Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Food and Nutrition Conference Expo: A Food Lover's Dream

Imagine a four-day conference filled with 9,000 like-minded professionals listening to lectures, poster sessions, watching culinary demos, hearing motivational speakers, and attending a food expo with over 200 exhibitors providing samples, educational material, and networking opportunities.  

It was my first time to attend this annual event, and luckily for me, it was held in my current city of Houston, Texas.  My childhood best friend, and RD colleague, Stephanie Allen, was able to fly down from Winston-Salem to attend the event, and so it was nice to have another food and nutrition lover to explore with!  

There were many topics covered and so much that I learned, but what I have decided to do is pick the top five things from FNCE 2013 and write about them here:  

1. One quarter of the world's population follow kosher and halal guidelines.  Kosher and Halal are not the same.  In a nutshell, Kosher guidelines deem certain animals as clean (i.e. cattle, sheep, deer, chicken turkey, duck, elk, and fish with fins and scales) and others as unclean (i.e. shellfish, rabbit, frogs, snails, alligators, pig).  Kosher also requires that meat and dairy not be consumed together and not within six hours can you consume dairy after meat.  If you ever are in a setting to serve this population, you would need to be sure to have separate cutlery for meat and milk and two separate kitchens-one for the population you are serving that are kosher and another kitchen for the non-kosher.  I also learned that not all foods labeled with the K or the U symbol are necessarily Kosher and that if there are certain items in question, there are some great websites to follow as guidelines.  Check out the following for more information: www.star-k.orgwww.ok.orgwww.ou.org.
For Halal in the Muslim population, this term means "permitted" so foods that are Halal, are considered permitted, whereas Haram foods are "not permitted".  The haram foods consist of pork, blood, alcohol and meals prepared with it, animals mishandled, carnivorous animals and amphibians, and cross-contamination of foods with any of the ones listed above.  Halal is unique in that it does have clear laws, but the degree to which they are followed is very individual specific.  I actually did a cultural diet report in college on halal by interviewing a fellow student of mine who followed the guidelines, so attending this lecture was a nice refresher and reminder for me of the diverse diets in varying cultures!

2.  RD's can work in numerous roles across the globe.  Here we are at the Welch's booth where I talked to a consultant RD who worked in communications and development for Welch's. Many other companies at the Expo had RD's in similar roles.  I talked to a booth American Overseas Dietetic Association  in which I learned of opportunities for RD's abroad.  It was fun to see the various ways in which our profession has a tremendous potential for impact and growth, both nationally and internationally! 

3. There were so many COOL (and yes that is the best word to describe it) products to check out at the Expo.  Here is one of them Beanitos- a unique sort of chip made from.. you guessed it! BEANS.  Some of the flavors include white bean with sea salt (as shown), original black bean, chipotle bbq (currently in our kitchen), and nacho cheese.  The chips are corn free, GMO free, gluten free, preservative free, trans fat free, cholesterol free, MSG free, Kosher, Vegan, no sugar added, high in fiber and protein rich, and low sodium.  In other words, most anyone with any type of dietary needs should be able to consume these chips!  They were very tasty too.  Some of the other booths I found to be quite tasty, interesting, and the best free samples were Canadian LentilsCocoaViaLaura's Lean BeefWell Amy, LLC, and KIND Healthy Snacks to name a few.  

4. I looked at several poster sessions in which I was proud to see my alma mater, Delta State University, represented along with several other Mississippi Schools as well as St. Jude Children's Research Hospital-one of my internship sites.  It is nice to see the ever-evolving research door in this 
profession of nutrition, food, and health. 

5. Networking, Networking, Networking.  I honestly can't think of a better event for dietitians or health-minded professionals to network and meet up than this event.  The expo portion itself provides an opportunity to speak with multiple companies from all over.  There was a career center and professional resume coaching session as well.  I found the networking aspect to be the most bang for my buck so to speak with the conference because it allowed me to meet so many other professionals not only in Houston but across the US.  As a young RD, it was a great way to connect with mentors in the field and pick their brain for tips/advice as well as meeting student interns and those in my shoes as a fairly new RD.  I hope to be able to attend FNCE 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia!  Just a little tidbit, if anyone reads this and isn't an RD but is interested in nutrition and health, it is relatively inexpensive to attend this conference as a guest.  Details for FNCE 2014 can be found here and will be updated as time draws closer:  http://www.eatright.org/fnce/                
I'll be back again soon with some healthy holiday tips!