Why was there pop at a “Dietitian Conference”?

Again, I am incredibly behind the times on my blogging, but still feel compelled to finish this post.

Every year in October Dietitians both nationwide and internationally flock to a central meeting location for FNCE.  FNCE stands for Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo.

While I did not attend FNCE this year, I have attended two times out of the last six years: once as a “RD 2 BE”, and then as a practicing RD.  I enjoyed both experiences, and have not attended other years due to a variety of reasons (the main one being how closely it falls to the Chicago Marathon-which I have done for the last 3 years) .  While I did not attend this year I noted a fair amount of backlash in various press outlets, discussing food items that were/”were not” present during the expo.  Reminder this backlash was occurring just before the election, so for the last 6 weeks my social media was blowing up with  this then immediately followed by the election.  Awesome.

I have pasted below the main offending article- the issue I found with it was it was pretty one-sided, the article either did not mention/quickly skated over the fact that there were various fruit, vegetable, bean, and whole grain products located at the expo.  So feel free to take a read.

There is an unspoken rule that dietitians are able to make recommendations on a wide variety of foods, and be knowledgeable about various foods on the market, whether they (dietitians) eat them or not.  So it seems to me that RDs are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t in this scenario.

When counseling patients there is an expectation that we are able to know about those “sweet potato chips”, regardless if we eat them or not.  Ultimately Dietitians are tasked with presenting the evidence to a patient and then helping that same patient/client work to decrease foods with less nutritional value, in place of foods with more nutritional value, but while still enjoying foods they love.

Here’s the thing, part of (a very important part of) a RD’s training is to separate personal preference from what is evidence based, and what your patients’ goals are, and also separate evidence from hype, and clever marketing.

PERSONALLY one of my favorite things to do, is try out new products.  I literally get excited when I see new products either in the store or featured in Food & Nutrition magazine, or from other Dietitians’ blogs.  I enjoy innovation and I enjoy trying knew things.  But this is personal, which is why I started this entire paragraph with “personally”.   Being knowledgeable about a wide variety of products helps in many scenarios, some examples being: patient’s with food sensitivities, patients on dietitian implemented elimination diets, patients trying to improve their diets and finding alternatives for less nutritious foods.

This was my “haul” of new foods I found at Target a few weeks ago. Trying out new foods is one of my favorite things!

Seriously I remember when I was still in college/internship  and Greek Yogurt was a fairly “new item”, now it’s one of the most widely accepted foods because it is a great source of fat, protein, and carbohydrate (depending on brand and type).  Sure, were there maybe some less than nutritious food options at FNCE?  Maybe.  BUT only pointing out items such as this, is only designed to sell, it only tells a partial truth- again at least from my experience, as I said I wasn’t there this year.

I can speak for myself, and very likely many other dietitians, we aren’t influenced by “Big Food”, we are in fact, typically influenced by EVIDENCE.

Listen I know I have made a lot of blanket statements in the sense of using terms like “we” “us” and speaking for a larger population of dietitians outside myself.  However, the RD’s I work with, have worked with, and are friends with are predominately foodies, that enjoy food, and use evidence and evidence based guidelines as parameters when working with clients/patients.

That being said, I stand by my statements.  Obviously.  This is my blog.

What I will also say is this, this article and ones similar took away from a lot of the fantastic things that happen at FNCE:

Undergrad students, and Dietetic Interns, and practicing RDs all being able to interact and network with one another, poster presentations (graduate students & interns are able to present research if they apply are invited to do).  By attending evidence based continuing education presentations (even ones that are sponsored by “Big Food” – I rolled my eyes as I wrote that- have to meet set evidence standards by AND), RD’s able to add strategies, tricks, and tips to their toolkits from other professionals when working with their clients/patients.  RD’s are also able to attend cooking demos, and go into the expo hall to sample new products, utensils, recipes, and coupons.

Guess what these are all things I have done.  Personally.  As I said the first time I went to FNCE, I was an understand Dietetics student, who was getting ready to apply for internship programs, along with the 5-10 other students I was there with.

There are so many things in this picture that are embarrassing (about me). But ultimately my first trip to FNCE with these other future RDs was a really good decision and a really fun trip!

In 2012 I was able to present my Masters Thesis at the FNCE poster session, which was an excellent opportunity to not only challenge myself about my own research, but ask about other DI’s/RD’s research.

This is me in 2012 presenting my Masters Thesis research at the poster session

On both occasions I went to the expo, I was able to try new foods, and also get on mailings lists to get product samples.  Oh, because guess what?! A lot of dietitians work with patients with low/lower income, and coupons along with budgeting and in some cases food assistance really help people GET FOOD THEY NEED!!!

But again some people are worried about “Big Food”…. Perspective people.  Perspective.

At the end of the day I’m not the one calling the shots at the Academy, so I don’t know the intricacies of putting on an event of this magnitude, and frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

I don’t give a damn because even though Coke, Pepsi, and whoever else is there, at the end of the day I am comfortable taking evidence, and presenting that to a patient, and helping foods of any variety, fit into their life, in a manner that is enjoyable, and nutritious.




Leave a Reply