National Nutrition Month® - 2019

National Nutrition Month® - 2019

“National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.  This year there is no set theme, rather the aim is to encourage to increase the public's awarenes of the importance of good nutrition and find what works for you!

 Consumer research confirms that taste tops nutrition as the main reason why one food is purchased over another.  While social, emotional and health factors also plays a role, the foods people enjoy are likely the ones they eat the most.   The focus is how one can combine taste and nutrition to create healthy meals that follow the Dietary Guidelines recommendations.”

Last weekend was the “South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF) .  The event brought together celebrity chefs, culinary personalities and a multitude of restaurants passing out their “best bites” to sample and enjoy all while basking in the south Florida sun.  The SOBEWFF always happens the last weekend in February so it’s always close to the start of National Nutrition Month . I wrote a blog post the last time I attended. You can read what I took away from it here. This year was no different - food, wine, and fun - and a little nutrition take-home message from the chefs. That’s right, the chefs were full of passing out nutrition messages. Chefs vs dietitians - can we all agree on a nutrition take-home message? Read on to see what I have to say…

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Being in the field of nutrition for over 20 years now I’ve seen many a great debate among people who think they know it all when it comes to nutrition. And while all people eat food, it doesn’t mean that just because you eat food you’re an expert in food. Chefs on the other hand, they spend a lot of time with food and obviously know how to make good food. But can the two worlds collide? Can healthy food taste delicious?

Bobby Flay – Hands down Bobby had the most people watching his presentation. He was funny, hungover (from the BBQ bash the previous night), and interactive with the crowd - he even took a selfie! Bobby prepared Shrimp Fra Diavolo over squid ink pasta. He talked about how to make a homemade sauce using either fresh tomatoes and/or canned tomatoes. The setting is tough to cook in with just 30 minutes all the while answering questions. Bobby performed beautifully (he’s been here almost every year, he’s a seasoned pro). But what I actually took away from what Bobby was saying this day, was that he was trying to inspire even the beginner chef to make a homemade red sauce. He didn’t want people to think of it as overwhelming but rather an enjoyable time in the kitchen. Obviously people were in the crowd because they enjoy cooking, but he knew that there were all different levels. He encouraged the crowd to get in the kitchen and experiment. While he’s been in the field of cooking/grilling, etc. for what feels like forever, he said we all have to start somewhere and a homemade red sauce is something you want to have in your arsenal. People asked him questions about adding a little sugar to the sauce vs carrots to the sauce - truth, “Always taste before adding anything, because your tomatoes might surprise you!” But at the end of the day, just a sprinkle of sugar will take the acid off the tomatoes. I actually loved his presentation and loved that he made cooking look simple and for everyone. My only gripe with Bobby was this, if only he used a pasta that everyone could afford - squid ink pasta Bobby, really?

Not a high-quality picture, but we were in the back. Safe to say I was there and I saw Bobby.

Not a high-quality picture, but we were in the back. Safe to say I was there and I saw Bobby.

Robert Irvine – Had his time overlap with Bobby Flay, so to be honest the crowd wasn’t that big. I left Bobby a few minutes early to catch just a glimpse of Robert as I had seen him a few years ago. Robert was full of nutrition messages in just the few minutes I was able to catch him. Who knows what else he said before I got there. Here’s the thing, I’m not opposed to chefs dispensing nutrition information, but to the common person in the crowd listening to what he had to say it could have been misinterpreted and/or misunderstood. The first thing he was talking about was olive oil. He had a good point in describing the different kinds of oils, but I was sitting next to a few people and could hear the murmurs, “what’s he trying to tell us?” People were confused as to what he was saying. If he had been a little more clear, then maybe…or maybe not Robert. Just leave the nutritional breakdown to the dietitians. Too bad I don’t even remember what dish he prepared.

Michael Simon - On my days off occasionally here and there I always made it a point to watch The Chew. It’s been off the air for awhile now, but I always did like the banter between the cast. Enter Michael Simon. Greek. Bald. Maybe you know who I’m talking about. He too said he was a little hungover - apparently what South Beach is known for.

The dish he was making was chicken cooked in hay. Yes, you heard me correctly, hay. Now, while I live in Miami we do have an area of “horse country” but for the mainstream city person they’re not going to just have hay lying around. A person in the crowd even asked where someone in Miami could buy hay. So, needless to say I wasn’t impressed by the dish he was about to make - forget the fact that he was making references that it might start a fire in your house. Not what I was looking for in a dish to make.

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Then Michael started talking nutrition to the crowd as well. Basically (and I’m summarizing his words, these aren’t exact) eat red meat, eat the fat. He did explain a little of what he meant in that the marbling does provide flavor and you want to get a good cut of meat when you are cooking/eating. But what he didn’t say? What he didn’t consider?? All the people in the crowd with possible heart disease and diabetes. Some of you might think I’m getting too serious over a little thing, but the truth of the matter is that this is one of the problems with how we are eating in America these days (can’t speak for other countries). We eat and we tend not to think of the ramifications. Had Michael Simon said have a good cut of meat every once in awhile, watch your portions and eat lots of non-starchy veggies maybe. But that’s not what he said. He had the stage, he had their attention and it was as if he was giving people permission to eat red meat because so many health gurus have told people to not (he did allude to this). I have no clue if he is sponsored by any meat companies, but he had no reason to go off on the tangent that he did nor dismiss what said health gurus know is true. There was a microphone where you could ask questions and while I was tempted to go up and ask something about nutrition I didn’t dare. I know it’s a festival, it’s a fun atmosphere, and I wasn’t there to be the Debbie Downer in the crowd.

