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


362 Exhibitors and So Little Time!

Every year I attend the Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and like a kid in a video game store, I love the exhibit hall. This year 362 exhibitors were doling out food and beverage samples in Houston and as I walked through the aisles of vendors I thought about what might appeal to the 50+ audience. So, here are some of my favorites that can help improve your health and taste great at the same time. (I have no financial interest nor have I done any consulting with these companies or products.)

The Mushroom Council, representing fresh mushroom producers or importers, was preparing samples of turkey-mushroom burgers. The smell drew me in but the taste made me a true believer. Paring mushrooms and meat to make healthier burgers, meatballs, tacos…or any recipe that calls for ground beef or turkey… can reduce the fat, sodium and calories of a dish while increasing vitamins, minerals and fiber. And, let’s not forget the cost. One study showed a 27% reduction in cost when using mushrooms for part of the ground meat. Recently, research sponsored by the Mushroom Council was highlighted on NPR at So, next time you are using ground meat in a favorite dish, finely chop mushrooms and mix into the meat and be prepared to be surprised at the flavor punch.

The Almond Board of California was handing out a dietitian’s favorite snack…a tin filled with natural whole almonds. The tin holds the “perfect portion” of 1-ounce or 23 almonds. Almonds make a great a snack for those of us 50+ as a serving has 6 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 35% of the daily value for vitamin E. A 2013 study from Purdue University with 137 participants who were given 1.5 ounces of almonds (about 35 whole almonds) every day for a snack showed that hunger levels were decreased, vitamin E and “good” fats were increased without weight gain. So, when the mid-morning or afternoon hunger hits, grab a handful of nutrient-rich almonds.

The Cherry Marketing Institute was serving refreshing tart cherry juice. While I don’t like the term “super food,” cherries are making a pitch for that title. Some studies using tart cherry juice (about 10-ounces a day) have shown anti-inflammatory effects in those with arthritis and gout. Athletes are getting in the cherry juice cheering section, too, as a recovery drink. Some college and professional athletes are drinking cherry juice after a hard workout or during injury rehab to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Cherry juice is a nutritious beverage that might be worth a try for active older adults who experience muscle soreness after a tough workout.

The Canola Info/Canola of Canada booth caught my eye because in Georgia I’ve noticed the beautiful fields of canola plants in the early spring. Fields of yellow flowering canola plants are quite a sight to see. Canola oil has the least saturated fat of all the oils (even olive oil) and it also contains alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3-fat, associated with fatty fish or flaxseed. It is about 60% oleic acid (the kind of fat in olive oil) and 21% polyunsaturated fat. All of those numbers give canola oil a heart healthy profile for those who want the lowest saturated fat oil and don’t always like the taste of olive oil.

Last, I was happy to see Flatout at the expo. I’ve been using these flatbreads as a bread substitute for about a year because they are higher in protein and fiber with half the calories of sliced bread. This Chicago-based company was sampling a new product, a rosemary and olive oil “fold it” flatbread. Great taste for 100 calories and I bought a package when I got home (found in the deli/bakery section of most grocery stores) and it will be a staple in my house. The flatbreads are also great for quick pizzas on a busy night…top with mushrooms, of course!

Can’t wait for next year’s expo to see what else I can taste…and enjoy!