When you celebrate a milestone anniversary, throw a bash, and 13,000 people show up?
It could end up messy, chaotic, and jumbled, or, as was the case for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 100th anniversary celebration, a rousing success.
Sure, there was some grumbling – you simply can’t shuttle bus 13,000 people between McCormick Place and beyond for 3.5 days straight without long lines and extended wait times – and that was only for the women’s bathroom (a hazard of belonging to a predominantly female profession!)
But then again, some people are NEVER happy. I wasn’t one of them.
I’ve just returned from my profession’s annual food and nutrition conference and exhibition (FNCE) held October 21-24. My brain is stuffed full of new information, and my heart overflows with gratitude and love for not only what I do, but the amazing people I get to do it with; my colleagues.
I got to hang out with a group of the most dedicated healthcare professionals and caring friends I know – from literally every corner of the United States and beyond. Regardless of our individual areas of practice – sports, women’s health, pediatric or oncology nutrition – soaking up the latest nutrition science from cutting edge researchers, physicians and other professionals while sitting shoulder to shoulder with our nutrition besties literally had all of us a little giddy.
Except those complainers ;).
Below are a few highlights of the event, and in the coming weeks share blog posts that dig deeper into the four hottest presentations I attended:
The Women’s Health Initiative: Two Decades of Knowledge Ready for Dissemination
The Evidence: Intermittent Fasting Effects on Cardiometabolic Disease and Cancer
Cancer Survivorship Lifestyle Guidelines: Time for Action
Nutrigenomics: Is It Ready for Prime Time?
EXHIBIT FLOOR FINDS
While I didn’t get to spend a lot of time at the exhibits, here’s what I saw trending:
Foods you can eat on the run – everything seemed to be packaged to take with you.
Foods that are already prepared; just heat and eat, rip open and eat, or squeeze and eat.
Bars are going NOWHERE. Whether meal replacement, snack, protein or granola – packaged food bars show no signs of slowing down.
An obvious focus on what’s NOT in your food vs what is, and a reminder that this product really is REAL food. Ok.
Superfoods, superfruits, etc. were just – everywhere.
And finally, what would a nutrition and food conference be without an actual cranberry bog. Yes, this really happened. Don the waders and boots and climb in to slosh through the bog. . .I didn’t.
Upon returning from my travels, my practice is to do a write-up highlighting information to help you stay “health-focused” should you one day find yourself visiting the same locale.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again (forever), packing healthy habits alongside your jammies is the best way to keep breast cancer risk reduction top of mind when you (temporarily) leave your regular life/routine behind!
Having just returned from a wonderful week in the Pacific Northwest – specifically, Portland, Oregon – I’m excited to share some of my health-supportive/focused finds, from restaurants offering plant-based options (NOT a challenge in Portland!), to spots for fresh air and exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise, to interestingly unique-to-Portland shops, ideas and concepts that nourish mind, body and soul.
Let me start with this: I WANT TO GO BACK!
A return trip to this part of the U.S. is definitely on the agenda, although the plan is to start in Vancouver, BC and work our way back to Portland through Washington state (Seattle Space Needle and Pike Place Fish Market, here we come!). Although we hit the ground running immediately after dumping our bags at our VRBO condo, Portland (and the surrounding area) boasts so much to see and do, it felt like we barely scratched the surface.
Portland is gorgeous, quirky, urban, friendly, and something I didn’t realize, crazy in love with dogs. My husband is the dog lover in the family, I’m the dog tolerator, but I will admit it was awfully entertaining to watch all the doggies and their owners frolicking in the park right outside our condo at all hours of the day (they were especially frolickocious in the frosty before-work and dusky after-work hours; LOTS of fetching going on.)
To kick this off, here are a handful of shots I took that capture the pure essence of Portland:
If your goal is maintaining a plant-based diet (vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or anywhere in between) while visiting the Pac-Northwest, Portland is THE place to do it.
Every single restaurant was extremely accommodating to our requests for meatless meals, although meatless meals were found on the menu at every, single restaurant we visited (obviously, it’s one of our criteria for choosing a restaurant.)