I like Michael Simon, I really do. And I’m not trying to be critical (keep reading and you’ll see I loved the next chefs, a lot.) but the truth is I believe I lot of people have this “eat what makes you feel good mentality” and they’re doing this every day all day, you know living in the moment and not thinking about health at any costs. Festival, parties and special celebrations are a part of life and deserve to be enjoyed with good tasting food. But aside from the day to day (and also hope not every day is a holiday) I challenge people to find the ways to make healthy food taste good, because you can. I’m glad there’s a mix of chefs out there and not all of them make unhealthy food all of the time.

Case in point, these Pan-”fried” Veggie Pot Stickers - proving healthy can taste delicious.

Case in point, these Pan-”fried” Veggie Pot Stickers - proving healthy can taste delicious.

Valerie Bertinelli I’ll be honest I only know Valerie from her days on One Day At A Time not for cooking, but then again I don’t have cable so I don’t watch The Food Network. But from the entrance to the middle and then to the end, Valerie was just as real as real could be. Valerie burnt her appetizer, left out an ingredient in her cocktail and openly admitted on stage to doing these things. It’s what made her real and able to relate to those in the crowd that really don’t know how to cook. I’m not saying Valerie doesn’t know how to cook, but you could tell from the crowd they appreciated that she hadn’t gone to school and has learned cooking on the fly. Person after person got up to not only ask a question but simply to thank Valerie for giving them day to day easy recipes that made them feel like they could cook. I wouldn’t say all of her recipes are healthy - the appetizer was Brown Sugar-Sriracha Bacon Bites - but again she openly stated these could be made for a party and weren’t an every day item to have. Balance. Moderation. Yeah, I’d watch Valerie for some inspo too!

Valerie even took a video to share with her Instagram followers that the bacon bites were in fact burnt.

Valerie even took a video to share with her Instagram followers that the bacon bites were in fact burnt.

Trisha Yearwood - Again, I only know Trisha from her Grammy record winning days as well as the fact that she is married to Garth Brooks. But to say that she had a cooking show on Food Network, I didn’t have a clue. Trisha again was just as real as real could be. She had just finished making brunch for a crowd at another event, had been singing the night before (and kind of lost her voice) but wanted to come and connect with those that watch her show. What I remember from Trisha’s presentation wasn’t her baked chicken wings with two different sauces (although baked vs fried does sound intriguing), but rather a question that was asked in the audience of how/why she went from singing to cooking. Trisha said she had been approached to write a memoir and while she had once thought she might write a tell-all it was still too early in her career to put to give out all the salacious details. Instead she came up with the idea for her mom, sister, and herself to write a cookbook. Her father had just passed away and this gave her mom something to work and focus on. It also was a time when they all came together as a family to reminisce about recipes and put them into writing so they all could have them forever. I loved that story. Food, family and tradition. How many of us have a recipe that we make year after year for Thanksgiving? Or that one favorite dessert that your mom makes for special occasions? I could totally relate and love that Trisha compiled all those said recipes in a book to share with the world. Food is fuel, but it’s so much more than that. It can take us back to a moment or a memory, it’s just that special.

Not a high-quality picture, but she was just as real could be. Love it!

Not a high-quality picture, but she was just as real could be. Love it!

The rest of the SOBEWFF was exactly that, wine and food. I perused and tried as many little bites and concoctions as possible. I didn’t take many pictures of my food or drink, but my favorite drinks were a Rosé sorbet with a close tie on the mint lemonade. And for the bites, there was a shrimp tostada that was out of this world tasty! I love that they had so many options to try - from BBQ to seafood to sweets, SOBEWFF really outdid themselves. No wonder so many people like to come to the beach in February!

Planta is a new restaurant on South Beach that is vegan. The little bite was a take on a chicken taco, only with mushrooms.

Planta is a new restaurant on South Beach that is vegan. The little bite was a take on a chicken taco, only with mushrooms.

I entered a contest last year and won these tickets to the SOBEWFF. I feel fortunate that I was able to attend and not only see the chef celebrities but also enjoy the festivities of the day. My take home message from the festival and how it relates to National Nutrition Month is this: Food is fuel, but more than just fuel it has the ability to create human connections. We should enjoy food and indulge here and there, but we should also learn how to cook (because we all can and don’t have to be famous chefs, Valerie proved that!) food that is healthy and that tastes good. We have a lifetime ahead of us and one that should be enjoyed, our food can help us to be healthy along this so-called journey called life. It might even give you wings. Happy National Nutrition Month!

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Until next year SOBEWFF!