Food & Fitness After 50: My Favorites from Philadelphia’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo

Every fall about 10,000 dietitians get together for 4 days of education, networking, and fun. The meeting is packed with workshops, breakfast briefings, committee meetings, education sessions, culinary demos, receptions, and hundreds of exhibitor booths. For me, the meeting is more about networking, connecting with old friends, and meeting new ones. While I enjoy the education sessions, I get more science from the specialized workshops than from the general sessions. However, the general sessions help me understand what health professionals are concerned about and what their patients or clients are asking about.

While it is hard to pick favorites, here my highlights from 2019.

My favorite workshop was sponsored by The Beneo Institute on the gut microbiome. Canadian researchers presented data on the progressive loss of diversity of gut microbiota when low fiber diets are consumed. And, Canadians and Americans are woefully short of dietary fiber in their diets. Fiber is not only needed for regularity but maybe more importantly as a source of food for our gut bacteria. We’ve talked about probiotics in previous posts but prebiotics…the food source for gut bacteria is taking on greater interest. One well-studied prebiotic fiber is chicory root fiber or inulin, used as an ingredient in some yogurts, bars, and cereals to boost fiber. And, because chicory root fiber is slightly sweet, it can lower sugar content at the same time as increasing fiber. The workshop concluded with a demonstration of the challenges of adding fiber to our favorite foods (some fibers form gels when mixed with water that would change the texture and palatability of foods) and ended with a taste test of muffins made with chicory root fiber to demonstrate the ability to increase fiber and while decreasing sugar. You might read in the popular press that chicory root fiber or inulin should be avoided because it can cause bloating and gas. Anytime you eat a lot of fiber, especially if your diet is low in fiber, you can experience gas and bloating. That is why dietitians always tell patients and consumers to gradually increase fiber intake. Gradually increasing fiber, including prebiotic fibers, is good for the gut and good for health.

My favorite educational session was “Redefining Aging and Embracing Longevity.” The speaker, Brenda Richardson, is a superstar dietitian in long-term care. Her lecture started with a series of videos on ageism and if you can have a few minutes, watch this video from Australia on how ageism affects us all. “We are not at risk for aging, we are aging,” was a central message. She shared some useful resources on reframing aging initiatives and the Frameworks Academy, offering a free course on communications and aging.

protein noodlesMy favorite new product bite in the exhibit hall was courtesy of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, tasting Trident Seafoods Wild Alaska Pollock noodles; these noodles are fully cooked and have 10 grams of protein per serving. I’m ready to try them in my favorite Pad Thai.



Pistachio crusted chicken with lemony greens

My favorite new recipes from sponsor receptions are included below. As I have said before, I don’t develop recipes, but I love trying new ones. Pistachio Baked Herb Chicken with Lemon Baby Greens, from Wonderful Pistachios, is absolutely mouth-watering! The recipe isn’t online but here’s a picture of the recipe and email me at if you want me to send the recipe. I made this dish when my brother-in-law was in town and it will be in regular rotation of recipes in my house.

Another recipe is from General Mills. Mini chocolate peanut butter bites, a sweet treat, but with the small portions, the calories are kept in check (but, it is so good you might be tempted to eat two or three!) I made a batch to take to a neighborhood cookout tonight but I should have tripled the recipe as they were gone in flash! mini-chocolate-peanut-butter-bites

My favorite reception? Well, that is easy and while I’m not one to brag, my friend and business partner, Stephen McCauley of The Ginger Network hosted a soiree in my honor for receiving the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Medallion Award for lifetime achievement. The reception was held on the 59th floor of The Four Seasons Hotel and the views, the food, the friends were all fantastic! We always say that Stephen knows how to “ginger things up,” and he more than gingered up this event. He even made medallion stickers for everyone to wear! I’ve been a dietitian and an involved volunteer in my professional organization for 45 years. To be honored by one’s peers and celebrated by one’s friends is humbling, exciting, and made this meeting the most special one yet!