July 2017 Issue

Today's Dietitian's Fourth Annual Spring Symposium
By Judith Riddle
Today's Dietitian
Vol. 19, No. 7, P. 26

A Successful Event That Keeps Growing in Significance and Numbers

In the heart of New Orleans' legendary French Quarter—a destination hotspot famous for its Southern charm and eclectic nightlife, not to mention its gumbo, oysters, and beignets—Today's Dietitian (TD) hosted its fourth annual Spring Symposium May 20 to 24. The event was held at the historic Astor Crowne Plaza New Orleans, where Bourbon Street meets Canal Street, and where the staff of TD welcomed more than 600 attendees from across the country and the world, including Africa, Belize, the Cayman Islands, and Canada.

With each passing year, the growth of our continuing education and networking event skyrockets. Attendance more than doubled from 2014 when we first launched the symposium, growing at a rate of 105%. Our sponsorship also has grown exponentially. "For your fourth year, Today's Dietitian is doing a great job," said Joan Stadler, MEd, RD, clinical nutrition supervisory dietitian in primary care at the VA in Wichita, Kansas. "Be prepared for an explosion and expansion as the word keeps spreading."

Speaking of an explosion, attendees and sponsors tweeted so many photos and comments about the event using #TDinNOLA that we were trending #1 on Twitter for two straight days.

Attendees included dietitians in clinical and private practice, consultants, supermarket RDs, educators, foodservice managers, and others. Registered dietetic technicians, certified diabetes educators, registered nurses, and other health care and nutrition professionals also joined us.

The event featured 21 of the best and brightest presenters in the dietetics field who discussed cutting-edge research on a variety of topics pertinent to daily practice. Presentations focused on media communications, the latest trends in eating patterns, agricultural and sustainability issues, retail dietetics, culinary nutrition, integrative and functional nutrition, digestive health, diabetes, and more. "The sessions were wonderful," said Brianna Elliott, RD, LD, a nutrition specialist at Open Arms in Minneapolis. "The presenters discussed trendy nutrition topics that are relevant to everyday practice."

Local Food and Farm Tour
Before the symposium got off to a running start, TD's very own nutrition editor, Sharon Palmer, RDN, hosted a local food and farm tour of New Orleans on Saturday, May 20 for attendees who wanted to learn all about the local food, farms, food history, and hunger organizations in the area. The group visited Crescent City Farmers Market in the city's historic Warehouse District where they learned about the history of its programs and sampled a variety of locally grown fruits, veggies, and baked goods. They stopped at Second Harvest Food Bank, which is the heart of a regional network of 584 partners and programs across Southern Louisiana. The food bank distributes 30 million lbs of food and other grocery items to 210,000 low-income individuals and families in need each year. The group's visit to the Samuel J. Green Charter School to observe the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans (ESYNOLA) in progress was the third stop on the tour. The goal of ESYNOLA is to encourage children to build and maintain healthful relationships with food, themselves, and the community and offer hands-on classes in schoolyard gardens and teaching kitchens. The Southern Food and Beverage Museum was the last stop, where the group learned about the local, historical food traditions in New Orleans and toured the museum. To learn more about the tour, visit RDLounge.com/2017/05/30/new-orleans-local-food-and-farm-tour.

Opening Session and Dynamic Keynote
The symposium officially began on Sunday with a comprehensive workshop on blogging by the renowned Regan Miller Jones, RD, a nationally recognized dietitian and owner of the most successful assortment of dietitian-owned websites. Miller Jones captivated the audience with her wealth of knowledge about the benefits of blogging, how to start a blog, and strategies for communicating nutrition messages and encouraging clients and the public to eat healthfully. In addition, she outlined steps to create interesting blog posts and integrate social media into blogging, and discussed how to read and monitor Google analytics.

"Regan did an amazing job of educating and keeping us engaged," said Yvette Quantz, RDN, CSSD, LDN, founder of Customized Nutrition Newsletters in Lafayette, Louisiana. "This was a session I drove in early to attend, and she delivered."

Vanessa Richard, RDN, LDN, a private practitioner in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said, "This session was really fabulous and a great resource as an RDN who's ready to launch my blog and have a better social media presence. Thank you!" Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a board certified sports dietitian in Philadelphia, who blogs at Eat Real Live Well, said, "Regan Miller Jones' session on blogging was valuable to me, since I had been very intimidated by analytics and SEO [search engine optimization]. I left [the session] with a realistic list of tasks to improve my blog. And I've already implemented some of her ideas."

