Today on Foodie Friday, meet Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD who owns and operates a nutrition consultancy, Southern Fried Nutrition. Sherry’s a long-time advocate for healthy eating and provides a variety of consulting around how to fit healthy fun dishes into our busy lifestyles. As a lifelong Georgian, peanuts are one of her favorite foods so it’s no wonder one of her clients is the National Peanut Board.
What is your role in the food industry?
I am a registered dietitian nutritionist with a focus on communicating the science of nutrition and food. I have particular expertise in food allergies, but communicate about many areas of food science. I work with the National Peanut Board to help them educate professionals and consumers about peanut allergies and peanut nutrition. I also develop recipes, do a little media work, and am a freelance writer.
How did you first get involved in the food industry?
My entry into the food industry began as a dietitian working in school nutrition. As a supervisor in Georgia’s third largest school district, I supervised nearly 20 elementary school programs, provided ongoing training in food service and food safety – including managing food allergies, worked with a team to choose products and develop menus, and collaborated with vendors to identify better products for school nutrition. Serving thousands of students every day was a great experience in the application of good nutrition and education.
What/who inspired you to become a dietitian?
I’m a “career-change dietitian” having returned to school in my late-20s. While working for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, I met a dietitian providing care for CF patients in Atlanta. I had always been very interested in food and nutrition for personal health but had not considered it as a potential career. Seeing the impact of nutrition on treating disease and improving and extending quality of life for those with CF ignited a fire in me to become a registered dietitian.
You say “nutritious foods can also be super tasty foods. Learning some easy cooking and food preparation techniques can help even a novice turn healthy ingredients into delicious meals and snacks.” What are three resources for folks looking for easy nutritious food preparation.
I’m a fan of hands-on instruction for learning, so I recommend taking a cooking class whenever possible. Whether that’s working with a professional, at a supermarket/retailer, culinary school, or community college, there’s nothing quite like one-to-one instruction.
As for print resources, I’m a cookbook collector and also subscribe to a number of culinary magazines. My favorite cookbook to recommend for the novice cook is “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.
What is the most significant change you’ve seen in the food industry during your time as an RD?
I think the most significant change has been a steep climb in the interest and availability of better-for-you products. Consumers are much more interested in food and nutrition, health and wellness and the market has reflected that. Unfortunately, that has also bred an increase in unsubstantiated claims, confusing on-package logos, and a lot of misinformation. It can be hard to navigate and consumers have to be very skeptical and savvy to cut through the clutter. As a Registered Dietitian, this is both a challenge and an opportunity.
Tell us about an industry professional who influenced you most?
There are so many! When I was a student, I had incredible instructors, including Barb Hopkins, who inspired me in a variety of areas and really impressed on me the fact that the study of nutrition is a science and we should make every effort to be diligent about treating it as such.
Currently, there is a group of parents, registered dietitians, physicians, and researchers in food allergy who influence me in my passion to help people understand the facts about food allergies – rather than succumbing to the hype or fear.
Culinarily, there are a bunch of creative registered dietitians and chefs who motivate me to pursue flavor first, because no matter how nutritious it is, people won’t eat healthy if it doesn’t’ taste great.
What’s your favorite healthy food, other than peanuts?
I’m a huge fan of eggs. I have a small flock of backyard chickens and eat eggs almost every day. Like peanuts, they are super versatile, taste great, and a source of protein and other important nutrients.
What’s your favorite food to make at home or eat in a restaurant?
Two different questions: At home, I love to cook soups, stews and salads because they’re easy and can be a great way to get in more vegetables. I make a mean bowl of ramen!
When I’m eating out, I like to choose things that I make less often at home; often that means seafood or I might choose a couple of small plates or appetizers for multiple experiences.
What's your big splurge/treat food item? Any particular brand you're willing to pay more for?
I have quite a sweet-tooth and I don’t always have dessert at home. It’s a lot of fun to get gelato or ice cream when I’m out and to try multiple flavors.
Likewise, I’m a big fan of wine but my husband is not, so that’s something I’m willing to treat myself to. I’m really happy when I find a place that offers more expensive wines by the glass!
Tell us about a memorable meal you’ve had.
I’ve been fortunate to have some incredible dining experiences, including throughout Europe and domestically at The French Laundry in Napa, California. But my most memorable meal was probably on my honeymoon in St. Lucia at the beautiful Ladera Resort. We joined the chef for a trip to the local market to choose produce and seafood and then went back to the resort to prepare the foods. It was the only time I’ve ever seen my husband in an apron!
What cookbooks or cooking classes are most important to you? Why?
I’ve been fortunate to experience a number of hands-on cooking classes at the Culinary Institute of America with the National Peanut Board and those have been fantastic. I’ve also learned a lot by watching professional chefs in person and on television. It has taught me about organization, safe knife handling, and food safety. I’m a better cook having had these experiences. Now I actually teach cooking classes one-to-one and in small groups.
My favorite cookbooks include the afore mentioned “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman, as well as “Good and Cheap” by Leanne Brown (great affordable, simple recipes and basic techniques), and (lately) “The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook” by Laurel Randolph.
Connect with Sherry
Website: Southern Fried Nutrition
Instagram: Dietitian Sherry
Facebook: Dietitian Sherry
LinkedIn: Sherry Coleman Collins
Podcast: Southern Fried Girlfriends