For those of you who don't know what the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo AKA FNCE is, here's the TLDR: FNCE is basically the Super Bowl for Registered Dietitians around the world to learn the latest nutrition research, sample the food products that haven't hit the market yet and just all around have a good time networking with new and old RD colleagues/friends. Every year this massive conference and EXPO hosts well over 10,000 dietitians, dietetics students and nutrition professionals in a new city and with it brings new highlights and challenges.
New Product Trends from the EXPO floor
Plant based and grain free snacks are still quite popular. More than half of the samples I tried were touted as gluten free, in addition to being grain free. Pictured below are just a few of the product samples I brought back with me from FNCE that I really enjoyed, as well as them all being nut free (most are allergy friendly, being free of the top 8 allergens, too).
- The Chef's Cut Biltong is a South African style beef jerky that's air dried. I particularly loved the taste, in addition to the beef being cut across the grain, which lends to an easier eating experience where you don't have to chew and chew all day.
- Ronzoni's gluten free pasta features cauliflower, fava beans and rice flour. Not a bad combo that cooks up to a neutral taste and in a little less time than wheat based pasta. Their turmeric pasta strikes the trendy spice note. Turmeric's a staple in our kitchen, so I can't wait to cook this one up and serve it alongside my Lemongrass Chicken. Yum!
- My students and I were ecstatic to taste the two new protein bar flavors 88 Acres will be launching soon, Brownie and Banana Bread. Both tasted just as expected, all in a tastily convenient, allergy friendly bar.
- Moon Cheese fulfilled my love of cheese mixed with massive crunch factor. Oh My Gouda was my most liked flavor of the bunch.
- Jasmine rice is my rice of choice, but it's extremely expensive and hard to find here in Korea. I was more than psyched to get this whole box of Minute Jasmine Rice to satiate my cravings. The quick cook time and fragrant flavor are just what I've been missing.
- Oats are also a staple and the quick cooking factor is just a bonus feature of these Quaker Instant Oatmeal packets.
- The Bare Fruit Chips were packed full of the natural fruit flavor while satisfying my affinity for crunchiness.
- The Sunsweet Apricots were perfectly tart and sweet.
The comments of outrage about "big companies" being on the EXPO floor are tired and old. PepsiCo seemed to be the scapegoat of choice this year. I heard several times when walking around at FNCE and on social media the gripes about PepsiCo being front and center when you walk into the hall. However, let's take a look at just a few of the companies it owns, aside from the sodas that immediately come to mind (which there is absolutely nothing wrong with soda if it's something you enjoy). Quaker Oats Company, Naked Juices, Kevita Sparkling Probiotic Drinks and Sabra Dipping Company are all owned by PepsiCo. These are ALL brands I've seen RDs and dietetic interns endorsing, myself included. Particularly when it comes to making blanket statements regarding product companies, it is our job as dietitians to put in the work to make sure we're not jumping on the bandwagon to discredit something when we haven't done our due diligence.
What we should really be up in arms about are the countless products (detoxes, cleanses, crystals, etc.) that are heavily promoted and endorsed by fellow RDs and dietetics students which are not evidence-based and purely puffed up through glitzy marketing tactics. Yes, money from exhibitors helps make a large conference like FNCE possible, but these exhibitors are the ones who should be taking the hits with questions as to the validity and pseudoscience behind their products. Our profession is based upon this foundation and we should not be afraid to ask questions!
Diversity and Cultural Competence debuts as a Professional Track
I was honored to speak with Tamara Melton and Cordialis Msora-Kasago in our session on Diversifying Our Practice and Our Plates, aptly categorized under this new track. As the current dietetics field is made up of 90% white females, we spoke on the importance of why we need diversity in our career field and how to incorporate it into the food and nutrition information we share with our clients. I strongly encourage you to check out our presentation's Session Recordings available on the Academy's site here to learn more if you weren't able to attend.
While diversity is merely a buzzword for some, for many of us it hits much closer to home and it's a strategy that needs to be implemented everywhere, including dietetics. The microaggressions and bias run rampant throughout FNCE and our profession. Just one example was from my time spent walking around the EXPO and Members Marketplace this year. On more than one occasion, I would approach the booth with my colleagues (who are also RDs of color), to be met with the company simply ignoring us and looking around to talk to the next group of people in line. The thought of it still leaves me flabbergasted as both a consumer of the products and as a health care practitioner. This is particularly unsettling when we are RDs paying to attend a national conference put on by our profession in which we are practitioners. These uncomfortable situations should not be the barrier we experience when we're just trying to do our job.
As a Board member for Diversify Dietetics, these are the types of interactions we're working towards sharing with others and building skills on which to be able to proactively address the situation. Founded in 2018, it hasn't taken long for Diversify Dietetics to make a splash by working to increase diversity in the field of nutrition by empowering students and young professionals from underrepresented minority groups to join the next generation of nutrition experts. At our annual fundraiser at FNCE, we launched our Fund the Future Campaign to continue this work to help provide scholarships for dietetics students of color. Wrapping up my FNCE trip this year made me so humbled and grateful to be part of an organization that is making strides to truly change the face of dietetics.
How did things go for you this year at FNCE? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below! Stay up to date with my simple, accessible and affordable recipes on my YouTube channel here. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and check in for my regular posts over on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.