass are certifiably organic and produced with Native spirituality in mind.

“We prepare it the holistic way with chanting and we purify crystals with chants and native prayers it takes two and a half months to produce these incenses,” said Lévesque.

This Quebec-based company also distributes the actual herbs in packages for those that want to go the traditional route as well as books on Native spirituality and related First Nations spirituality products. For more info: www.eartheagle.com

After visiting a myriad of kiosks, departing with our bellies full and our heads swarming with new information and products, we are actually looking forward to going back next year.