Adventures in Florida Citrus

Good morning from my second home, an airplane! 😉 I’m on my way back to DC from Florida after a quick press trip. I miss the palm trees already!

Random sidenote: at the airport this morning I rocked this sweet standing desk I set up for myself using my suitcase. 😉 I know, I’m totally a genius. Why hadn’t I thought to do this before?! Nice to stand a little before sitting cramped on the plane!

I spent the past couple days down in Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida on a press trip with a small group of dietitians to check out Tropicana’s orange groves! How fun – we had beautiful weather for the occasion. Thank you to Tropicana for having me!

Hot tip: if you cut off the top of an orange and make a small hole, it becomes nature’s juice box! Wouldn’t this be an awesome thing to try with kids? (Or adults – we loved it too!)

I arrived in Sarasota on Wednesday evening in time for dinner with the group. It’s always fun to connect with fellow dietitians, and we were treated to a gorgeous dinner at the Ritz Beach Club on Lido Key in Sarasota. Check out the view – stunning.

The dietitians on the trip with me were:

  • Alex Caspero, RD
  • Janice Bissex, MS, RD
  • Julie Przybyla, MS, RD, LN
  • Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, CDN
  • Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD
  • Frances Largeman-Roth, RD
  • Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSD, LDN

It was great to see some familiar faces and to meet some new ones, too!

We started with some great salads before moving on to a fish course and crème brulee. All was delicious!

My dietitian friend and Joyful Eating Program collaborator Alex was on the trip, which was a lot of fun. We decided to motivate each other to get up for a quick run both mornings of the trip, which was awesome. We had to be ready to leave the hotel for the day by 7:30 yesterday and 7 today so we met up super early both mornings and got in a nice 30 minute chatty jaunt. It was so calm and pretty out at that hour – and thankfully well lit, too! Nice to not be running in the hot Florida sun, too.

The sun was just beginning to brighten the sky on our way back. Beautiful!

As always, getting up early sucks but once I’m out there I’m SO glad. Thanks for the miles and motivation, Alex! 🙂 Would definitely not have done that alone.

We spent the rest of yesterday learning more about Florida oranges! Tropicana’s orange juice is made 100% from Florida oranges – a mix of Hamlin and Valencia varieties. Fun facts:

  • 1 tree makes 12 gallons of juice per year
  • 250 oranges = 6 gallons of juice
  • Oranges have to be picked at peak ripeness, because unlike other fruits they don’t continue to ripen once off the tree
  • As an orange ripens, it gets sweeter and less acidic, so it has to be picked at just the right time! There’s a lot of science involved in testing the juice to make sure it’s just the right mixture of acidity and sweetness.

Also: Florida oranges are picked entirely by hand – wow! The ladder in the picture below was one of the workers – he was hustling hard!

Once the oranges are off the trees trucks take them to the plant for processing – they are usually picked and processed within 24 hours. Their facility can process 48 million oranges in just one day, and their juice extractors can squeeze 34,000 oranges every minute. Crazy! Also cool: once the oranges are sliced and squeezed, the peels are used for cattle feed. Glad to hear they aren’t wasted!

We spent the afternoon with some of Tropicana’s dietitians and a woman from the Florida Department of Citrus learning more about the nutrition benefits of 100% orange juice. An 8 ounce glass provides:

  • A full day’s supply of vitamin C
  • As much potassium as a banana
  • A good source of folic acid (important for pregnant women in particular)
  • Two servings of fruit

Nice! I grew up drinking orange juice, and, with the exception of a few years during college thanks to getting a bit too enthusiastic one night with screwdrivers, I’ve always been a fan. Nowadays I don’t drink it on its own as often (Matt does, though – he loves OJ so we usually have it in the fridge), although I do occasionally enjoy it as an afternoon snack with some nuts (for protein/healthy fat!), but I love using it in recipes.

Orange juice makes an awesome meat marinade (the acidity helps to tenderize the meat – see also 8 Easy Chicken or Tofu Marinades and Orange Lemon Chicken recipe) and it’s also great in dressings (I sometimes use it in place of lemon juice in my balsamic vinaigrette), and smoothies (see also: my Hangover Busting Smoothie recipe). It’s also an excellent form of hydration (if watered down/mixed with a little salt) for endurance athletes. Check out my Homemade Citrus Sport Drink Recipe.

The official portion of the trip finished yesterday afternoon and we were back at the hotel by 4, so Alex and I took advantage and hit the pool. 🙂 It was beautiful out!

As for dinner last night, Alex and I were joined by San Diego dietitian Wendy Bazilian for a fun dinner in town. We were the only 3 staying overnight and it was nice to have a little more quality time together! We both really enjoyed meeting Wendy and talking all things nutrition.

The three of us hit up a Spanish restaurant about a half mile walk from our hotel called Selva that came highly recommended on Yelp. If you’re ever in Sarasota, check out this restaurant – it was amazing and had a nice ambiance/vibe, too. We were excited to be able to snag a table outside!

We took my favorite approach to dinner, which is to order a bunch of small plates and share everything. We tried a few of their ceviches, plus their crab cake (a creative deconstructed take that was so good), an amazing seared tuna, and more. It was DELICIOUS – we were all raving about it. Great variety of flavors and everything was really fresh! Pretty presentation, too.

It was a great end to a fun quick trip! I land in DC at noon and it will be nice to be home and have time to catch up on work and emails. Looking forward to what looks like a nice weather weekend, too!

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!

Are you an orange juice fan? Do you drink it straight or use it in recipes? Any fave recipes to share?

Weekend reading:

  • Eat –> Peanut Butter Baked Steel Cut Oatmeal // Pesto Kale Pasta Salad // Avocado Lentil Tacos // Healthy Strawberry Rhubarb Bread
  • Think –> Am I Doing This Because I Love My Body or Hate My Body? // How to Take a Break From Working Out Without Going Crazy // Eating Disorder Talk // Let’s Talk About Fat, For Real
  • Run –> Run the Chicago or NYC Marathon with Team Healthy Kids

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