Today’s Dietitian 10th Annual Spring Symposium
By Judith Riddle
Vol. 25 No. 7 P. 42
Today’s Dietitian celebrates 10 years of providing symposia to nutrition professionals in the coastal city of Savannah—and what a special, memorable time for everyone!
Today’s Dietitian (TD) has reached a huge milestone! We kicked off our 10th annual Spring Symposium on May 14 to 17 at the Hyatt Regency Savannah in Savannah, Georgia, a coastal city well known for its renowned historic sites and gardens, river boat cruises, music festivals and performances, beaches and parks, and award-winning cuisine.
Just moments away from monuments, shops, local eateries, and live music, the Hyatt Regency Savannah afforded the perfect venue to host and celebrate our 10th year of providing high-quality continuing education via workshops, panel discussions, and Q&As—all presented by leading RDs and other medical/health care experts in the country. The workshops explored cutting-edge research in dietetics and covered the latest nutrition trends, including food as medicine, digestive wellness, cultural foodways, social media, diabetes, cancer, recipe development, and more.
“I really enjoyed all of the speakers,” said Teresa T. Graham, MPA, RD, LD, CLC, nutrition services director of the Georgia WIC program at the Georgia Department of Public Health in Albany, Georgia. “They were really informative. They knew what they were talking about, and the research was really good.”
In addition to the workshops, TD offered valuable networking opportunities, fitness classes to help attendees unwind and recharge, fun special events, and an exhibit hall showcasing 48 sponsor companies that featured a variety of products and services and whose representatives discussed the latest research tailored to all things dietetics.
This year, 650 nutrition professionals attended the symposium—many of whom included dietitians in private practice and clinical RDs specializing in diabetes management and education, pediatrics, retail, sports dietetics, media, meal planning, malnutrition, oncology, home health care, culinary arts, and public health.
The symposium jumped off with three extraordinary workshops hosted by leading-edge presenters: “Ethics for All in a Sometimes-Unethical World in 2023,” presented by Dianne Polly, JD, MS, RDN, LDN; “Zero to 100: Becoming a Powerhouse in Public Speaking,” presented by Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD, ACSM-EP, and Jen Nguyen, RD, CDN, NASM-CPT; and “What Should the RDN Do for the 96 Million Americans With Prediabetes?” presented by Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDCES, CHWC, FAND. Each session offered dietitians evidence-based information and practical strategies to apply to their daily work.
After attending the “Ethics for All …” workshop, Mary Johnson, RD, a nutrition business owner in Eastman, Georgia, said, “This course made me think more about ethical situations in the workplace. It’s very easy to take small gifts from clients, and this was a good reminder to steer clear of that. It’s also important not to take money or bribes when dealing with clients or retailers.”
Paula Livernois, RD, a clinical manager in Chesapeake, Virginia, said, “I will continue to live by our Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Code of Ethics and report any unethical activity, even if it means losing my job. And if an ethics issue arises, I will handle it at the lowest level or with HR to resolve it before I take it further.”
According to Desirae Suggs, MS, RD, a foodservice manager at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, the public speaking workshop will help her “be more confident in pursuing speaking engagements.
I will be less nervous while delivering presentations.”
Kimberly Harmon, MS, RD, CDCES, BC-ADM, a certified diabetes educator at the University of Colorado Hospital, Endocrinology Clinic, in Denver, added that she plans to focus on three questions when developing presentations: “What is the topic?” “What value do you bring?” and “What will the audience gain?”
Cathy Armacost, MS, RD, from Spokane, Washington, said she was “totally impressed with the [public speaking] presentation. It gave me a lot of new ideas on how to develop an engaging presentation.”
Stephanie Jiaqi Yang, RD, CDCES, a clinical dietitian and diabetes care and education specialist at Sutter Health in the San Francisco Bay Area, who attended Weisenberger’s prediabetes workshop, said she “gained knowledge on how to use consumer language to better describe the ominous octet that summarizes the pathophysiology of prediabetes and its progression to diabetes,” adding that “I plan on improving my counseling skills by implementing this terminology when working with clients with prediabetes.”
