The 2009 American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo

Last month, I attended the American Dietetic Association’s annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Denver. My first and only other experience at FNCE was seven years ago, in Philadelphia. At the time, I was a 25-year-old rookie dietitian, eager to attend my first big conference. Unfortunately, that year I spent numerous hours listening to monotone researchers tediously describe every agonizing detail of studies I was already very familiar with. Seven years later, few sessions were dull. In fact, several speakers were quite captivating and compelling. Following are a few of my favorites:

1. Michael Roizen, MD, the chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic believes “Food is not ‘let’s make a deal’.” After eating lunch with a man who ordered steak and fries six months before he died of a heart attack, Dr. Roizen decided he would never again sit idly by while a middle-aged man with a paunch consumed large amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, or simple sugar. So, if he sees a man with a protruding abdomen holding a doughnut up to his mouth, he will swipe the deep-fried ball of white flour out of the man’s hands, throw it on the floor, and stomp on it with his foot! The Cleveland Clinic leads by example. It does not hire smokers, it provides free gym memberships for employees, it provides free weight watchers memberships for employees, it has a farmers market on site, it banned trans fat from the premises, and it labels nutritionally-sound cafeteria foods with green go! labels. Impressive and inspiring!

2. Liz Weiss MS, RD and Janet Helm MS, RD are two dietitians who regularly blog and tweet. Their session, called “Blogging and Beyond” discussed the importance of social media, offering tips and tricks for those of us who could use some pointers. Clearly, I am not diligent about updating my blog and prior to the session, I didn’t understand the appeal of twitter. Although I have not found time to crank out the blog entries, I have changed my mind about twitter. As I sat in the “Blogging and Beyond” session, a live stream of tweets related to the FNCE conference rolled down the screen in the front of the room. Upstairs, at the expo, the folks at the Green Nut (Pistachio) booth were tweeting about the green bags they were giving away. So, thanks to twitter, I checked out the green nut booth and picked up a cool bag. Later, when I tweeted about how few dietitians took the stairs instead of the escalator, someone at the conference re-tweeted my remark! Twitter is great for sharing information and connecting with others at an event.

3. Cathy Nonas, MS, RD is registered dietitian who works for the NY Department of Health. She was instrumental in creating regulations that require New York City chain restaurants to post the calorie content of foods and beverages on their menus. While a study by researchers at New York University and Yale University found that the habits of consumers in low-income neighborhoods were not affected by the labeling laws, the city of New York’s researchers released preliminary data showing evidence that consumers bought food with fewer calories at nine of 13 fast food and coffee chains since July 2008, when labeling laws went into effect. Nonas believes “Seeing information is the first part of giving people the power to make informed decisions.” I couldn’t agree more!