Friday, October 16, 2015

FNCE 2015 Conference Recap

Learn what it is like to attend a Nutrition conference with this recap of my experiences at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo

Have you ever wondered what happens at a Nutrition conference?  I recently attended the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Nashville, which attracted nearly 10,000 other Registered Dietitians and students.  This was not my first year at the conference (check out my posts from the 2012 and 2014).  In fact, this conference holds a special place in my heart - Last year my son was born only two days after the conference ended.  The conference happened to be local, which allowed me to attend at 38 weeks pregnant.

This year the 5-day conference felt like a whirlwind!  It was jammed packed with networking events, training sessions, new product tastings, lectures, and sponsored dinners.  Days started at sunrise and went late into the night.  But no complaints here - every minute was so worth it!

Sponsored Events
So much that goes on at FNCE centers around food!  Several food companies and commodity boards offered sponsored meals and receptions by invite only. I was thrilled to be invited to a few of them.  It was lots of fun to see how they incorporated their food products throughout the menu!

On Saturday, I attended a pre-conference luncheon hosted by The National Fisheries Institute at Watermark restaurant.  The 3-course meal started with a Tuna and Orzo Salad & Grit Souffle and ended with a Black Forest Chocolate Cake.  Needless to say it was all delicious, but I am still wondering why they didn't try and figure out how to incorporate fish into the dessert (I know, I know).

During the meal, we had the privilege of listening to short presentations from Dr. Nick V.C Ralston and Registered Dietitian, Elizabeth Ward.  They both discussed the importance of consuming at least 8-12 ounces (or 2-3 servings) of a variety of fish per week.  Did you know that this recommendation even applies to breastfeeding women and nursing mothers?  Recent studies suggest fish intake during pregnancy can lead to greater IQ scores later in the child's life.

Look at the fun twitter wall feed they had going above the speakers!  It was fun to see my tweets live in action! For more highlights from the event check out #DishOnFish (via Twitter).

Saturday night I was greeted with a creative variety of avocado dishes at the Hass Avocado Board reception.  The reception included an avocado martini (pictured above), avocado ceviche, turkey burger with avocado spread, and chocolate avocado pudding.  I was already a lover of avocado, but these scrumptious items taught me news ways to enjoy my green friend.

When I think of an avocados' health benefits I automatically think heart-healthy fats, but on Saturday night I was reminded of the fiber content (one avocado contains approximately 10 g fiber).  I also expanded my knowledge on the proper storage of a ripe avocado. Once an avocado is ripe, it can be stored in the refrigerator for approximately 7 days.

Tasting New Products in the Expo Hall

If you have never been to FNCE, the Expo Hall can be quite overwhelming.  Hundreds of exhibitors fill the hall with samples of food products and promote nutrition services.  For a successful trip to the exhibit hall make sure to bring an appetite!

All three days the expo hall was open, I visited the Kellogg's cereal creation stand for one of these original cereal bowls.  My favorite was the Bran flakes + Greek yogurt + Avocado + cayenne pepper! I also enjoyed a variety with shredded wheat and peaches.

Aren't these Dole "Take Away" salad boxes for one such a great idea?! The box is filled with the prewashed ingredients to make a complete salad, including lettuce, whole grains, and a dressing or salsa to drizzle on top.  The box serves multi-purposes including as a bowl for the salad.  Two of the salad kits even include diced chicken for a protein source (you could add canned fish to the other two).

I actually stumbled across the Organic Valley protein shakes last year at the conference in Atlanta, when I was pregnant and craving ANYTHING chocolate.  A year later and I am still in love. What is not to love about drinking a delicious chocolate milk loaded with protein?! The protein supplements do not require refrigeration until they have been opened (and the products are lactose-free).

While passing by the Flatout Bread booth, I was happy to find these creative flat bread options.  There are numerous pizza and flatbread recipes available now, but these were some combinations that were new to me.  One of the unique sweet flatbreads was made by spreading an apple jam and topping with apple slices, blueberries, and granola.  

A few other trends observed not pictured:
  • Companies continue to create water enhancers sweetened with Stevia and other low-calorie sweetener. Specifically one I stumbled on was SweetLeaf Water Drops
  • Sprouted Grain products are going well beyond bread - I spotted sprouted rice by Lundberg and  sprouted grain cereal by Kashi.  
  • Products made with Non-Genetically Modified Organisms and Gluten Free ingredients are only on the rise. It seemed like at least 50% of the products I sampled were advertising these benefits, especially the protein bars and shakes.
  • Probiotics are not just offered in powders or part of yogurt anymore.  A company called Go Live introduced a Probiotic Water or flavor packets containing probiotics in several flavors.
  • Coconut water is now available in a variety of flavors with added protein. Coco Libre sampled coconut water in flavors such as chocolate, coffee, and vanilla. Each boxed water offered 20 grams of protein.
Education Sessions:
I did manage to attend a few educational sessions in between everything else going on at FNCE.  The sessions varied in topics from women's health to blogging.
Below are a few bits of knowledge I gained from the sessions:

  • Pregnant woman with no known food allergies should not avoid common food allergens.  There is no scientific evidence to support exposure of common food allergens to the fetus will lead to a food allergy in the child later in life.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should be eating fish.  Research suggests they are not eating enough (21% don't eat any), yet benefits like higher IQ scores in the children have been reported. (Yes I went to another session about Fish!)
  • Protein intake should be evenly spread throughout all meals for ideal muscle maintenance. 
  • Explore podcasting and self-publishing your own book - these are ways to create or expand on your brand.  
  • Search Engine Optimization is a key component to growing your blog - make sure to name blog post, pictures, and URL accordingly for improved search results.
Networking with other Registered Dietitians
And lastly I got to network with some old friends and meet new ones!

After the opening session of the conference, one of my friends and I attended the Weber Shandwick reception for Registered Dietitians in the media.  I am fairly certain if you are Registered Dietitian working in media this was the place to be!

On Sunday (one of the days I started at sunrise), I ended the evening at a networking reception at the WildHorse Saloon held by the Weight Management DPG .  Pictured above are some of the fabulous ladies also part of the group. I am thankful for the connections this group has led to and the friendships that have formed.  

I ended the conference on a double date with Elvis, ok not really. I did attend the Kids Eat Right Foundation Gala where an Elvis impersonator happen to be.  The evening included networking, gourmet food, and dancing.   

Of course lots of other networking moments and events happened, but these were just a few of the picture-worthy events! 

And folks that is what it is like attending a nutrition conference.  Unfortunately, I did not get much time to spend exploring this great city....

Your family's Dietitian,



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