The Woman Behind the Handle: @PeanutRD

Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD, has been the brains and personality behind the Twitter handle @PeanutRD since 2012, boasting the reasons to enjoy peanuts and peanut butter, from their outstanding nutritional benefits to their delicious taste and culinary versatility—with indulgences along the way. Sherry is also a sought-after food allergy expert and a former nutrition supervisor for a major metro Atlanta school district. Plus, she’s a busy mom of an active three-year-old.

Get to know Sherry a little better here:

What led you to become a dietitian? What do you enjoy most about being an RDN?

As a teenager, I was always interested in food and nutrition, but it took me into my adult life before I realized it could actually be a career choice.  Before becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist, I worked for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in fundraising.  I enjoyed getting to know the families and the staff at the CF Center, including the RDN who worked with the patients and families.  I was amazed to learn how much nutrition helped treat and improve their condition and began to learn more about how nutrition was used as an integral part of disease management in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and much more.  In addition, I became really interested in how nutrition could help prevent disease from happening in the first place!  As someone who is truly passionate about the near-magical benefits of nutritious foods and a healthy lifestyle, being a RDN provides endless opportunities to express my creativity in the kitchen, stretch my nutrition science muscles, and positively impact the health of friends, family, and a wider audience of consumers.

What are the three most important things everyone should know about nutrition?

The three most important things I’d like people to know about nutrition are:

  1. 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.
  2. Focus on making most of your meals and snacks excellent sources of nutrition and leave room to really enjoy treats.  If 80-85% of what you eat is packed with vitamins, minerals, and beneficial nutrients, there’s room for even that cupcake, full-fat latte, or square of dark chocolate.  Portions count, so choose the best tasting, favorite, high-quality treat!
  3. Remember that what you drink also counts.  Whether it’s juice, alcohol, or soda, beverages with calories all count in your eating plan because they add up.  However, unlike foods with fiber, protein, and good fat, drinks don’t contribute much to making us feel full and satisfied.  Choose calorie free beverages like water most often.
How do you describe your strategy for healthy eating?

Because my nutrition philosophy is that nutritious foods are also delicious foods, I believe eating a more healthful diet is actually simple.  So many people seem to think that eating for good health means boring, cardboard-tasting meals.  They associate nutrition with depravation and that’s not true at all!  Nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables are also incredibly flavorful and versatile, especially when paired with protein and good fats from foods like peanuts, salmon, and avocado, just to name a few.  With a focus on what people should eat more of, rather than what to avoid, most people can overcome the false idea that nutritious eating is a sacrifice – instead it becomes a pleasure!

What are your go-to recipes or meal ideas?

In my house, I’m always trying to find ways to get more fruits and veggies into my son and husband.  With limited time to prepare and cook meals, like everyone, I’ve found a few standby techniques that make all the difference.  On the weekend, I usually roast or slow-cook a whole chicken for dinner (a rotisserie chicken also works great in a pinch!), then use the meat for meals like chicken and spinach quesadillas, chicken and veggie paninis, or to eat with salad during the week.  We also love stir-fry.  The best thing about stir-fry is that it can literally be on the table in 20 minutes or less.  I boil up angel hair pasta, or cook white rice or quinoa in a rice cooker and while it does its thing unattended, I can chop vegetables (onion, peppers, and snow peas are favorites).  Sometimes I toss in some leftover chicken, extra firm tofu, or just a handful of peanuts.  The stir-fry itself is ready in about 7 minutes of cooking time.  Meanwhile, I make a quick peanut sauce with 1/3 cup peanut butter, 2 Tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp honey, 1 minced clove garlic, pinch of ground ginger (or fresh if I have it on hand), a dash of sriracha, and a bit of hot water to thin it out.  The sauce is awesome with this dish and the leftovers serve as dip for veggies later in the week.

Why do you choose to work with the National Peanut Board?

Working with the National Peanut Board is such an incredible pleasure and natural fit for me.  First of all, I am a BIG peanut and peanut butter lover from way back.  Still one of my favorites, a peanut butter and banana sandwich serves as both fuel for a workout and comfort food to me.  I truly believe that peanut butter is one of the most perfect foods ever – blending fantastic nutrition with amazing flavor!  Working with an awesome team and for America’s peanut farmers allows me to help promote a food that my family and I eat every day and which I believe can be part of helping people live a healthier lifestyle.  I also love the variety of the job, which allows me to use both my culinary skills and interests to develop new recipes and my nutrition science expertise to tell the story of nutrition and answer questions and concerns about food allergies.  Every day is different, challenging, fun, and fulfilling.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy peanuts or peanut butter?

Other than peanut butter and banana sandwiches and peanut sauce,  I also love to make my own trail or snack mixes with peanuts, dried fruit, and various mix-ins.  Savory or sweet, I like to pack these mixes into individual portioned bags and toss them into my purse, briefcase, and console to fuel me between meals and errands, and while working.  Peanut butter on celery with raisins or dried cranberries is an oldie but still a goodie for me as a snack.  And I love to start the day with a big scoop of peanut butter in my oatmeal or smoothie.  We eat peanuts and peanut butter every day in our house – many days multiple times a day!

Follow Sherry on Twitter @PeanutRD.

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