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Women in Food: 10 Questions with California Walnuts Health Research Director Carol Berg Sloan

Women in Food InterviewsCarlene ThomasComment

If you've been reading the blog or following along on social for some time now, you've probably seen me interact with some food commodity boards. Yes, there are brands of foods like Fruit Roll Ups or Nature's Valley Bars etc, but when a commodity like dairy or a specific produce like sweet potatoes or a kind of nut gets the power of their growers and producers behind it, they have a united front to help spread the word about their product. These groups help fund amazing research and today's women in food interview is with  one of those people that makes it happen. 

Carol Berg Sloan is the health research director for the California Walnut Commission. That means she helps review research proposals, work with researchers, interpret results and help the PR team figure out how to translate the science for broader audiences. Without people like Carol, we wouldn't get to know the science behind why foods like walnuts are so good for us. I was lucky to connect with Carol on my latest trip to California with the California Walnut team to watch harvest (you can see my video on how harvest happens here!).

Carol Berg Sloan   : Twitter @CBSRD : Instagram @CarolBergSloan 



1. Tell us about yourself and your business.

 I have been a registered dietitian since 1980 ( yes, 36 years). l graduated from the Coordinated Undergraduate Program in Dietetics (CUDP) at the California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). I have had a very nontraditional career path.

Even as an undergraduate I was always looking outside the box in terms of projects and jobs. For example, for my senior project instead of doing a typical nutrition education demo, I decided to approach the University newspaper at CSULA and create a nutrition column where I would be able to reach out to not a small specific group, but the entire student body. This nutrition column was very successful and in fact ran for several semesters while I finished the CUDP.  Interestingly, the University Times student editor who approved my column went on to found LA Parent Magazine, where I served as nutrition editor from 1980- 2000 until the paper and its sister publications were sold to Parenting Publications of America.

Upon graduation, although I was offered a full time clinical job at St Vincent’s Medical Center in Los Angeles where I worked as a dietetic technician while in school, I instead took a position as food service director for the California Egg Advisory Board. This was in 1980 in the midst of challenging times for eggs, for they were labeled a “high cholesterol” food and consumption declined. I enjoyed and continue to promote eggs as a nutritious whole food for California consumers and beyond. My next position was in the exciting world of health care sales where I worked as corporate dietitian for a premier food distributor, SE Rykoff & Company. While working in healthcare sales I collaborated with owner Tom Rykoff in developing nutrition tools for healthcare facilities including what were the first foodservice newsletters highlighting appropriate products for healthcare facilities.

After getting married and starting a family, I continued to work in dietetics as a nutrition consultant in long-term care and also as an independent contractor with Audits International, a Chicago, Illinois-based premier provider of food safety audits and food retail quality evaluations. I continued to grow my own consulting business over the years working with clients including General Mills, Arrowhead Water, Jamba Juice, The Coca Cola Company, and the International Food Information Council as part of their Biotech Network.

I am currently health research director for the California Walnut Commission (CWC) with responsibilities that include reviewing research proposals, liaising with researchers, analyzing and interpreting results of studies, and managing 40 plus active research projects, internationally and domestically. I also collaborate with our public relations and marketing departments to translate this scientific research for broader audiences, including consumers. Recently, I have planned and initiated scientific conferences on behalf of the CWC in Japan, Germany, Korea and Spain. In addition, I consult with the American Beverage Association, Monsanto and act as nutrition consultant for eight long term care facilities that I have worked with for over 23 years.

Since my undergraduate days, I have been involved with the local, state and national dietetic associations. As an undergraduate, I was president of the student nutrition club as well as a student member of the California Dietetic Association and Los Angeles District Dietetic Association. Upon graduation, I became involved in these organizations in both elected and volunteer positions.  I was also very involved with, as it was known then, Dietitians in Business and Industry Practice Group (now Dietitians in Business and Communication (DBC) DPG serving as a Western regional Coordinator where I fostered dietitians working outside traditional clinical positions. I served on the executive board for DBC for several years and also as newsletter editor for over 10 years.  I would not have been able to grow my consulting business if it hadn't been for this involvement at local, state and national dietetic organizations. 

I have served the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a delegate for six years and recently served on the Associations Positions Committee and the Finance and Audit committee. I am the newsletter editor for the Nutrition for the Public Dietetic Practice Group (NEPDPG).

