FNCE 2014 Recap

As you know, I spent the weekend at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE)! FNCE is the big annual national conference for Registered Dietitians (and those in nutrition-related fields – you don’t have to be an RD to attend). It’s massive – over 10,000 food and nutrition professionals attend each year. In addition to a huge amount of educational sessions happening all day every day, there is also a large expo where companies/sponsors set up booths. The conference moves around every year; this year it was in Atlanta!

Like last year, I applied to attend the conference as media (basically, you either need to be on assignment or have a >6 month old blog that gets over 20,000 unique monthly visitors), so my registration fee was waived. Attending as press is nice because you get access to a press room and to the media briefings, too.

Outside of my registration fee, I was lucky enough to attend the conference this year on behalf of my friends at the California Strawberry Commission, who I’ve been doing an ongoing ambassadorship with this year. I <3 strawberries. A HUGE thank you to them for covering my hotel and food/travel expenses for this trip!

One of the greatest things about FNCE is all the awesome food samples in the expo. I mostly stayed in the natural/organic section (love that they have this so it’s easy to find all my faves) and in the California produce section. My strawberry friends had a strawberry toppings bar that made for a great afternoon snack – I ate some strawberries solo and topped some with goat cheese and/or mascarpone, too. Delicious! Love the savory/sweet combo.

In other snack news, have you tried the new-ish Larabar Renola? It’s awesome. And I discovered at KIND’s booth that they have come out with a new line of savory bars – I tried the BBQ one and it was delish. I’m getting super tired of only having sweet snack bar options! Speaking of interesting snacks, I was pleased to see my friends from Nourish Snacks there (I reviewed them awhile ago – love their stuff) with some new snack options! Their cinn-sational (dried apples and almonds) is my favorite, but they have a ton of good snacks out right now – love the roasted chickpeas. Celebrity RD Joy Bauer is the creative genius behind the brand – so cool to meet her! She was SUPER nice and my RD buddies Kristina, Jenna, and I had a lot of fun talking to her.

(My dress is from Stitch Fix, like the rest of my wardrobe at this point!
It’s here on my Stitch Fix Pinterest wish list if you want to repin it and ask your stylist for it – hopefully they still have it! So cute and comfy.)

Other expo favorites included: Organic Valley, the Wild Blueberry Association of North America (I couldn’t find their booth until they closed and was sad), the Hass Avocado Board, the Almond Board of California, Canadian Lentils, Wyman’s of Maine, and many more of the whole/real food organizations.

The other fun thing about the expo is running into friends! I loved seeing my buddies The Nutrition Twins:


And getting to hang out with my virtual intern and RD-to-be Jackie! Jackie has been working for me for over a year now and is doing an awesome job. I’m lucky to have her. 🙂 And we do indeed <3 Georgia peaches.

It was also great to hang out with my grad school buddies Elle, Libby, and Jen! We took a break from the conference on Sunday to get some lunch and fresh air. Beautiful day!

In terms of educational sessions, the most interesting one I attended was entitled “Identifying Dietary Migraine Triggers & Integrative Treatments,” led by Margaret Slavin, PhD, RD and Jan Patenaude, RD, CLT.

The session talked a lot about inflammation in the body as it relates to migraines. Diet-induced inflammation can come from things like food allergies (4-6% of the population), auto-immune diseases (3-5%), and food sensitivities (30-40%; different from intolerance).

To determine your food sensitivities, there are a variety of tests, with the MRT (mediator release test) being the one the presenters recommended with the accompanying LEAP diet. This is basically an elimination diet based on your MRT results, and they have seen significant improvement in their clients within 3 to 14 days. Pretty amazing! Everyone has different food sensitivities, but some of the common ones are food additives that can be found in many processed foods, like HVP, “natural flavor”, gelatin, MSG, autolyzed yeast, maltodextrin, citric acid, whey protein, soy protein, protease, carageenan, tannins, aspartame, dyes, sulfites, etc. It was interesting because, for example, if someone finds that wine is a migraine trigger for them, it’s a bit of trial and error to see what within that wine is actually the problem – is it the tannins? Or a color additive? The alcohol? Sulfites? Simply the stress that is causing you to drink the wine?

This is one of the reasons that it’s really important to avoid overly processed foods. They shared a great example of a client that got a plain grilled chicken sandwich at Chick Fil-A and was confused why it triggered her migraine. Well, look at all these ingredients! YIKES.

I’m not an expert in the area of food sensitivities (or migraines) at all, but it’s something I’d like to learn more about in the future!

On the fitness front of the trip, I was up super early both mornings to meet my friend Elle for hotel gym workouts. Getting up after later evenings involving wine was tough but I felt a million times better having gotten some movement in!

The first morning we did a Nike Training Club app workout (love that app), and the second day we tried a whole bunch of workouts from a cool app Elle had called Hot5. It’s all 5 minute workouts so you can mix and match! We were jumping all over the place and sweating buckets both days – pretty sure everyone else in the gym thought we were insane.

Thank you to Elle for getting me out of bed. So much easier when you have a partner in crime! 🙂

As for food, I had two fantastic meals out. The first one was on Saturday night at Canoe, courtesy of the California Strawberry Commission. Joining me and Jodi (from CA Strawberries) for the dinner were Toby Amidor, Robin Plotkin, Kristina LaRue, Regan Jones, Elle Penner, and Lisa Cain.

Canoe was a beautiful restaurant, and the food was excellent. We shared a big variety of appetizers to start:

For my main dish I had the salmon with spaghetti squash and sautéed spinach. I loved it! I would never have thought to pair spaghetti squash with salmon.

As for dessert, I enjoyed the poached pear. Yum!

Highly recommend Canoe if you are ever in Atlanta area and looking for a special occasion restaurant. Great service and wine, too! Thank you to the California Strawberry Commission for treating us!

On Sunday night, I was excited to be invited to a Hass Avocado Board sponsored dinner at White Oak Kitchen. Elle, Libby, and I arrived early because UNC hosted an MPH-RD program alumni (and current student) happy hour there! So great to see our classmates and one of our favorite former professors, and to meet some of the other UNC alumni in attendance. Sidenote – the restaurant had a pot of mulling spices on the stove when you walked in and it was AMAZING.

As for the avocado board dinner, it was fabulous! We started the evening learning a bit more about the science behind avocado’s awesomeness – those little guys are packed with healthy fat, as we know, and they found that including them at a meal/snack with fat soluble provitamin A rich foods (like carrots and tomatoes) significantly increased absorption of the provitamin and subsequent conversion to Vitamin A. Awesome!

We started with a snow crab claw salad with fennel-grapefruit salad, avocado vinaigrette, and a tomato sauce. Delicious!

For the main course, a grouper with wood grilled carrots, kale pesto and avocado mousse. My fish was MASSIVE (this photo doesn’t do it justice) so I didn’t finish it but it was delicious!

And for dessert, avocado panna cotta with candied grapefruit peel and herbed tupelo honey. Omg. I basically licked my plate clean.

Thank you to the Hass Avocado Board for the lovely dinner!

So there you have it – my 2014 FNCE recap. It was a crazy busy whirlwind but it’s always great to have the chance to network with friends and the like-minded companies in attendance. Thank you again to the California Strawberry Commission for sending me! Looking forward to next year’s conference already. 🙂

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