Cindy Cysewski, MS, RD, LDN, director of healthcare sales at Lyons Magnus, a food and beverage services company in Asheville, North Carolina, said she “enjoyed Jill’s presentation very much. She was so knowledgeable about prediabetes.”
Kerry McArthur, MPH, RD, CDN, a certified intuitive eating counselor in Brooklyn, New York, said she “loved the language [Jill] used to explain the whys for addressing prediabetes.
After attending Weisenberger’s presentation, Mandy Light, MS, RD, LDN, a dietitian at Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina, plans to “focus on [establishing] small goals with patients that are achievable, such as the benefits of reaching normoglycemia.”
Keynote and Dinner Presentation
The three opening sessions prepared attendees and paved the way for the keynote and dinner presentation sponsored by General Mills. The session called “Empowerment or Shame? How Are Biases Shaping the Way RDNs Communicate About Nutrition?” was presented by Amy Cohn, RD, CDM, CFPP; JC Lippold, MAL, RYT; and Jessica Broome, PhD.
The presenters discussed new survey research findings on food and fitness shaming through the eyes of consumers, RDs, and certified fitness professionals. The speakers explained the complexities of shaming and provided solutions for dietitians to help break the cycle.
Jennifer Lyons, RDN, CDCES, owner of Jennifer Lyons Nutrition, a private practice specializing in diabetes care in Alexandria, Virginia, said the keynote presentation “was really good.” The speakers discussed “new information I initially wasn’t familiar with, and I learned things I can definitely apply to my practice.”
Elizabeth Green, RD, from Jordan, New York, said, “This session was excellent and timely. I personally have experienced shaming due to obesity, so sessions last year and this year have helped me immensely.”
According to Alexandra Toline, MS, RDN, LDN, NASM-CPT, founder and owner of The Dietitian Mom, a nutrition business in the Memphis, Tennessee, area, specializing in nutritional health before, during, and post pregnancy, “The [keynote] presentation was well presented, and it brought up a good conversation for RDs to ponder when working with clients. I appreciated their perspective and also enjoyed hearing the questions other participants asked at the end for discussion.”
Courtney McCormick, RD, manager of clinical research and nutrition at Nutrisystem in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, agreed: “This was a wonderful presentation to help RDNs rethink how we speak to our clients to ensure our messages aren’t causing shame. The use of consumer insights really helped bring the client perspective to the presentation.”
Following the first day of thought-provoking sessions and the keynote presentation, symposium attendees kick-started their mornings at 6:30 am with a cardio and yoga workout.
Frisline Saintoiry, MA; Mary Medina; and Colleen Higgins from Carlson Labs led Carlson’s Vitamin D Dash Walk/Run. Attendees from all fitness levels enjoyed the scenic route around the city of Savannah. Everyone who participated received a tote bag containing a vitamin D test and a bottle of Carlson Super Daily D3.
Dessie Daniell from The Hub Savannah led Hub Yoga Flow, sponsored by Lifeway Foods, a one-hour breath-based session geared toward strengthening the core and body. Participants received a complimentary yoga mat and a bottle of Lifeway Kefir.
Once attendees felt reenergized after their morning walk/run and yoga workout, they attended many other educational sessions of interest. Some of their favorite workshops included “TikTok Made Me Eat It: How RDNs Can Empower Consumers to Eat Better by Creating Short Videos on TikTok and Instagram,” presented by Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, author, blogger, and owner of Rust Nutrition Services, and Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, founder of LizsHealthyTable.com and the podcast EAT, DRINK, LIVE LONGER.
Rust and Weiss discussed the impact TikTok and Instagram reels have on food and nutrition education and showed RDs how to create and compose short videos, develop strategies to grow an engaged following, and begin posting frequently on these social media platforms.
