Adventures in Florida Citrus

Good morning from my second home, an airplane! ;) I’m on my way back to DC from Florida after a quick press trip. I miss the palm trees already!

florida palm trees

Random sidenote: at the airport this morning I rocked this sweet standing desk I set up for myself using my suitcase. ;) I know, I’m totally a genius. Why hadn’t I thought to do this before?! Nice to stand a little before sitting cramped on the plane!

airport standing desk

I spent the past couple days down in Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida on a press trip with a small group of dietitians to check out Tropicana’s orange groves! How fun – we had beautiful weather for the occasion. Thank you to Tropicana for having me!

florida orange groves

Hot tip: if you cut off the top of an orange and make a small hole, it becomes nature’s juice box! Wouldn’t this be an awesome thing to try with kids? (Or adults – we loved it too!)

natures juice box

I arrived in Sarasota on Wednesday evening in time for dinner with the group. It’s always fun to connect with fellow dietitians, and we were treated to a gorgeous dinner at the Ritz Beach Club on Lido Key in Sarasota. Check out the view – stunning.

sarasota ritz beach club dinner

The dietitians on the trip with me were:

It was great to see some familiar faces and to meet some new ones, too!

ritz sarasota beach club sunset

We started with some great salads before moving on to a fish course and crème brulee. All was delicious!

ritz sarasota beach club dinner

ritz sarasota beach club dinner

ritz sarasota beach club dinner

My dietitian friend and Joyful Eating Program collaborator Alex was on the trip, which was a lot of fun. We decided to motivate each other to get up for a quick run both mornings of the trip, which was awesome. We had to be ready to leave the hotel for the day by 7:30 yesterday and 7 today so we met up super early both mornings and got in a nice 30 minute chatty jaunt. It was so calm and pretty out at that hour – and thankfully well lit, too! Nice to not be running in the hot Florida sun, too.

sarasota running

The sun was just beginning to brighten the sky on our way back. Beautiful!

sarasota sunrise run

As always, getting up early sucks but once I’m out there I’m SO glad. Thanks for the miles and motivation, Alex! :) Would definitely not have done that alone.

We spent the rest of yesterday learning more about Florida oranges! Tropicana’s orange juice is made 100% from Florida oranges – a mix of Hamlin and Valencia varieties. Fun facts:

  • 1 tree makes 12 gallons of juice per year
  • 250 oranges = 6 gallons of juice
  • Oranges have to be picked at peak ripeness, because unlike other fruits they don’t continue to ripen once off the tree
  • As an orange ripens, it gets sweeter and less acidic, so it has to be picked at just the right time! There’s a lot of science involved in testing the juice to make sure it’s just the right mixture of acidity and sweetness.

Also: Florida oranges are picked entirely by hand – wow! The ladder in the picture below was one of the workers – he was hustling hard!

florida orange grove

Once the oranges are off the trees trucks take them to the plant for processing – they are usually picked and processed within 24 hours. Their facility can process 48 million oranges in just one day, and their juice extractors can squeeze 34,000 oranges every minute. Crazy! Also cool: once the oranges are sliced and squeezed, the peels are used for cattle feed. Glad to hear they aren’t wasted!

florida orange truck

We spent the afternoon with some of Tropicana’s dietitians and a woman from the Florida Department of Citrus learning more about the nutrition benefits of 100% orange juice. An 8 ounce glass provides:

  • A full day’s supply of vitamin C
  • As much potassium as a banana
  • A good source of folic acid (important for pregnant women in particular)
  • Two servings of fruit

Nice! I grew up drinking orange juice, and, with the exception of a few years during college thanks to getting a bit too enthusiastic one night with screwdrivers, I’ve always been a fan. Nowadays I don’t drink it on its own as often (Matt does, though – he loves OJ so we usually have it in the fridge), although I do occasionally enjoy it as an afternoon snack with some nuts (for protein/healthy fat!), but I love using it in recipes.

Orange juice makes an awesome meat marinade (the acidity helps to tenderize the meat – see also 8 Easy Chicken or Tofu Marinades and Orange Lemon Chicken recipe) and it’s also great in dressings (I sometimes use it in place of lemon juice in my balsamic vinaigrette), and smoothies (see also: my Hangover Busting Smoothie recipe). It’s also an excellent form of hydration (if watered down/mixed with a little salt) for endurance athletes. Check out my Homemade Citrus Sport Drink Recipe.

Homemade sports drink

The official portion of the trip finished yesterday afternoon and we were back at the hotel by 4, so Alex and I took advantage and hit the pool. :) It was beautiful out!


As for dinner last night, Alex and I were joined by San Diego dietitian Wendy Bazilian for a fun dinner in town. We were the only 3 staying overnight and it was nice to have a little more quality time together! We both really enjoyed meeting Wendy and talking all things nutrition.

