Food & Fitness After 50: Wading through a Sea of Foods and New Products

The annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition, known as FNCE, is the largest gathering of food and nutrition professionals in the world and an event I’ve attended for over 30 years. Each fall we gather in a different city that has a convention center big enough to hold the 10,000+ dietitians who descend on the city. This year, Washington DC was the venue and perfect fall weather was on the menu for the 4-day conference.

mount-vernon-may-2013-shenk-5110-2-webThere were plenty of evening receptions with good food, drink, old and new friends, hundreds of educational sessions, culinary demonstrations, and thousands of exhibitors. I also took a pre-conference tour of George Washington’s Gristmill and Distillery, thanks to the Distilled Spirits Council and learned that Mr. Washington began making rye whiskey in 1797, when his Scottish farm manager knew what to do with excess grain, a gristmill, and a good water supply. I’ll be writing more about alcohol and how aging changes how we metabolize alcohol in a future post, so watch for that.

It wasn’t all fun and food, I attended several educational sessions that inspired me, so more to come on these topics in future posts.

  • Dietary nitrate and what it can do to help lower your blood pressure
  • Dispelling the myths about monosodium glutamate (MSG) and how using MSG in home cooking can help you reduce sodium intake.
  • Importance of weight maintenance and that excess body fat is lipotoxic.
  • Pros and cons of nutrient supplements as we age.

But, today I want to focus on the new trends emerging from the exhibit hall floor, the good and the wacky!

  • Kudos to those exhibitors who paired with charities to raise awareness and money by designing clever campaigns that made me smile. The first was the National Peanut Board who for a small donation gave “Peanut Envy” t-shirts for Peanut Butter for the Hungry charitable organization. soccerkid
  • And, another great campaign by the Tomato Wellness Council who sell “Legalize Marinara” T-shirts. The goal is to raise money for the Movember Foundation to support men’s health and awareness of prostate cancer. You can order the shirts and other merchandise at this link.t shirt
  • I always enjoy seeing the “nuts” as exhibitors…from the International Tree Nut Council, to the Almond Board of California, and California Walnut Commission…handing out healthy snacks and delivering tasty recipes. The first recipe I tried when I got home was Pistachio Coconut Crusted Chicken Tenders and it was a keeper! (Recipe follows this post).
  • Gut health was a big focus and new products with prebiotics, fiber, and probiotics….all three needed for a healthy gut, was found in Kellogg’s new cereal, Happy Inside. It was tasty and I loved getting the sneak peek at a product that consumers will be asking about.
  • A clever way to showcase processed meats (they get a bad rap, but what meat-eating person doesn’t love a good deli sandwich occasionally?) was Beefshi, a take on sushi using beef, like pastrami, corned beef, or bologna. Check out this video on making Beefshi Rueben Rolls.
  • There were a few misses on the exhibit floor, at least for me. The plant-based “milk” craze went a little too far with banana milk. The sales person told me it was great for making banana bread and I responded that I used bananas to make banana bread, no banana milk needed. (My favorite banana bread recipe comes from the California Walnuts website.)
  • Then there was the protein-packed cookie and my question is why do we have to pack protein into everything? If I want protein, I won’t get it from a cookie. I’ll pass on that one. And, then my strangest conversation was with someone selling sprouted bread….I asked what makes sprouted bread healthy and he said because the “bran reunites in the stomach during photosynthesis.” Say what????

Already looking forward to next year’s meeting in Philadelphia!

Wonderful PIstachios Coconut Crusted Chicken (1)Wonderful Pistachios Coconut Crusted Chicken (recipe and photo courtesy of Wonderful Pistachios)


1 pound chicken tenders

1 cup Wonderful pistachios no-shells

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a blender or food processor, pulse the pistachios a few times, until ground into a coarse powder. Add the Parmesan cheese, thyme, rosemary and pulse again until it is finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a plate.

In a bowl, mix the coconut flour and pepper. In another bowl, beat the eggs.

Dip the chicken tenders in the flour and roll to coat. Dip the chicken in the eggs, shaking off any excess. Roll in the pistachio-Parmesan mixture and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with all of the chicken.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping once about half way through, until browned and cooked through.

Serves 4