Many attendees were unfamiliar with TikTok but were expressing interest in sharing content on the popular app. “[I plan] to familiarize myself with the videos from dietitians on TikTok and begin creating short videos with clients in mind,” Lyons said. “As dietitians, we need to combat misinformation, which means we need to be present on social media platforms.”
Suggs agreed: “I can use TikTok to promote nutrition/preventative care outside of the hospital. I have the tools to create engaging and relevant content and reach potential clients.”
Another favorite session was “Starting a Side Hustle: Opportunities and First Steps,” presented by Katie Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND, owner of Katie Dodd Nutrition, LLC, founder of The Geriatric Dietitian blog and High Calorie Recipes food blog, and the host of the Dietitian Side Hustle podcast.
Mary Branom, RD, a clinical dietitian at Banner Health in Greeley, Colorado, said, “[This was a] wonderful thought-provoking presentation that will help me step out of my comfort zone and look into options for a side hustle for myself.”
Mary Grainger, RD, a consulting dietitian in Columbia, South Carolina, said Dodd “was so thorough! I will use her techniques to get more gigs to help impact the health of patients.”
The session “Dietitians to the Rescue: Translating Complex High-Quality Research Into Simple Messages to Combat Nutrition Quackery,” presented by Taylor C. Wallace, PhD, CFS, FACN, principal and CEO of the Think Healthy Group and a professor in the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University, also was highly popular among RDs.
With all of the disinformation on the internet and social media about diet and nutrition, Wallace reviewed various study design elements and their utility, discussed how to interpret the strengths and limitations of research, and develop strategies to squash nutrition quackery through truthful, straightforward messages for patients and the mainstream media.
“I loved this speaker and want to know more about [how to] translate research into simple messages,” said Kelsi Evans, RD, a clinical dietitian from Bloomington, Illinois.
Sarah Hester, MS, RD, community wellness manager at the Dairy Alliance in Youngsville, North Carolina, said, “This presentation was my whole graduate-level research methods class summed up within an hour. It was a great refresher!”
Emily Massi, RDN, LDN, healthy living merchandising manager at Giant Food in Rockville, Maryland, said, “Proper understanding of evidence-based research is critical to the success of our field. In a world where nutrition information can be obtained at any time, it’s imperative that dietetics professionals remain cognizant of how to identify good research and guide consumers to do the same. This session provided the tools needed to do so. Moving forward, I will use the skills identified in this session to parse good research from questionable [research] and educate consumers.”
Participants also applauded the session “The 5-Flavored Case for Food as Medicine,” presented by the renowned David Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, FACLM, founder and former director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, past president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, president and founder of the nonprofit True Health Initiative, and founder and CEO of Diet ID, Inc.
In this session, Katz, an internal medicine and lifestyle medicine specialist, explained food as medicine concepts and goals, its applicability in nutrition science and potential for impacting health outcomes, how it’s measured, and the dietitians’ role.
Many RDs raved about Katz’s presentation, wanting more information and more time for Q&As. Attendees said this was an “excellent presentation,” “a thorough presentation,” and that Katz “was great” and “amazing.”
Ronni Julien, MS, RDN, LDN, president of Julien Nutrition Institute, a private consulting practice in Aventura, Florida, said, “Dr. Katz is one of the finest speakers. I have listened to his live lectures for about 30 years, and I’m never disappointed. He’s an extraordinary warrior for nutrition and lifestyle!”
Lise Gloede, MS, RD, CDCES, founder of Nutrition Coaching, LLC, in Falls Church, Virginia, agreed, saying Katz “was an excellent speaker and esteemed evidenced-based practitioner,” urging TD to “invite other similar speakers to future symposiums.”
Learning While Munching
As in previous years, attendees enjoyed special breakfast and lunch presentations sponsored by several food companies.