The three of us hit up a Spanish restaurant about a half mile walk from our hotel called Selva that came highly recommended on Yelp. If you’re ever in Sarasota, check out this restaurant – it was amazing and had a nice ambiance/vibe, too. We were excited to be able to snag a table outside!

selva sarasota

We took my favorite approach to dinner, which is to order a bunch of small plates and share everything. We tried a few of their ceviches, plus their crab cake (a creative deconstructed take that was so good), an amazing seared tuna, and more. It was DELICIOUS – we were all raving about it. Great variety of flavors and everything was really fresh! Pretty presentation, too.

selva sarasota ceviche

selva sarasota

It was a great end to a fun quick trip! I land in DC at noon and it will be nice to be home and have time to catch up on work and emails. Looking forward to what looks like a nice weather weekend, too!

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!

Are you an orange juice fan? Do you drink it straight or use it in recipes? Any fave recipes to share?

Weekend reading:


  1. 1

    I love oranges, but since I grew up eating Sicilian oranges, which are sweet and awesome, I can’t get close to any American oranges, especially Californian ones. Too bitter! Blah.

  2. 3

    Ha, small world! I’m a Sarasota-based dietitian! Glad you enjoyed the trip and Florida citrus! The weather has definitely been perfect lately!

  3. 5

    How fun! Sarasota is a great area – a few nice nature preserve trails too!

  4. 7

    Sounds like a fun trip! I recently used orange juice in a marinade for flank steak because I know that taking vitamin C with iron helps increase absorption (recipe here: That was my first time cooking with OJ and really liked it, so I’ll have to check out your recipes!

    • 8

      Yes, vitamin C helps a lot with iron absorption – pairing citrus with beef is always a smart (and tasty) choice. I’ll check out that recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  5. 9

    Ah cool! Nice standing desk ;) I had a great time in Sarasota for a month when I was in high school working at Mote Marine Lab! We stalked manatees all day and it was adorable ;)

  6. 11

    Sounds like a great time! I always heard a glass of orange juice has a lot of sugar. Is it similar to beets in that it has a lot of healthy sugar so it’s considered to be ok?

    • 12

      The key is whether a drink/product has added vs. natural sugar. OJ does have sugar, but it’s all naturally occurring (i.e. not any sugar added – just that naturally occurring in the fresh orange juice), and it comes with a lot of nutrients, too! Soda, on the other hand, would just be added sugar and no nutrition at all. I wouldn’t have a gallon of OJ in one sitting but it can be a convenient way to get some nutrition, especially if whole fruit isn’t easily available/you aren’t already eating the whole fruit.

  7. 13
    Roadrunner says

    Looks like a neat trip. Impressed by you getting up early enough to run and be ready to go at 7 am! Well done! And how nice to have great weather.

  8. 14

    It was so fun spending time with you in Florida. Great recap! Your Thursday night dinner looks so tasty – wish I had stayed an extra day! I drink orange juice every morning, and like it best with champagne (not every morning, though)!

    • 15

      I wish you had stayed, too! Great to see you again. :) And I agree — totally forgot to add my favorite use for OJ into this post – mimosas!! :)

  9. 16

    I really like Cara Cara oranges, I have yet to get a bad one! Sweet and juicy, yum!

  10. 17

    I’m not a big juice fan in general. I just prefer to eat my fruit. That said I do use fresh orange juice when making a sweet sauce…sticky sweet orange for pork, beef or chicken with coconut aminos….or a paleo teriyaki sauce with almond or cashew butter!

  11. 19

    So jealous of the Joyful Eating reunion!! After my cell phone fiasco during our last meeting I’m REALLY feeling left out LOL!

    • 20

      That was too funny that the phone randomly muted you!! Alex and I missed you in FL – can’t wait for our DC Joyful Eating meet up!

  12. 21

    What a fun adventure!

    I don’t drink juice very often, but I do like it, especially fresh juice. Yum!

  13. 22

    Wow thats a really neat trip! Looks like some really delicious food too! I have been loving oranges sliced up in a salad…so fresh! I also love to add in a few tablespoons of juice from an orange in to stir fry.

  14. 24

    What do you think about all the processing that goes into orange juice to increase it’s shelf life?

    • 25

      I believe all they do is pasteurize it — there aren’t any additives in the juice at least as far as I know, so I’m cool with it!

  15. 26

    This has nothing to do with nutrition, but your post had me reminiscing. I used to commute between Tampa and Boca Raton every week and took Route 60 on my way across the state. It sounds worse than what it was. I actually enjoyed the 4 hours of quiet time (aka my chance to catch up on the “Serial” podcast). But my favorite part of the trip was passing the orange groves and smelling the citrus plant hard at work. Soooooo yummy! There were a couple times when Route 60 would get shut down from an orange truck spill/overflowing. It was so sad to see oranges get run over by car after car, but they fill those trucks to the max! One wrong move, and they’re going to spill. I’ve never been an OJ fan, but a fresh Florida orange is just the best!

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