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


Food & Fitness After 50: Attention Grandparents! Permission to Meddle in your Newborn Grandchild’s Feeding!

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me clarify. The permission to meddle is really a call to inform and educate your grandbaby’s mom or dad (i.e., your son, daughter, or daughter-in-law) about the early introduction of peanuts to reduce the incidence of peanut allergy.

A Real-World Detective Story

The history of introducing peanut foods in infants 4 to 6 months of age is as good as any osem-bamba-peanut-snack-e1364930961220detective story. Pediatricians in the U.K. noticed that peanut allergy was on the rise in Western countries. The prevalence of peanut allergy in children had doubled in the past ten years. It develops early in life and is rarely outgrown. And, as you probably know, it can be life-threatening. Here’s where the sleuthing comes in; the doctors noted that the risk of developing peanut allergy was ten times as high in Jewish children in the U.K. as it was in Jewish children in Israel. Israeli kids are given peanut-based foods early in life (like the peanut snack food, Bamba), whereas infants in the U.K. (and the U.S.) are not exposed to peanut foods until much later. What if early introduction to peanuts protected kids from developing an allergy?

Taking the LEAP

Thus, was born the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy Trial or LEAP. (The link takes you to the original study published in the New England Journal of Medicine; within this link is a short video that explains the study, so if you are interested, it is worth a click). The researchers studied two groups of infants; one group was at low risk of developing a peanut allergy, based on skin prick testing. In this group, almost 14% of infants who were not given peanuts developed an allergy, compared to less than 2% in the group that got peanuts. Another group of infants, determined to be a higher risk of developing allergies based on testing, had similar results. Thirty-five percent of the high-risk infants who did not get peanuts developed peanut allergy, compared to 10% in the group that got peanuts.

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports early introduction of peanuts

Currently, over a dozen international and national health organizations have developed consensus statements about preventing peanut allergy with early introduction. This includes the American Academy of Pediatrics and for more information, check out their Healthy Children website.

Tips to get started

protein powderSo, how do peanuts get introduced to infants? First, most babies fall into a low risk category, but if the infant has an egg allergy or severe eczema, talk to your pediatrician about the best way to introduce peanuts. For all others, which includes most babies, introduce peanut foods around 6 months of age, after they begin eating solid foods. Here are some tips to introduce peanut foods to the little peanuts!

  • Thin 2 teaspoons of peanut butter with a few teaspoons of hot water. Let it cool down before serving.
  • Stir in 2 teaspoons of powdered peanut butter into 2 Tablespoons of a food the baby has previously tolerated, like pureed fruit or veggies.
  • Blend 2 teaspoons of peanut butter into 2-3 Tablespoons of foods such as infant cereal, applesauce, yogurt, pureed chicken, or other foods the baby is tolerating.

Older infants who are teething might like a homemade peanut butter teething biscuit, a recipe from the National Peanut Board. And, of course, never give whole peanuts to kids under the age of 5 years or let them suck a lump of peanut butter off of a spoon.

Peanut butter teething biscuit (from National Peanut Board)

For more great tips and recipes, check out the information from the National Peanut Board.

And, for my last tip for grandparents, don’t meddle in feeding practices of your grandchildren once you tell your adult children about the peanut allergy thing!

Disclosure: I received a packet of information, including the peanut powder shown in this post, from the National Peanut Board, as an educational tool sent to registered dietitians. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I compensated to do so. I am gifting the contents of the package to my nephew and niece-in-law to help them introduce peanut foods to their new twin baby girls! I heard the researcher of the LEAP study present his data at a conference a couple of years ago and was fascinated by the research, so I am happy to have the opportunity to pass it along my newest great nieces!

For more information to keep yourself eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon.