Ask an RD: Interview with The Biggest Loser’s Nutritionist – Cheryl Forberg, RD

by spiceaholic on September 19, 2010

What would it be like to have a registered dietician on-hand to answer all your burning questions?

Or rather, what would you ask?

For one afternoon, I was lucky enough to be able to do so!

Through an amazing opportunity from Hershey’s and MyBlogSpark, I was given the chance to be one of a few bloggers who were able to interview Cheryl Forberg, RD, who happens to be the nutritionist for The Biggest Loser!

Cheryl is also part of Moderation Nation, a collaboration between Hershey’s and the American Dietetic Association to promote moderation and a balanced lifestyle.  Keep your eyes open for a future post on Moderation Nation.   In the meantime, read up on my email interview with her!

Going back to my question of what would you ask, I had TONS of questions, but of course I couldn’t hog all her time, so I had to try to pare down my list to a manageable number.  I also polled Spice’s Bites readers via Facebook and Twitter to see if they had any questions to ask.

You have an impressive culinary background and an equally impressive nutrition background. What inspired you to become a Registered Dietician?

I was working as a professional chef and I started moonlighting as a private chef for people with dietary restrictions. At the time, there were very few people that knew about healthy eating and cooking. I was self taught in healthy cooking and wanted to legitimize what I was doing and understand the physiology of what I was telling my clients. This is what inspired me to become a registered dietitian.

Low carb vs. low calorie — I’ve read that they both work.  Do you feel that one is better than the other?

Those are diets – and though they may work for a little while, but it’s not a solution for the long-term. So, I do not favor one over the other. In fact, I do not favor either one! It’s all about moderation and lifestyle changes that will work in the long-term. Moderation without deprivation is the way to go.

For someone who wants to make that first step into eating healthier and losing weight, what would you suggest?

This week I would encourage you to go to the Moderation Nation website to have a once in lifetime opportunity to register for a complimentary consult with registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are capable of giving people a personalized calorie budget as well as, developing an eating plan that’s tailored to their dietary preferences.

What’s one of your favorite memories from working on The Biggest Loser?

I’ve been with the show since the beginning. I have a lot of favorite memories. Attending the first live finale was probably my greatest memory. In the beginning, I did not see the contestant as much throughout the season as I do now. Their transformation is incredible.

I’m sure in the course of your work you’ve heard plenty of excuses about why someone fell off their diet. What’s the best one you’ve heard?

The best one, which is a typical one, is falling off the wagon because they cheated. They slipped and had too many treats and they were so hard on themselves the next day that they gave up. I always like to tell people that we all slip up now and then. Get back on track by eating a little less and exercising more. Move on and look forward; don’t look back.

As someone who tends to get most of their daily liquid intake via Diet Coke or Coke Zero, am I really harming myself by not getting in as much water?

There are a lot of reason that I don’t recommend soft drinks – diet or otherwise. Having an occasional one is okay, but water is an important nutrient. Not only does it hydrate us with all the exercise that we’re getting, but it’s also really important in an eating plan with fruits and whole grains. It’s also important in a high-fiber diet and it’s great for skin. Additionally, water helps to regulate body temperature and also gives us a burst of energy because it helps transport all of the nutrients and vitamins that we’re getting from the fruit and vegetable intake.

We see ads for diet supplements and weight-loss pills constantly.  Is there any merit to their claims of helping one burn fat or boosting metabolism? And what are the possible health risks of taking them?

Depending on what the supplement is, there are a variety of different risks. If you’re eating a healthy meal plan, than you should be able to get the nutrients you need and do not need to take a diet supplement. I think a multi-vitamin is okay to take as insurance on days you are not getting enough nutrients through your diet.

What’s your favorite on-the-go snack?

This varies constantly. I’m always on the go, so I’m always trying new things.
I love berries with Greek-style yogurt and half of a sandwich on whole wheat bread. My latest favorite is my banana fudge smoothie recipe:

Fudgy Banana Smoothie

Creamy and delicious, this high protein smoothie is great for breakfast or after a workout. Kefir is a yogurt drink that’s loaded with calcium and probiotics which are great for digestive health.

Yield: About 2 1/2  cups; 2  servings


1 cup plain low fat kefir

1/2 cup fat free milk

1 very ripe medium banana, frozen and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon agave nectar (optional)

6 ice cubes


Combine all ingredients in a blender;. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Nutrient Analysis per serving

Kcal                        160

Total Fat g           2

Sat Fat g               1

Cholest mg         15

Sodium mg         25

Total Carb g        30

Fiber g                 3

Sugars g               21

Protein g             8

Calcium            20 % RDA

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?

My favorite comfort food is roast chicken and spinach. It makes me feel like I am at home, since I tend to travel a lot.

Do you have a favorite cookbook?

The one I just wrote called Flavor First. It will be out in the Spring 2011

What’s your go-to, easy to prep meal when you come home from work late and starving?

I usually prepare some type of lean protein, maybe it’s fish or chicken on the grill. I also love lots of veggies, sautéed or stir-fried, and a big salad.  For more ideas on easy to prep, healthy meals, visit

When you’re working a stressful job, sometimes it’s just easier to grab some junk and keep going rather than take the time and eat healthily.  Do you have any suggestions for some ways to keep on track when you’re crazy busy with work?

You really have to plan ahead. Everyone is so busy that it’s easy to find yourself in the car, at your desk or standing in line absolutely starving with no food on hand. You need to plan ahead and keep healthy snacks everywhere, so you do not slip and find yourself surrounded by unhealthy choices.

Questions from Spice’s Bites readers:

What’s your opinion on HFCS and how do you feel about the industry renaming it “corn sugar” and promoting it as “just sugar”

It’s disappointing when the industry renames something, or gives an ingredient multiple names, because labels are so confusing to health professionals and consumers. By changing the names it makes it even more difficult. I look forward to more standardization of labeling, so consumers are more informed when making choices. Whole foods are always a preferable choice.

Is there any difference in drinking soda water versus just plain, jane H20? Curious if CO2 makes a difference…

It depends on the product, because soda water has different additives. It’s obviously a personal preference as some people prefer flat water over bubbling. I suggest always check labeling, to be sure it doesn’t have additives.

Does the stem part of broccoli have any nutritional value?

The stem does have nutrients, but it’s harder to digest because of its fibrous and woody nature. Some prefer to eat the tender florets instead.

Thanks, Cheryl for taking the time to answer my questions.  And thanks again to MyBlogSpark and Hershey’s for providing the opportunity and arranging it all.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Theresa September 20, 2010 at 10:56 am

Great interview! I appreciate the links and recipe. Thanks for a fabulous post.

Aiman Masud September 21, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Enjoyed the interview and the helpful questions raised!

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