I’m writing this just days after returning from my annual attendance at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE).  I love to be present at this meeting annually, as I come away inspired and full of ideas. It should be on every dietitian’s bucket list!


This year’s conference, held in Chicago, did not disappoint.  FNCE coincided with the Academy’s centennial, and there were more than 13,000 dietitians in attendance, making it one of the largest meetings for many decades.


One of the main reasons I attend is to hear the world-class keynote speakers, and FNCE did not let me down this year.  The distinguished opening speaker was CNN chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Dr Sanjay Gupta.  His topic was: Why do certain medical messages work or stick with people?

Dr Gupta shared that he likes to consider whether the stories start a conversation with others as evidence of impact.  Do people hear the story, and share it with others, he wondered?  A successful story, he posits, will create change in people’s lives.  He left us with this challenge to think about: “How do you create that conversation to happen continuously with consumers?”

Kimbal Musk, co-founder of The Kitchen and brother of famous entrepreneur Elon Musk, spoke on why “food is the new internet – the future of food”.  A trailblazer in the food industry, advancing indoor farming in shipping containers, school learning gardens, and farm to table restaurants, Kimbal’s passion comes from his mother, Maye Musk, a dietitian and model.  Kimbal punctuated his presentation by enthusing, “it’s never been a better time for dietitians to shine in today’s food revolution!”

Physicist and highly regarded scientist Dr Michio Kaku was the closing speaker. He took us on a tour of what the future might hold for medicine – and how what we once thought was science fiction is now becoming reality.  Think: intelligent paper, 3D printing, supersonic jets, and flying cars – just like the Jetsons!

I also love to visit the expo hall. With more than 390 exhibitors, it’s a little overwhelming and takes quite a few hours to do it justice.  The highlight this year was the 2,000-sq-ft. “cranberry bog” from Ocean Spray, where attendees could fully immerse themselves – literally! – and experience being a cranberry farmer. Here’s one of the many trends articles stemming from the conference – a great read to get up to speed.

My final reason for attending FNCE is to connect with fellow dietitians – both existing contacts and new connections.  It was also fantastic to see so many Australian dietitians in attendance; and I hope to see more of you in 2018 in Washington DC.

My biggest take-away from FNCE? A presentation by Ted Souder, Google’s Head of Industry Retail, who discussed the concept of “moonshot thinking” at Google.  Ted asked us, “What if?” His point was, what if we started all our conversations with “What if?”, and started to get comfortable with being UNcomfortable, and took bigger risks?

So now I turn it over to you: What if?

— By Maree Ferguson

— Edited by Laura Byrne

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