I continue to volunteer and serve as a dietetic internship preceptor for California State University at San Bernardino Individualized Supervised Practice Pathways program and continue to write a column for a local paper, School News Roll Call which has a distribution of 425,000 subscribers in southern California.  I continue to give to the community both professionally and personally and have mentored many students over the years encouraging them to look outside the box in terms of careers for dietetics and to personally to push themselves to be successful and committed in all areas of their lives. Judy Dantoc, a 2014 graduate (who is now a RD) spoke on behalf of her class at Cal State San Bernardino. She said in her speech, “One of my preceptors, Carol Berg Sloan, gave me a piece of advice in the very beginning of my internship: "Let others shine -  you are already shining", which means the more you give, the more successful you will become. 

2. If you could define your food philosophy in one sentence it would be:

….eat and drink a variety of foods and beverages and be mindful of portions

3. What are your 3 must have foods in your kitchen?

eggs, coffee, walnuts

4. It’s your birthday. What are you eating?

My husband’s stacked chicken enchiladas with my daughter Jennifer's homemade guacamole. For dessert, my daughter Kelly's raw vegan pecan bars .

5. Signature cocktail?

Bacardi light rum and Coke Zero with lots of ice

6. Food you can’t like no matter how hard you try?


7. What are your go-to resources for all things food (websites/magazines/groceries etc)?

Magazines: I love Cooking Light, Eating Well, Cooks Illustrated and Rachel Rays Every Day magazine.

For websites, I enjoy the California Walnuts website: from Melissa Halas Liang, Molly Yeh’s and

My favorite grocery store is Nugget Markets in northern California …they have the best produce and delicious dark chocolate walnuts.

8. Food fad you wish would die a horrible death?

Food fads in general, but if I had to pick something current, "clean" eating...ridiculous!

9. Must have kitchen tool:

 Fiskars kitchen shears

10. What’s the one thing you learned this year that changed the way you think about food?

A majority of students in food, nutrition and dietetics are not aware of where our food comes from and the processes involved to get it to the table. Fortunately they are willing to join in when talking about modern agriculture, food biotechnology and feeding the world in the years to come. Exciting times for registered dietitians/nutritionists, that’s for sure!

Fall Farfalle Pear and Pecorino Pasta Salad

Main DishesCarlene ThomasComment

I ate this two meals in a row and I am still craving more. Which is saying something because when you recipe test sometimes you are just sick to death of a dish. There's a recipe from last fall Chris and I honestly can't even look at to this day. Not the case here.  This isn't just any cool weather pasta dish. It's a fall pasta dish that's light and hits all the right flavor notes: salty, sweet, a little grassy/nature-y (I'm not sure if that's selling it, but really, it works).

The fact that we worked in two fruits to this recipe and it makes TOTAL SENSE is my favorite part. Sometimes I see recipes that are just trying so hard to use an ingredient that it sticks out like a sore thumb in both flavor profile and usage. The forelle pears and thomchord grapes are in your groceries right now and they play nicely with the other ingredients. I actually found my fork looking for the grapes in this dish. That's how important they are. 

Fall Farfalle Pear and Pecorino Pasta Salad
Fall Farfalle Pear and Pecorino Pasta Salad
Fall Farfalle Pear and Pecorino Pasta Salad

So let's talk about those grapes for a second. Thomchord grapes are a hybrid between thomson seedless grapes (think table grapes) and conchord grapes (grape jam). They have the same big flavor impact of conchords, but you don't have to remove the skins as many people do. These guys are super important to this recipe and I highly recommend them for your next cheese platter. 

The forelle pears as the second fruit of the dish are also crucial. Don't go and buy just any pear. There are many, many varieties and they all have big differences in texture and flavor. Forelles are known as a snacking pear. They're prized for how beautiful they are on display, but their naturally sweet taste and red skin were the big winners for why we went 'forelle' today. If you buy a typical 'green pear' this is just not going to work the same. 

Fall Farfalle Pear and Pecorino Pasta Salad

And before we jump into the recipe, let's touch on the 'green'. Pistachios and pea shoots add crunch in two very different ways. While it would have been easy to throw in some kale or arugula and call it a day, we can do better than that. Pea shoots are light and bright and crisp. If you can't find pea shoots microgreens will also work. In fact, this study showed that microgreens had 40 times the nutrient content of their mature counterparts.  The pistachios are the little salty,  nutty delicious nuggets you hope to find in a salad of any kind. Pistachios contain more than 10% of the daily value of dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals like B6, thiamin, copper an phosphorus. So that's why they're better than bacon in this recipe if you're going to start arguing with me. 

