Cheryl’s Alzheimer’s Prevention Book and Delicious Blackberries and Cream Recipe
This month I want to highlight Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian, columnist, and author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia. For those with a passion for science, food and health, she believes there’s never been a better time to be a nutritionist.
Today, I’m sharing Cheryl’s Blackberries with Sweet Almond Cashew Cream. This is one of the best sweet creams I have ever tasted! It’s an absolutely amazingly great recipe. No one would guess that cashews are in the recipe. This makes an elegant, light dessert and a perfect ending to a scrumptious dinner. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, just about any berry (even peaches) can be substituted for the blackberries.
Who is Cheryl?
Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia, and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both found on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.
How do you savor and enjoy your life?
My enjoyment in life comes from many sources, one of which is the 3 jobs I currently have. I’ve been blessed that I was able to be mainly a fulltime mom to my kids when they were growing up. I did some part time work as an RD but it was after they had all graduated from high school that my career really took off, primarily because of writing for my local hometown online newspaper – www.osagecountyonline.com – which I still do to this day. I’m proud of the work I have done over the years as an RD and have no regrets in choosing this career path.
Other areas I savor and enjoy include being an avid exerciser (it’s a hobby for me!), going on walks with my husband, traveling, being outdoors enjoying nature, and spending time with my family.
What did you have to let go or accomplish to get where you are today?
I had to let go of the feeling of fear and failure when it came to doing new and “scary” things in my career. Like the saying goes, “If it scares you, do it!” You never know where those scary opportunities may lead you.
A major “scary” situation started with me putting myself “out there” on social media when I first approached the editor of my hometown newspaper about having a nutrition column. Because of my nutrition column, I was contacted by a celebrity doctor from NYC who asked me to be on his weekly radio show several times and then to be his main writer which I still do to this day. Another “scary” situation was being asked to be a presenter at my state dietetics annual meeting in 2018 on a talk on weight management. Since that presentation, I have become involved at the state level of the Kansas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – I am soon to take over as the Nominating Committee Chairman.
Then, I made the decision to write a book on Alzheimer’s disease (The Nourished Brain) mainly because of my mother who had the disease and my dad who had a different form of dementia called normal pressure hydrocephalus. From there, I have been contacted by a book publishing company called Rockridge Press, asking if I could write a book for them on prediabetes. This book is called, The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook which comes out on Amazon at the end of June.
I learned that the scarier the situation, the braver I got by taking on more challenges but also learning when to say no. If I had known 30 years ago this is where my career path would have taken me, I would have doubted I could do it. Thank goodness, I didn’t listen to my self-doubts. Learn to trust and believe in yourself by valuing your self-worth and what you have to offer.
What is your typical day like?
My day begins at 4:45 am by choice! First thing I do is exercise for about 30 minutes (cardio, weights, stretching), then go feed my 4 pygmy goats and 2 golden retrievers, come back in and eat my breakfast. This part of my day is basically the same. But depending on what day of the week it is, will either determine if I am getting ready to go work in Topeka, Ks at my clinical job, teach at the community college or get started writing articles. I will always squeeze in another round of 30 minutes of exercise by the end of the day – this is what keeps me energized and sane!
Why did you become a registered dietitian?
Ever since I was a little girl, I always thought I’d grow up to be a nurse. I loved biology, science and learning about health. I liked being healthy and staying out of doctor’s offices – even to this day! I also wanted to do something that helped out others. But, what held me back from becoming an RN was I didn’t know if I could handle the “blood and guts” part of the job.
It was around the age of 13 that I developed a strong interest in learning all I could about nutrition. I was fascinated about how the nutrients in food could optimize your health. But I had no idea of how to turn that into a career.
The turning point was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I had belonged to the Lyon Prospectors 4-H club since the age of 8 and over the years, had always taken food to the fair to be judged. This particular summer, I had volunteered to help the judge at the 4-H fair by bringing the food to her to be judged and then placing whatever ribbon she gave it on the food. While I was helping her, someone asked the judge what she did for a living. She said, “I’m a registered dietitian.” They asked her, “What is that?” I likewise was wondering the same thing as I also had never heard of a registered dietitian. As I listened intently to her explanation of what she did as an RD, I had an epiphany or light-bulb moment of realizing this was exactly what I wanted to be. This career path not only merged together my love of food and nutrition and how it enhances health, but also was a way for me to help out others to reach their optimal health goals.
What has been your favorite part of your career?
I’m very lucky to be able to say “right now” is my favorite part of my career. I’m doing things I never would have dreamed of years ago which has been a great source of pride and fulfillment for me. Writing books, having a regular nutrition column in a newspaper, working 3 different jobs providing me diversity that I cherish, are a gift I can see myself doing for quite some time. With all of my 4 children grown and on their own, this provides me the perfect opportunity to really explore and expand what I want to do with my career in the future.
What is your advice for someone who wants to get into this field?
I’ve been in this career for more than 30 years so I can honestly say I feel like it’s never been a better time than now to be an RD. The upside of being an RD is the tremendous diversity available to us. In the past, the main sources of jobs for RDs have been hospitals, nursing homes or school foodservice. We will always need RDs for those positions but there have been so many other tremendous opportunities open up in recent years – private practice, freelance writing, working with food companies as consultants or promoters, recipe development, resorts, and the list goes on. Another upside is that the future job market for RDs is predicted to be in demand with a higher percentage of jobs available – hurrah!
The downsides include continued low pay for many of us for what we do and offer when compared to other health professionals. Also, having to defend our profession from others claiming to be “nutritionists or nutrition experts” when they have little to no nutrition educational background. I’m afraid that may be a fight we will always have to battle.
One of the best things someone getting started in this career can do is to network. With social media and the internet, it is so much easier now than when I first started out as an RD. Reach out to “famous” dietitians, follow them on social media, and study how they got to where they are now. Also, listen to podcasts by RDs such as Sound Bites by Melissa Joy Dobbins. They provide up-to-date information and expose you to various aspects of nutrition you may not be familiar with. If possible, try to diversify your background, at least in the beginning of your career. Maybe you already know you want to specialize in a certain area of dietetics such as sports nutrition or eating disorders. Those are fine but I also believe it’s good to have a well-rounded diversity of different areas of dietetics in the first few years. Also, be open to teaching a college nutrition course at a local community college. The best way to learn a topic is to teach it and the best way to get comfortable speaking in front of a group of people is to teach in person. And remember, our profession is a never-ending knowledge of new information all the time – which is why I love it!
You can get in touch with Cheryl
Cheryl found that on the other side of “scary” is a career that lets her live out her values and follow her passions. What’s on the other side of “scary” for you?