Later, Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RDN, FACSM, FAND, dazzled our RD audience with an inspiring and motivational presentation about her extraordinary career journey (she has changed careers three times) and how she overcame some tough challenges to get to where she is today. She empowered RDs to keep their minds open to the many career possibilities in the work they do, because they don't know who they might meet or where they could end up.

Flinging blue, purple, gold, green, pink, orange, and silver beaded necklaces into the audience, Stoler began her presentation by saying, "New Orleans is my favorite city. I went to Tulane University in 1985," adding that she ended up at Tulane because she didn't get accepted to Emory University, which she considered to be one of the many disappointments she'd experience regarding her education and career. "I failed many times," Stoler said, "but my failures helped me in the long run." She said that for every success she's had, she had 20 failures, but a door always opens when one closes, and every time something better happens. With great enthusiasm, Stoler took the audience through her fascinating career timeline, discussing the schools she attended and why, the different and unlikely jobs she held, and how her failures were blessings in disguise. She said, "I had the privilege of taking advantage of opportunities I never thought I'd have," referring to being interviewed on television because of her nutrition and fitness expertise. Today, she's considered a spokesperson, educator, strategist, leader, innovator, scientist, foodie, fitness enthusiast, cook, and advocate. And throughout her journey she often has relied on her favorite quotes for inspiration from notable people—one of whom is Michael Jordan, who said, "Some people want it to happen. Some people wish it will happen. Others make it happen." Stoler's last words: "I want to run for Congress and be that change. I believe they need a voice for health care."

Attendees said the keynote was "fun and inspiring" and "amazing," and they "enjoyed hearing about Felicia's journey."

Favorite Sessions
One of the attendees' favorite sessions was "The FODMAP Story: Unraveling the Latest Research" by Kate Scarlata, RDN, who discussed the impact of the low-FODMAP diet on gut flora and outlined the low-FODMAP elimination and reintroduction nutrition protocol. "The reason I came to the symposium was because of Kate Scarlata's presentation," said Linda Wood, RD, a dietitian at the Outpatient Education Center at Texas Health Resources in Denton, Texas. "I see a lot of people in my practice with GI issues. I wasn't trained in this area, but Kate has helped me understand FODMAPs."

Betsy Ramirez, MEd, RDN, LDN, a consultant dietitian in Bossier City, Louisiana, said, "I love hearing Kate Scarlata speak. She is such a fountain of knowledge. I cannot learn enough from her. Thank you for having her."

Lauren O'Connor, MS, RD, RYT, a yoga teacher, nutrition consultant, and founder of Nutri Savvy Health in Los Angeles, added, "I was impressed with Kate's experience and in-depth knowledge of the subject FODMAPs. I love that she has plenty of resources available on the subject for RDs to access."

"#Eat Clean: What's It Mean? The Health, the Hype, the How-To" by Michelle Dudash, RDN, "was my favorite session," said Najwa Worthen, MPH, RD, a dietitian at Malcolm Randall Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida. "That's one of the key things my patients ask me about." Dudash explained the true definition of clean eating, demystified its various interpretations, and provided strategies for applying clean eating techniques and communicating them to the masses.

"[#EatClean] was a really inspirational and excellent session to clarify and really promote clean eating, which really is at the heart of the dietitian's message: to eat whole foods balanced," said Tamara Steinlicht, RDN, LDN, a clinical dietitian at Sodexo for Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Florida.

Amanda Bianco, RD, a clinical dietitian from Richmond, Virginia, said, "I really enjoyed this presentation. [Michelle] was down to earth and really realistic about not taking diet trends so seriously. Just doing what you can to eat whole foods as much as you can. Loved it!"

Some attendees described the session "Healthy and Southern? You Bet Your Biscuits!" by Carolyn O'Neil, MS, RDN, LD, as "so much fun," "awesome," and "entertaining yet informative." Using lots of photos and video clips, O'Neil discussed the many traditional foods of the South that are delicious and nutritious. She identified unhealthful eating patterns in Southern cuisine that have led to chronic disease and ways to improve them.

