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FNCE Recap

Last week, I had the chance to travel to Nashville and attend the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE). Basically, it's the national dietitian conference put on by our professional organization, the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. It's always a great time of learning, inspiration, and stuffing your face :)

I thought that I'd share a few highlights of my time, from the networking events and continuing education learning to the trends I saw on the Expo floor.

You may have seen this up on Instagram. I'm super serious about bone health. Do you know about non-dairy options for strong bones?

You may have seen this up on Instagram. I'm super serious about bone health. Do you know about non-dairy options for strong bones?

Networking

First of all, I went to FNCE solo this year, which is not my preferred way to do things. I like having a wing-[wo]man. I'm a shy extrovert, meaning I love having conversations and connecting with people, but I have a hard time breaking into large groups of people that I don't know. I also am totally overwhelmed by a room full of women. Spoiler alert, most dietitians are women.

The first networking event that I got to attend was with dietitians who are entrepreneurs and those in business (think: private practice, communications/PR, authors, speakers). Basically, all of the "famous" dietitians fall into this category. I walked around, noticing all of these amazing women that I follow on social media, whose careers I admire from afar. I got star struck and felt like a moron. Looking back, it's pretty hilarious, but it wasn't in the moment. I literally couldn't think of what I would say to someone after "hi". Guys, I am better than this! I chose not to embarrass myself, and stuck to small talk with a few new friends.

Mostly, I share this story because I think that most of us have been there. Maybe you're one of those really amazingly confident people, and never second guess your choices or your value. If so, call me, I need to learn from you. But more likely than not, you've found yourself in a situation where you felt alone, silly, awkward, or like an under-achiever. Fear not, my friend, you are not alone. But don't stay there! It took me a little bit, but I pushed out of my funk and made some new friends. Persevere!

Another really cool opportunity that I had was to meet up with Monica Mo, the founder of WellSeek. They've created an app to connect people to dietitians - inspiring people to take the steps toward a healthier life. They are looking for more experts (dietitians) to join them. Check it out. We met up with a small group of interested dietitians at Nashville's first juice bar, aptly named Juice. For more on the cold-pressed juice trend, check out my blog post from earlier this year.

I left Juice with an extra dose of nutrition to get me through my afternoon sessions. So refreshing!

I left Juice with an extra dose of nutrition to get me through my afternoon sessions. So refreshing!

I connected with other Illinois dietitians, some old friends from Dallas, dietitians in wellness, and had plenty of random conversations with new friends throughout the event. Dietitians are some of the friendliest, and most encouraging people I know. {Side note: I realize this makes my story from above seem even sillier. Sigh.}

Education/Inspiration

I love learning. The continuing education time is some of my favorite. I won't bore you with all the details, but I'll highlight a few of my favorite things here:

  • Melissa Joy Dobbins gave a fantastic talk about reclaiming the spotlight - how dietitians can exert themselves as the nutrition experts in the media (instead of the random food blogger or no-background-in-nutrition doctors or celebrities). I've talked about Melissa's podcast before in a post about protein. A friendly reminder to check it out, if you haven't already.
  • Anne Mauney and Regan Jones spoke about optimizing your online presence, focusing on Google Analytics and SEO. This is a world that can easily overwhelm me, and they gave really practical steps to take. So helpful!
  • Doug Rauch, the former CEO of Trader Joe's, spoke about addressing the problem of hunger through innovation. Daily Table is located in Boston, and helps provide dignity and health to those struggling with hunger. Really inspirational stuff. And a great reminder that the issues are so much more complicated than we ever imagined, and the solutions require skills and creativity. Loved hearing from him.

Expo/Trends

Did you see the news that Coca-Cola is no longer providing any sponsorship dollars to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics? This, after the bad PR from the Kids Eat Right logo being put on Kraft singles. The issues of sponsorship are more complicated than they first seem. Food companies rely on registered dietitians to understand how they can make their products healthier, and to understand what the public is requesting. Dietitians need to know what the options are out there. Not everyone is following a "clean eating", organic, all-natural, preservative-free, food police-approved diet. Our job as dietitians is to help people take REALISTIC steps towards a healthier life. For most people, that means some reliance on convenience foods, fast food, or "better for you" options. We need to know what those options are, not just what the "ideal" situation is.

My point is that the Academy has faced a lot of criticism. And I noticed a difference at this year's expo. There were significantly less foods that I would deem questionable. Pepsico was still a sponsor. And I'm not going to encourage Pepsi, but that isn't the only product Pepsico makes! I'm sure going to talk to my endurance athletes about using Gatorade as part of their training.

Other trends:

  • Electronic pulse massages. These portable devices provide electrical stimulation to help increase circulation and provide pain relief. ePulse was one of the brands that I tried. It was a little bit of an odd sensation. But if you get (or need) massages regularly, this is worth it.
  • Holistic health. Including the above, I saw many booths that focused on health from different angles - exercise, sleep, mental and emotional health. One company I liked was fitlosophy. They have a product called fitbook, a real pen and paper journal to help you meet your health goals.
  • Convenience. Not just in snacking (I saw tons of bars, protein powders, dips and spreads, yogurt, popcorn, and veggie chips), but also in meal prep and ways to make healthy more convenient. One of these companies is gathered table. They help you create a meal plan, including grocery lists. Best part? If you live in Chicago, they integrate with Peapod. Meaning once your shopping list is created, you can get it automatically sent to Peapod and schedule delivery. No extra steps. Who said healthy was hard??

Overall, the conference was great. I can't wait for Boston next year. Anyone else get a chance to go? What were your highlights?