Sometimes it was simply a matter of clarifying ingredients or asking for minor substitutions, but these conversations and requests were never a big deal, in fact, it was almost expected – so refreshing! The biggest challenge in finding a meatless meal was during our trip to Cannon Beach; off-season, many restaurants closed the day we visited, but even there we ferreted out the ubiquitous hummus wrap and tomato soup (gotta love how America has discovered hummus.)
A commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices, fresh, local produce, and no additives, preservatives or dyes was another thing I admired, respected and patronized several of our Portland restaurant choices for. It was another nod to health and the environment that I greatly appreciated.
Below is a collection of dining spots we hit – and loved!
The richest, most delicious bowl of ramen I’ve ever eaten. This vegan curry bowl was brimming with corn (common in traditional ramen), broccoli rabe, marinated shiitake mushrooms (great cancer risk-reducers), and scallions. I ordered extra vegetables, always a good practice when dining out, since even vegetable-heavy dishes like this tend to be light on the veggies. The precursor to the ramen was a “greens + sesame” salad (yes, MORE veggies!) of swiss chard, shiitakes, pickled cabbage and soy toasted walnuts. The gorgeous black drizzle you see on the ramen is called “mayu”, black garlic oil, the recipe for which I promptly asked the chef, and share here “Mayu” with you.
Any restaurant where the young guys behind the counter feverishly write down ingredients and exclaim “I can’t wait to try this!” as I share my recipe for broccoli salad, is a restaurant I will visit time and time again.
I loved this restaurant’s commitment to using fresh ingredients from local farms, and that an entire SECTION of their menu was devoted to Vegan Pizza Pies – including the one we ordered – “Falawesome Ball Pie” (it truly was awesome.) This pie featured a delectable squash (as in the vegetable) sauce base, topped with roasted red pepper, spinach, onions, and sliced falafel chickpea balls. Precursor was a kale slaw with carrots, raisins and hazelnuts – a discussion of which kicked off the sharing of the broccoli salad recipe.
www.hotlipspizza.com (sorry, trouble imbedding the URL; type this into Google and you’ll get there!)
3. Mediterranean Exploration Company
After dinner at this tapas-style restaurant, where my tastebuds were happily in overdrive and my belly was (unhappily) too full, we went an entire 24-hours eating only a bit of oatmeal and fruit – yes, we were THAT stuffed.
This place serves GORGEOUS food with exquisite and sophisticated flavor profiles, and we wanted to try EVERY plant-based item (but didn’t) on the menu. Even with limiting our choices, we still “over-ordered” and couldn’t quite finish everything, but darn it, we did our best (hence the meal that kept us full forEVER).
Even without eating a huge volume of food, eating lots of plants prepared by a chef who is not shy with the olive oil will keep you satiated for hours, thanks to the fat and high fiber – living proof right here.
Silky hummus (they must use skinless chickpeas), crispy, garlicky roasted potatoes, the best mejadraI’ve ever eaten (completely destroyed my ability to enjoy this dish at any other restaurant, ever again), and a mind-numblingly delicious freekahsalad brimming with peppers and corn created the bulk (no pun intended) of our meal.
After such a robust repast, our plan was to walk to our evening destination, but this being Portland with its predictable unpredictable torrential downpours, there was no chance of walking off dinner until later, when we finally did. Eat here.
One evening we weren’t super hungry, but knew we would be if we didn’t have a little something (don’t you hate that between-hungry/full feeling?), and found this friendly taqueria within walking distance of our condo. I actually wished I were MORE hungry so that I could have eaten MORE of the most delicious veggie tacos and steaming bowl of tortilla soup (which I couldn’t finish) I’ve had in ages. Their food is FROM SCRATCH, their commitment is to health, sustainability and giving back to the community – what’s not to love? Next visit, I’m saving my appetite for a FULL meal at this spot, for sure.
Celebrating the day we said “I do” was the reason behind this trip in the first place, and how we found ourselves at this great neighborhood spot. Earlier in the week we’d had Italian that was disappointingly not. very. good. This was beyond. good.
Pre-dinner salads were fresh and not drowning in gloppy dressing, the pasta perfectly al dente and authentic. That’s what happens when the chef learns, trains, and works in Italy before settling back in the U.S. to wow folks with his food. Thank you, chef Marco.