Another favorite was "The End of Dieting: Why People Are Tossing Their Diet Books and Smashing Their Scales — And What You Can Do to Help Them Succeed" by Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RDN, HFS. If you're a dietitian who has clients with weight management and body image issues and who are held captive by society's pressures to be thin, this session was for you. Scritchfield denounced dieting and reinforced the message that clients, no matter their size, can still live healthful, happy lives without focusing on weight loss goals. In other words, love the skin you're in while engaging in regular physical activity and eating nutritious foods. "Rebecca was incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about the topic," said Brianne Gohlke, RD, a clinical dietitian at Beloit Health System in Janesville, Wisconsin. "Her approach was appreciated, and it's a great mindset to apply when counseling patients. And she had excellent resources to reference for practice."

Abigail Benson, RD, a consultant dietitian, educator, and student at the University at Buffalo in Elma, New York, said, "I believe Scritchfield did a wonderful job explaining the harms of dieting. This is such a great topic. I'm so happy she passed out books. I honestly think she could have spoken for hours."

The last but certainly not the least favored session was "Type 2 Diabetes Bootcamp" by Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND, CHWC, and Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, FAADE. Together, they delivered a powerful, in-depth presentation about the pathophysiology of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes; the impact of insulin resistance, glucose, lipids, and hypertension; and how type 2 progresses over time. According to Samantha Hollock, RDN, LDN, a dietitian at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, "Jill was absolutely fantastic. I loved her analogies on how to explain type 2 diabetes to individuals who have been recently diagnosed with the disease."

Casey Luber, MS, RDN, CDN, from New York City, also enjoyed the session: "As a future CDE, this talk was indispensible. Hope and Jill were an entertaining and intelligent dynamic duo!"

In addition to the sessions, breakfast was provided to attendees each day during an impressive lineup of presentations. Sponsors and presentations included a2 Milk®, with a presentation by Deanna Segrave-Daly, RD, called "Welcome Back to Dairy"; California Strawberry Commission, with a presentation by Carl L. Keen, PhD, on "Fruit & Vegetable Safety: The Importance of Exposing Consumers to Science-Based Information"; and Splenda, with a panel discussion, including Maureen E. Conway, MBA, MA, RD, LDN, FAND; Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS; Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD; Julie Harrington, RD; Melissa Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE; Sylvia Klinger, MS, RD, LDN, CPT; and Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RDN, HFS, who discussed "RD Generational Differences."

Bustling Exhibit Hall
Another exciting portion of the symposium was the exhibit hall. With eagerness and anticipation, dietitians formed long lines outside the exhibit hall doors shortly before they opened so they could burst inside to meet the sponsor companies and sample their products. Attendees took the challenge of playing a social media game that involved visiting each exhibitor, writing down the company's Twitter hashtags, and turning in their forms for a chance to win prizes. Winners were announced throughout the exhibit hours, which drummed up even more excitement and anticipation among the dietitians.

This year 45 companies sponsored the event, and they included a2 Milk®; Atkins Nutritionals, Inc; Barilla®; Born Sweet Zing™ Organic Stevia Sweetener; California Raisins; California Strawberry Commission; Canned Food Alliance; Carlson Labs; CBORD®; CinSulin®; Diversified Foods, Inc; Egg Nutrition Center; EnLyte-D; ENU® Nutrition; Enzyme Science™; FlatOut Flatbread®; Florida Department of Citrus; Freedom Foods®; Fruit Street; Functional Formularies®; Good Idea™; Hilary's™; Hodgson Mill; Hormel Health Labs; House Foods; International Tree Nut Council; LaCroix Sparkling Water®; Monsanto Company; Nature's Legacy; Nima® Food Sensor; Premier Protein®; Real Food Blends™; Regular Girl®; Seafood Nutrition Partnership; SOMMA™ Foods; Sorghum Nature's Super Grain™; SPLENDA® Sweeteners; StarKist Co.®; Sunsweet Growers; The Mushroom Council; TrueSelf™ Foods; VSL#3®; Wasa®; watermelon.org; and Zespri Kiwifruit.

