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

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

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: walnuts.orgsuperkidsnutrition.com from Melissa Halas Liang, Molly Yeh’s mynameisyeh.com and KellysKnackforCooking.com

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!

Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.