I think one of the best things about traveling is how your mind scoops up new ideas and experiences. Here’s a collection of things that interested me, I participated in, and spoke (mostly) to the idea of “health in mind” as well. . .
Green Zebra Grocery
Remember “White Hen” convenience stores? Green Zebra is that, only stocked full of fresh produce, a salad bar, vegan/vegetarian/healthier packaged items, and a hot food counter/bar (like Whole Foods, only smaller and much less $$.) We need these in Chicago!
Food Fight Grocery
A 100% vegan grocery store selling vegan “junk” food. This I had to see. And seriously? I cracked up at the sign on the front door (read carefully below!)
There were some “un-junky” items to be sure, like this nut-butter combo you see below, but ‘ya know – organic, vegan, non-GMO candy bars and chips are still candy bars and chips – not the foundation of a balanced vegan diet. But you already knew that. And it sure was fun to peruse.
Co-ops and (other) interesting grocery stores carry unique items:
Like organic multigrain tempeh in “bulk”, a steal at $15.99.
Coffee – fabulous coffee (and adorable indie coffee shops) on practically every corner; a welcome respite from. . .you know. . .S*#RB+@S.
Stunning hiking trails and ocean views.
Hood River County “Fruit Loop” orchard tour.
Painted buildings sport inspired “art” – a feast for your eyes.
I discovered 100% chocolate.
Serenity of the “Portland Japanese Garden.”
Perky painted houses all in a row – nothing to do with health, but everything to do with order, surprise, and spunkiness – three often opposing concepts I adore.
A fully tricked out in-house fitness center.
Taking a barre3 class with a room full of women I didn’t know (no pics, but here’s the link.) “barre3 Portland”
And there you have it, a (mini)tour of my action-packed week in Portland. If you’re traveling there anytime soon, I’m jealous!! And I hope my (mini)guide helps point you to nourishing food and fun, healthy times.
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You know it, your mother has long known it, the breast cancer risk reduction research people know it. And because you try to do all you can to (hopefully) keep that evil breast cancer away or from returning, you eat broccoli.
You serve broccoli for dinner at home, pack it for lunch at the office, and pile it high as a party appetizer, snuggled alongside the red pepper hummus. You even try to remember to order it as a side when you eat out.
But if you’re honest? You’d rather have potato chips. Or French fries. Or beer-battered onion rings.
With a Chardonnay chaser.
What does broccoli have to do with a girls’ getaway weekend, you ask? Everything.
Eating in your own kitchen limits opportunities to eat those “other” foods on a regular basis; it’s too much trouble to whip out your “FryDaddy”®, and if you don’t buy the potato chips, you can’t dig into them.
But just when you’re feeling pretty good about this healthy habits thing, your calendar reminds you of the girls’ weekend you planned months ago; a weekend filled with tantalizing restaurant menus to order from without dishes to do afterward, and no kids, carpool, homework, husband/significant other, meetings, deadlines, pets, commitments or responsibilities to answer to – outside of having a great time.
And just like that? The broccoli vanishes, faster than you can say “antioxidants.”
Change Your Environment, Change Your Habits
I’ve written previously about changing your environment to support healthy habits, and the same holds true to support UNHEALTHY habits.
Anytime you leave your normal routine behind to hit the road and travel anywhere, for any reason, opportunities to blow up your healthy habits await you at every turn.
Fresh from a long girls’ weekend in Des Moines (yes, Iowa!), I thought I’d share some of my tips and a few of our experiences to help you navigate the siren song of the endless Chardonnay pour and late night hotel room pizza delivery. If you return from a weekend of friendship and fun feeling restored and revived vs hungover and depleted, you know you served your body (and mind!) well. Which would you rather have?
Bite Back (Nutrition aka Feed Yourself)
Pack food for the road and the room –
Whether you drive or fly to your destination, bring food! I brought a cooler packed with almond milk, my favorite plant-based coffee creamer, fresh blueberries, apples, and fresh cherries. I packed separately dried figs (calcium-rich, sweet-tooth-satisfying snack) and homemade peanut butter.