Many of the sponsors provided samples of foods and beverages and handed out recipes for attendees to try. For example, a2 Milk® offered their milk varieties; Barilla® provided pasta salad with cheese and fresh herb toppings; California Strawberry Commission sampled fresh strawberries; Wasa® provided Wasa® crackers with hummus, fresh vegetables, Brie, and different jam varieties; Canned Food Alliance offered a red satin cake made with canned beets, peaches, and raspberries, and sampled carrot spice cake made with canned carrots and apricot curd; SOMMA™ Foods offered their chicken bites and hotdogs; watermelon.org provided watermelon rind pickles, watermelon salad, and fresh watermelon juice; Egg Nutrition Center offered egg pops (hard-boiled eggs on a skewer with toppings such as honey mustard and seasonings), and LaCroix served sparkling beverages.

Just outside the exhibit hall, presenters featured copies of their books for purchase and discussion with attendees. They included Becky Dorner, RDN, LD, FAND; Michelle Dudash, RDN; Sharon Palmer, RDN; Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN; Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD; Kate Scarlata, RDN; Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RDN, HFS; Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT; Kathie Swift, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, EBQ; Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, FAADE; Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND, CHWC; and Liz Weiss, MS, RD.

Social Media Frenzy
One of TD's goals was to create a social media storm around the symposium, and we succeeded. We encouraged all attendees, presenters, and sponsors to tweet about the event and post photos using #TDinNOLA as often as possible, and they obliged. Everyone was so excited about the symposium that the event was trending on Twitter in The Big Easy for two consecutive days. According to Twitter data, attendees posted 2,165 tweets producing 8.35 million impressions.

Cassandra Golden, MS, RD, LDN, tweeted, "Thank you @TodaysDietitian for investing in dietitians and hosting a beautiful symposium for us to attend!"

Lauren O'Connor, MS, RD, RYT, tweeted, "Thanks @TodaysDietitian for such a fun, informative event! So great to meet and learn from amazing RDs!"

Rebecca Lewis, RD, tweeted, "This is the power of putting a bunch of brilliant health experts in a room together to talk about nutrition!"

Hillary Pride, RD, LD, tweeted, "My takeaway: RDs need to stake our claim as experts. Collaborate. Advocate. Promote health through realistic approaches."

Presenter Chris Vogliano, MS, RD, tweeted, "Honored to have presented on eating green @TodaysDietitian's [Symposium]. Our profession's passion gives me hope for the future!"

Anita Amin, MPH, RD, tweeted, "Having a blast at the @TodaysDietitian Symposium."

Happy Hour and Networking
To continue the fun and excitement, TD hosted a happy hour at the Grand Gallery & Bourbon Balcony at the Astor Crowne Plaza New Orleans. Hors d'oeuvres were served, and dietitians mingled with one another in a festive atmosphere, New Orleans style. RDs covered their faces with decorative purple and green, and red masks reminiscent of those worn during Mardi Gras celebrations, and held up signs and poster-sized picture frames patterned after Today's Dietitian magazine covers, which featured phrases such as "RDs Rule! #TDinNOLA" and "Wish You Were Here! #TDinNOLA."

LaCroix served attendees three different types of mocktails: tangerine dream, blackberry lemon fizz, and white sangria. StarKist provided tuna risotto cups, artichoke tuna crostinis, and Mediterranean salmon patties; Zespri offered kiwi pops and kiwi avocado bruschetta. To encourage even more connections, TD organized networking dinners with restaurants in the area.

Great Moments and Future Plans
As in previous years, our symposium was a huge success, and it's only going to get better. While there were many first-time attendees who joined us in New Orleans, there also were several second- and third-timers who revisited us. Many dietitians registered onsite to join us next year in Austin, Texas, where we'll be hosting our fifth annual symposium. "[This was] my first time coming to the symposium, and it was excellent," said Rebecca Dorsett, RD, LN, a clinical dietitian and consultant in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Marlene Koch, RDN, a consultant, educator, author, speaker, and owner of Marlene Koch Culinary Nutrition in Los Gatos, California, said, "I was very impressed with the presentations by my peers and the engagement of the attendees both in sessions and with vendors, and I've already spread this information to both colleagues and corporate brands."

The staff of Today's Dietitian would like to thank all of the attendees, presenters, student volunteers, and sponsors who made the symposium such a phenomenal success. And we look forward to seeing you next year in Austin, a city considered the live music capital of the world and famous for its bats, breweries, and barbeque.

— Judith Riddle is editor of Today's Dietitian and RDLounge.com, the blog written for RDs by RDs.