It is always a special event, heading to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) annual Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo, to meet hundreds of dietitians working in all areas of public health and reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances.  This year’s conference – held in Atlanta, GA, — was a little extra special, with the unveiling of Oldways’ new, supped up booth!

Our new booth layout offered visitors a slice of what Oldways’ culinarias deliver, inviting visitors into a dazzling tropical market, complete with fruit bins, warm wooden shelving, and a backdrop booming with fresh fruits and vegetables. Along with our spectrum of educational materials, we handed out fresh Gala apples and Navel oranges in the spirit of promoting whole, fresh, real, traditional foods.

After one enthusiastic dietitian asked to have her photo taken “in the market”, our booth quickly turned into a photo booth, with people (including Oldways staff members, pictured below!) eager to have their picture taken with golden mangoes, Jamaican apples, and tamarind pods.


Traditional foods truly are rock stars!

Many of the educational presentations reaffirmed this. A session on “Home Food Preservation” addressed the movement to grow and buy local, and gave dietitians the tools (technological and social media) to be able to help support this drive. Another, entitled “Food Fermentation: Connecting Ancient Traditions with Science” wove together history, science, and culinary know-how through the diversity of foods and beverages founded upon fermentation. Led by Sandor Katz, A.B., and Kayellen Umeakunne, MS, RD, LD, this session educated dietitians about the nutritional importance of live-culture ferments, like yogurts and pickled vegetables, and their integral role in human history, as well as gut microbiome and health. Ms. Umeakunne has also done extensive research on African heritage foods and modern health, and we look forward to working more with her on African Heritage & Health programming in the near future.

The overarching theme that we saw this year was the highlighting of plant-based diets and products. More than 60 exhibitors provided products or information relevant to plant-based diets.  And the Moorehouse School of Medicine hosted a Vegan Soul Dinner, put on by AND’s Vegetarian Practice Group (VPG)

The show provided us with two excellent opportunities to share our commitment to promoting plant-based diets and to celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month:

On Tuesday, October 21, Oldways sponsored an Educational Session, “Promoting Healthful Vegetarian and Vegan Diets: Research Findings and Practical Tips for RDNs,” moderated by Sharon Palmer, RD. Speakers included Joan Sabate, MD, PhD from Loma Linda University, who reviewed current research, and Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, who offered guidelines for dietitians to use in counseling patients on calcium, protein, and other dietary needs. We were thrilled to see close to 400 dietitians show up for this last-day session. 

And at our FNCE booth we introduced The Oldways 4-Week Vegetarian & Vegan Diet Menu Plan, created in collaboration with RD and author Sharon Palmer. Centered upon our Vegetarian & Vegan Diet Pyramid, which we introduced last year at FNCE 2013, this new book meets an important need.  One of the biggest challenges people new to a vegetarian or vegan diet face is menu planning so they don’t run out of steam after a few days. Visit the Oldways webstore to order your copy today!

We loved asking the dietitians about their work and learning all the things they do.  We talked with dietitians who work with:

  • Infant nutrition
  • Diabetes education
  • Seniors
  • School programs
  • Juvenile detention centers
  • Food service
  • US Military
  • Supermarkets
  • Hospitals
  • Department of corrections and prisons
  • Nursing homes
  • Food manufacturers
  • Public health clinics
  • Corporate wellness programs
  • Home health care

We were very happy to visit with some of our A Taste of African Heritage instructors and food company partners like Haas Avocado and Tomato Wellness. When we weren’t talking with dietitians, we were enjoying samples of some of the latest healthy eating products on the market. Our favorites? Probably the selection of innovative and leafy green smoothies! San Miguel Produce was handing out smoothies made with collards, NATIVA shared raw chocolate maca smoothies with almond milk, and Coastline Family Farms offered blueberry smoothies made with their new Nutraleaf deep-purple lettuces, which promise to deliver twice the antioxidants of blueberries.

As the world of food and nutrition ever evolves, the common finding continues to reign: whole, plant-based, traditional foods cannot be beat.  Whether we are pickling ginger or preserving lemons, buying local vegetables or adding greens to our smoothies, when we choose to eat real, fresh foods with long-held cultural culinary signatures, we help preserve our health as well as our humanity.



Carol Wlodkoski
Hi, Your Oldways booth sounds like a great idea. Kudos to you all !!

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