For a high fiber, quality breakfast to keep you full for hours, add a side of fresh fruit to a homemade mix of ⅓ cup quick cooking oatmeal, 1 scoop protein powder, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, and 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed. Transport an oatmeal mix for each morning you’ll be there in individual portable containers or ziplock bags, to which you’ll add plant-based (or cow’s) milk and honey (snagged from the breakfast bar) and heat in the microwave. We stayed in a room with a kitchenette and access to cereal bowls; normally I pack a heavy ceramic mug (I know – but it works!!) in the event bowls are nowhere to be found.
We smeared peanut butter on apples to hold us over until a late(r) dinner reservation, and help us order from the menu sanely vs. hangrily. Stir peanut butter into your morning oatmeal to add healthy fat and more protein; a good trick to satisfy and save you in the event lunch is delayed by heavy-duty sightseeing or shopping.
Choose restaurants with your health goals in mind –
Traveling is about trying local foods and cuisine – I get it and wholeheartedly agree, but you don’t have to abandon all of your healthy habits to do so. Research restaurants and menus online before you arrive, noting spots that offer veggie side dishes, whole grains, and plant-based options so you can mix up your meal to include both more and less healthy options. For example, choose a side of grilled broccoli(!) vs French fries with your burger one night, and fried onion rings plus a side salad with your grilled chicken the next.
I eat a vegan diet, my friend doesn’t. While I thought vegan options might be challenging to find in Des Moines, I was happily proven wrong! Every restaurant we visited offered vegan and vegetarian options – even the seafood restaurant where we dined our first night.
However, the plant-based options sometimes need a little protein bump, so here’s my trick. I request the addition of items I see elsewhere on the menu. For example, my pasta dish was described on the menu with only vegetables, but edamame was used in the salmon dish my friend ordered; I asked the chef to add some to my dish, a request he graciously honored.
Be prepared for healthy-habit fails, because even the best intentions for eating well sometimes fall flat. We were excited to try Magnolia Wine Kitchen and its “superfood” salad of kale, shaved Brussels sprouts, almonds, avocado, and chia seeds with a blueberry vinaigrette. Our waiter declared the salad “huge”, so we split it three ways, although we agreed that even combining the three portions wouldn’t have resulted in a “huge” salad. But then, we’re salad freaks. Unfortunately, with its “bagged” flavor, look and feel, dry, unappealing vegetables, avocado an unnatural shade of yellowish green with a rubbery, inedible texture, and MIA chia seeds – back to the kitchen the superfood salad went. My black bean burger and lentil soup entree were good, and the roasted veggie sandwiches ordered by my partners in crime were declared very good, but I was disappointed I didn’t get that veggie boost I aim for every day. Should you have the same experience, eat a double veggie serving at your next meal, and pat yourself on the back for a solid attempt.
3. Use restaurant menu options to test-drive new dishes –
Many people tell me they want to eat more plant-based meals, but aren’t always sure what to prepare. A restaurant offers a great opportunity to try dishes you can recreate at home, like this tofu gnocchi dish, on the menu at Centro. Paired with a side of broccolini (yes, you’ll likely pay extra for the veggie sides, but the nutrition is WORTH it), this was a satisfying dish I’ve never seen on a menu. Way to go Centro Des Moines!
Move Back (Fitness aka Move Yourself)
Locate first the fire exits, second the fitness room –
My strategy at any hotel; a quick visit to the fitness center to learn where it is, what equipment’s available, and the hours of operation.
Go there. First thing. In the morning. If you start your day without a visit to the fitness center, odds are it won’t happen. I know you’re thinking, “But we’ll walk EVERYWHERE! That’s my workout.” No, that’s activity. When you walk as you window shop or head to dinner, you’re strolling or meandering. Do some strength training or stationary cycling – use your muscles differently and get your heartrate up, stretch a little. Maintaining your fitness routine when traveling helps you not abandon it when you return home because you’ve “missed a few days.”
Walk EVERYWHERE –
I love walkable cities, and Des Moines didn’t disappoint. We parked our cars on Thursday, didn’t move them until we left on Sunday, and put miles and miles on our walking shoes (which COMPLEMENTED the a.m.workout.) The concierge/front desk staff can always provide a good map and directions – or do as we did and wander with no agenda to see what spontaneous fun you can find.