TD hosted the following five breakfast presentations:
• “Affordable Nutrition: How Food Prices Impact Food Insecurity and How to Leverage Grocery Stores to Shop Healthy on a Budget,” sponsored by General Mills’ Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition and presented by Craig Gundersen, PhD, Snee Family Endowed Chair, Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty Professor in the department of economics, and Lorena Kaplen, RDN, LDN, H-E-B Wellness Nutrition Strategy;
• “A Closer Look at Low- and No-Calorie Sweeteners: Safety, Efficacy, and Implementation,” sponsored by Splenda and presented by Holly Moran, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, manager of nutrition and science communications for the Heartland Food Products Group, and Neil Skolnik, MD, professor of family and community medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and associate director of the family medicine residency program at Abington Memorial Hospital, in Abington, Pennsylvania;
• “Sustainable Behavior Changes for Cardiovascular Health: Navigating Client Recommendations in a Socially Influenced Society,” sponsored by Fresh Avocados–Love One Today and presented by Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RDN, ACSM-EP, owner of a private practice and consulting business, and a writer, educator, food enthusiast, and award-winning journalist;
• “Building Your Ag IQ: What Farmers Wish You Knew About Healthy, Sustainable Diets,” sponsored by the National Cattleman’s Beef Association and presented by Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RD, LD, FAND, an adjunct assistant professor in the department of dietetics and human nutrition at the University of Kentucky; Lauren Twigge, MCN, RD, LD, founder of Lauren Twigge Nutrition, LLC, a private practice providing healthful eating education, weight management, mindful eating, and other services; and Jason Sawyer, PhD, chief science officer for East Foundation in San Antonio, Texas; and
• “Today’s Food Conversation: What Messages Should We Be Communicating About Strawberries?” sponsored by California Strawberries and presented by Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND, founder and president of Farmer’s Daughter Consulting, an agriculture, food, and culinary communications firm, in the Sacramento, California area.
The four lunch presentations included the following:
• “Prebiotics and Gut Microbiota: Establishing a Healthy Trajectory From Early Life to Adulthood,” sponsored by Beneo Institute and presented by Raylene Reimer, PhD, RD, a professor in the faculty of kinesiology and the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, and a full scientist in the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute;
• “Not All Plant-Based Diets Are Created Equal: Practical Ways to Help Clients and Patients Replace Processed Plant Foods With Whole Plant Foods,” sponsored by American Pistachio Growers and presented by Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD, owner of a Los Angeles–based and virtual private practice, specializing in performance nutrition and plant-based diets;
• “Nourishing the First 1,000 Days: Dairy and Baby’s Brain Development,” sponsored by the National Dairy Council and presented by Elizabeth Zmuda, DO, FAAP, FACOP, a pediatrician and director of medical education for Doctor’s Hospital at OhioHealth; Sun Young Lee, MD, MSc, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine; and Marina Chaparro, MPH, RD, CDE, founder of Nutrichicos, a bilingual nutrition practice specializing in children and family nutrition in Miami; and
• “Good to the Bone: The Intersection of Inflammation, Bone Health, and a Daily Handful of California Prunes,” sponsored by California Prunes and presented by Connie Rogers, PhD, MPH, a professor and head of the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Georgia, and Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT, owner of nutritionnowcounseling.com, a nutrition communications business in Charleston, South Carolina.
Networking and Special Events
Following the breakfast and lunch presentations, TD kicked off four special events that enabled dietitians to learn, network, and have some fun. “Putting the ‘Happy’ in ‘Happy Hour,’” sponsored by the National Watermelon Promotion Board and Bayer, gave dietitians a chance to relax and sip on watermelon rosemary lemonade mocktails and mingle with colleagues. The National Watermelon Promotion Board shared recent survey findings on the health benefits of eating watermelon—considered summer’s favorite fruit.
Dietitians attended the “Savoring Savannah With American Pecans” event sponsored by American Pecan Council. They enjoyed pecan-inspired hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, met industry experts and members of the American Pecan Council team, and networked with colleagues.