Fall Farfalle Pear and Pecorino Pasta Salad

serves 2

 /// Ingredients ///

  • 2 cups farfalle pasta (cooked)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 oz marscarpone 
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 T salted pistachios, chopped
  • 1/2 c pea shoots 
  • 1/2 c thomcord grapes, halved
  • 1 medium forelle pear, sliced
  • pecorino romano cheese shaved
  • salt and pepper
  • squeeze of fresh lemon

/// Directions/// Cook pasta 10 min until al dente (Seriously. Check it. Stop making mushy pasta). Toss with olive oil and mascarpone while warm. Mascarpone should coat pasta evenly. Prep other toppings and add to pasta. Toss to combine. Should be served cool, warm or room temperature but not hot (making it perfect for a busy night).

Fall Farfalle Pear and Pecorino Pasta Salad

Food Network Project: Leftover Thanksgiving Quesadillas

Weekly Update, Main DishesCarlene ThomasComment

Part of me feels really terrible posting this Thanksgiving photoshoot in mid October. The other part of me is thinking "Well, there has been Halloween candy in the grocery since July, so...". But either way, Thanksgiving food is amazing. I live for stuffing. Pie is the greatest the morning after Thanksgiving for breakfast (My grandma argues pie likely has fruit in it, so it's fine).

As a glimpse into the editorial calendar part of our life, we've been shooting Thanksgiving holiday content with clients since July. JULY. When it was so hot and humid you questioned if would be acceptable to just walk around the house in a swim suit (God forbid you had to answer the door). Because Thanksgiving and Christmas are mega food holidays we actually start getting booked in spring for this kind of content. We've been celebrating the winter holidays for, oh, about six months now? And while I thought I would be just over Thanksgiving, I'm not. 

The bottom line being, I'm posting this so just get over it and enjoy some visual Thanksgiving before Halloween.

See the full Food Network gallery and concepts for how to use your leftover Thanksgiving food in quesadilla form!

Food Network Project: Leftover Thanksgiving Quesadillas
Food Network Project: Leftover Thanksgiving Quesadillas

Women in Food: 10 Questions with Cranberry Grower Fawn Gottschalk

Women in Food InterviewsCarlene ThomasComment

It's harvest season for so many things in the food world right now! And one of those things is cranberries. Go check it out on the Cranberry Marketing Committee Instagram to see some cool images and videos. Chris and I are right in the middle of doing a GORGEOUS and amazing project with the cranberry folks to get you ready for the holidays, so with cranberries on my brain (and all over my house) I'm excited to introduce you to Fawn Gottschalk who is a 3rd generation cranberry farmer!  

fresh cranberries

1. Tell us about yourself and your business.

I’m the 3rd generation of my family to grow cranberries on our marsh.  All of our berries go to Ocean Spray (a grower owned co-op of which we are members) to be processed into juice, Craisins, sauce, etc. I spend most of my time in the office doing administration and overseeing the finances but I live on the marsh and check in with our crew regularly. We have had the same marsh manager for 35+ years and he and our other employees are more like family to us. They are very dedicated to growing our crop and take pride in what they do.  I love hosting school kids and others who want to visit the marsh to learn more about cranberries, especially at harvest time. I am passionate about communicating the health benefits of cranberries which is why I serve on the board of The Cranberry Institute.

2. If you could define your food philosophy in one sentence it would be….

The fresher I eat, the better I feel. 

3. What are your 3 must have foods in your kitchen?

Fresh fruit, high quality olive oil, cheese – of course, there are always fresh cranberries in the back yard this time of year too!

4. It’s your birthday. What are you eating?

 Pizza from Portesi’s. Something chocolatey and decadent.

5. Signature cocktail?

I love fruity drinks. Hard cider, sweet white wine – or a cranberry rum punch

6. Food you can’t like no matter how hard you try?


7. What are your go-to resources for all things food? 

  • Weight Watchers –, magazine, cookbooks (I lost a significant amount of weight on the program and am a former meeting leader)

  • Hungry Girl – has awesome lightened up recipes. I subscribe to the newsletter to get them by email and also have 2 of her cookbooks

  • Pampered Chef -

  • Pinterest, Facebook

  • Midwest Living, Real Simple magazines

  • My favorite grocery store is Festival Foods (a regional chain) but the nearest one is 45 minutes away. I have ordered ingredients from Amazon that I couldn’t find here in rural Wisconsin.

