Foodies explored the seventh annual Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show during the weekend at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The show offered presentations by celebrity chefs including Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio of “Top Chef” and Giada De Laurentiis and Jeff Mauro of Food Network, along with more than 300 exhibiting vendors. While attendees sampled offerings that included doughnuts, cocktail-inspired baked goods, cheese and sausages, healthier food piqued their interest on the show floor and in the Celebrity Theater.

During a presentation that featured savory and sweet flavors, Colicchio and Simmons breached the topic of healthier food. Colicchio performed a cooking demonstration of rabbit ragout with fig, pistachios and mushrooms and said he chose to show how to cook rabbit because it is a lighter and leaner alternative to other meat, plus it is versatile. Simmons, when asked about feeding a crowd, recommended soup because it is healthy and economically friendly. She also suggested adding alternative protein, such as beans or quinoa, for a healthy spin, saying such ingredients are a “delicious and hearty thing to eat and to serve your family.” Colicchio suggested focusing on vegetables for healthier meals and getting children to try different kinds of food. “If you want to introduce new foods to your family, you have to eat them as well,” he said, referring to a rule in his house that everyone has to try something at least once before deciding whether he or she likes it.

De Laurentiis answered an audience question about how to make turkey meatballs more flavorful and moist while still making a healthier meal than traditional meatballs. She suggested using half white ground turkey and half dark ground turkey and mixing all seasonings before adding them to the meat. She said mixing meat makes it hard, making the finished product drier. She also said drizzling turkey meatballs with olive oil before baking makes them more moist and flavorful.

Healthy food also made its presence known on the show floor. Suriny Rice Bran Oil in Virginia boasted better-for-you cooking oil that was recommended by Dr. Mehmet Oz as the “miracle fat to get skinny.” The oil, with uses including salad dressing, deep frying and baking, is a green product made from a byproduct of Thai jasmine rice.

Farm-fresh delivery service South Mountain Veggies also brought healthier offerings to the show floor, displaying applesauce, dried soup mix, syrup and vegetables. The company, founded in 2009, delivers fresh food and produce from more than 150 farms in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia and encourages customers to eat seasonally. “We work to try to educate them on what [eating seasonally] looks like,” owner Tony Brusco said. The company’s goal is to make eating healthy easier and more convenient.

Other healthy-food companies on the show floor included Pepperelly, which featured pepper glaze and spread that founder Maryann Chiavetta said have only 20 calories per serving and focus on the “beauty of the bell pepper,” and Way Better Snacks, which offered tortilla chips made of sprouted grains, seeds and other unprocessed ingredients.

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