The “Bee Garden Tour” sponsored by the National Honey Board took RDs off property to the Savannah Bee Company to learn about its history, tour the bee garden, observe the honey bees, and learn the impact bees have on their everyday lives and the environment. Participants sampled different varieties of honey and enjoyed a six-flight mead tasting.
To celebrate the final day of continuing education, attendees gathered along Savannah’s historic Riverwalk to attend a happy hour event, sponsored by Regular Girl and WellVine, where they sipped on cocktails and shared good conversation while taking in the spectacular views of Port of Savannah—the nation’s largest port.
Exhibit Hall Excitement
The infectious enthusiasm among RDs at the special events spilled over to the exhibit hall, where they walked from booth to booth, eagerly meeting and greeting the 48 sponsor companies that sampled new products and discussed the health benefits of their brands as well as nutrition research.
“It was nice to talk to professionals about their products and the research done on the different products,” said Laurie Fortlage, MS, RD, an eating disorder dietitian in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Amid the deafening din of spirited conversations between attendees and sponsors were announcements of prize winners. Attendees were randomly chosen to win cash prizes. The grand prize included free registration for TD’s 2024 Spring Symposium and a three-night hotel stay. Attendees had to be in the exhibit hall when their names were called to win. The grand prize winner was Jeanette Shelley, RD, a clinical dietitian at Beltline Health, LLC, in Newnan, Georgia.
Social Media Blitz
To promote ongoing engagement throughout the symposium, TD encouraged all attendees, presenters, and sponsors to go on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and use our hashtag, #TDinGA, to tweet and post photos and video clips to let everyone know how much they were enjoying the symposium. Our staff also tweeted and posted comments on these social media channels in real time throughout the event.
Ruth Frechman, MA, RDN, CPT, author of The Food Is My Friend Diet: The Ultimate 30-Day Weight Loss Plan, and founder of On the Weigh, a nutrition consulting business in Burbank, California, posted, “Congrats to Today’s Dietitian for a very successful 10th anniversary spring symposium in Savannah, Georgia! Wishing you continued success for future events. You provide a valuable and enriching experience for dietitians. Thank you!”
Sylvia Klinger, DBA, MS, RDN, LDN, CPT, founder of Hispanic Food Communications, Inc, a nutrition communications and culinary consulting company in the greater Chicago area, posted, “Today’s Dietitian delivered lectures that [will] enhance my practice and provided unique events and an intimate networking environment that made it easier to dialog with dietitians, farmers, and vendors.”
Instagram Posts and Tweets
Andrea Mathis, MA, RDN, LD, founder of Beautifuleatsandthings.com, a website focused on recipes, wellness, and lifestyle, and author of The Complete Book of Healthy Smoothies, posted, “I had such a wonderful time in Savannah, attending the Today’s Dietitian symposium. I enjoyed seeing my dietitian friends and attending some amazing sessions and events!”
Weiss posted: “I attended Today’s Dietitian 10th annual Spring Symposium in Savannah. If I had to give the conference a grade, it would be an A+.”
Sarah Garone, MA, NDTR, a food and nutrition blogger in Mesa, Arizona, tweeted, “It was an awesome few days in Savannah, Georgia, where I attended the @Today’s Dietitian 2023 conference. I learned tons about the gut microbiome, cardiovascular health, and nutrition myth-busting, and I (of course) ate some delicious food!”
Bright Future Ahead
This year’s symposium was extra special because it marked our 10-year anniversary hosting continuing education symposia for dietitians across the country and abroad. All of the attendees appreciated the workshops, the exhibit hall, special networking events, and fitness classes. The TD staff thanks all of our sponsors, presenters, attendees, and volunteers who helped make the symposium a huge success.
The Today’s Dietitian 11th Spring Symposium 2024 will be held in Salt Lake City (nicknamed “Salt Lake” and known for its vast salt flats and powdery ski slopes) on May 19 to 24. Don’t wait another moment to register at TodaysDietitian.com/ss24. We look forward to seeing you there!
— Judith Riddle is editor of Today’s Dietitian.