Run If You Can –
Just outside our hotel was the “Neal Smith Trail”, a bicycle and running/walking path that meanders along the Des Moines river. Make a point to find off-the-beaten spots for a little solitude and exercise; sustenance for your mind and body.
Strike Back (Lifestyle aka Take Care of Yourself)
Take in the outdoors –
Meredith Corporation’s Des Moines-based “Better Homes and Gardens” opens their test garden to the public on Friday’s, noon-2:00, May-September. With its rich mix of colors and textures, bubbly fountain, and interesting hardscapes, this lushly planted oasis is a feast for all your senses, as well as a treasure trove of plant tidbits and info courtesy of uber-knowledgeable test garden manager, Sandra Gerdes. Nature feeds your soul and reduces stress – seek it out when you travel.
Cater to your arts and culture side –
The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park (it takes A LOT of pizza), live party band The Punching Pandas at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market, and “Java Joe’s Coffee House 4th Street Theatre Kitten Bomb Improv Comedy” were polar opposite experiences, but each one intrigued, challenged our thinking, and made us laugh – catharsis at its finest. Cultural experiences, the arts, and simply stepping outside our regular routine triggers creativity and a deep appreciation for how glorious and unique this world really is.
I love opening my refrigerator door, taking a quick inventory of what’s hanging around, and conjuring up a way to combine the remains of the week’s meals into something new, nourishing, and delicious.
This week’s fridge review yielded leftover whole wheat pasta, two sweet potatoes, and garbanzo beans (chickpeas). I closed the refrigerator door and left to run Saturday errands – but in the back of my mind the assembly was already coming together.
What if I sautéed onion and garlic for extra flavor (and nutrition!), blended the sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans with veggie broth, swirled in the marinara, and served it over the pasta? Bingo.
Here’s a video showing the collection of ingredients I had to work with. Normally, I would simply dump the garbanzo’s, sweet potatoes, and some broth together in my NutriBullet and blend until it “looked right”, but I wanted to portion it out to give you exact amounts so you could recreate.
First I sautéed the onion until soft, THEN added the garlic. You don’t want to burn the garlic (gets bitter), so I find cooking the onions first and then dumping the garlic on top a good way to avoid that.
Next, I blended the sweet potato, chickpeas, and vegetable broth to create a smooth, silky mixture. I used Engine 2 Plant-Strong Organic Vegetable Stock because it’s “low sodium” claim truly is low; only 35 mg sodium per 1 cup! I love that, because when I don’t have homemade veg broth available I want a convenient option that doesn’t compromise nutrition.
I added the blended chickpea/sweet potato mixture to the onions and garlic, stirred it all together well, then swirled in the marinara (use the lowest sodium, no sugar or “extra” ingredients brand you can find!):
It. Was. Delicious.
And seriously, it was QUICK, I set my phone timer when I started. Here’s a screenshot to show you it took only 16 minutes and 49 seconds. Obviously that’s not including the time it took me to portion the ingredients, but it includes chopping the onion and garlic, the blenderizing, and combining!
Preparing the sautéed beet greens and spinach side dish (see below) took a little extra time, maybe 10 minutes. Also doesn’t include clean up – but my husband does that, LOL!
Regardless, you could make this sauce in ~20 minutes then store it for later. Timesaver!!
Here’s a pic of the finished meal – it truly was so good, and we even have leftovers. Find the recipe below – enjoy!
Sweet Potato and Chickpea Pasta Sauce
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cooked sweet potato (2 medium)
3/4 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 3/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 cup low sodium marinara sauce (I like Trader Joes’s organic no salt added)
Sprinkle of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (I like to use cast iron; adds iron to the dish), then add the onion, a sprinkle of Kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Sauté the onion until soft, then mix in the garlic and cook for another minute.
While the onion/garlic mixture cooks, blend the garbanzo beans, sweet potato, and vegetable broth together in a high-powered blender (I use my NutriBullet).
Add the sweet potato/garbanzo bean mixture to the onion/garlic mixture, blend well and cook for ~2 minutes. Stir in the marinara sauce, heat through for ~5 minutes and serve over your favorite pasta, or cool to room temperature and refrigerate for later!