8. Food fad you wish would die a horrible death?

Drinking all your meals (like meal replacement smoothies and juicing). I think food is meant to be chewed!  A smoothie once in a while is great, but when a person does it all the time they’re letting the blender do some of the work their body should be doing. 

9. Must have kitchen tool:

I’m a sucker for tools, especially from The Pampered Chef so it’s hard to pick just one…a good spatula, a sharp knife

10. What’s the one thing you learned this year that changed the way you think about food?

I am lucky to live in an agriculturally rich area. I've known this for a while but have really come to appreciate it more in the last year.  I can visit a different farmers' market each day on 4 or 5 days during the week to purchase locally grown fruits, veggies, meats, honey, etc. If I take a little time now to buy extra produce and freeze it, we can enjoy the taste of summer in the dead of winter.

Thanks so much to Fawn for this interview during harvest season! If you want to catch up on more women in food interviews, meet Elizabeth from The New Bridge restaurant. 

California Walnut Harvest Tour, Sacramento California

Travel, Nutrition NewsCarlene ThomasComment

I am a mega nerd for all things food process. The moment I get to see food or product growing I am running off the bus into the fields with my camera (Reference: please talk to everyone who came on the peanut tour with me when I saw a cotton field for the first time). There's something really special about seeing a food you have in your kitchen in the most real form. And that's coming from someone who grew up surrounded by farms and gardens. So I'm not just some city slicker fascinated by a potted plant. That's why when I do get the chance to travel and learn more about a food process, I am all in to learn and capture it for you .

This past weekend I headed to Sacramento California with California Walnuts for walnut harvest season! 99 percent of all walnuts grown in the US come from California. So if you want to experience harvest to packaging in under 3 minutes, definitely check out the video from my trip below. 

In terms of Sacramento things, we stayed in the Citizen Hotel which is weirdly the most DC hotel I've ever seen. It belongs back home vs Sacramento. Everything is politically themed (also- amazing striped wallpaper). Beyond that we ate dinner at Hook and Ladder and Mulvaney's which are both apparently very Sacramento things to do. 

California Walnut Harvest Tour, Sacramento California

The morning of the tour itself, we went to Barton Ranch which has I think 5 generations of walnut farmers. The processing plant had an amazing cross section slice of a 99 year old walnut tree, that unfortunately had to be taken down due to disease, with plotted points within the rings. Since the rings each mean a growing season or year within a cross section, they correlated to family photos during these 99 years. It was such a great idea. 

But back to the walnut orchard: in short, it's beautiful. If you watch the video footage I took, it's just a Vogue shoot waiting to happen. The tree canopy is beautiful and they way the light filters through is a dream. Our tour started in a part of the orchard that was in the first phase of harvest which requires shaking the trees for the nuts to fall on the ground. 

California Walnut Harvest Tour, Sacramento California

After the nuts are on the ground they are swept into rows and essentially sucked up in a giant vacuum and then carted to the huller (below) to remove the hull or outer part of the walnut. 

California Walnut Harvest Tour, Sacramento California

After they're hulled and dried, they go to a processing plant where some amazing machinery cracks it perfectly, sorts it and it ends up in the store. Really, the person who came up with this process is a genius. It's so efficient. 

Once these walnuts end up with you, they're typically purchased for culinary vs snacking purposes, at least in the US. In Asia they're loved as a snack nut. That being said, using walnuts as sauce thickeners,  meat substitutes, or as a 'breading' on things is nothing to push aside. There are tons of ways to use walnuts.

California Walnut Harvest Tour, Sacramento California

 The nutrition benefits walnuts provide are astounding. They're the only nut significantly high in omega 3 ALA's (2.5 grams per ounce) and have the highest polyphenol antioxidant levels among tree nuts. And okay, that's cool, but the fact of the matter is it really, really can effect your health. We listened to three research presentations and in the next year or so there are some amazing studies that will be published in terms of walnuts and cancer, cognition (specifically related to memory loss), heart health and weight. There's a biochemist out of West Virginia who is focusing on breast cancer and walnuts... I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say about her ongoing research except...holy sh**. I'm eating walnuts from now on. 

If you're inspired to start adding walnuts to your menu, you're in luck! We certainly love walnuts here:

California Walnut Harvest Tour, Sacramento California

Disclosure: Thank you to California Walnuts for bringing me along on this trip! I was not compensated for tweeting/Instagram-storying/blogging etc about this event.

� Healthfully Ever After & Carlene Thomas 2011-2014