Insightful Wisdom: Sheri Berger Of Sheri The Plant Strong Dietitian On The Power of Food as Medicine

Insightful Wisdom: Sheri Berger Of Sheri The Plant Strong Dietitian On The Power of Food as Medicine

The DASH diet is rich in potassium, fiber, calcium, and magnesium and it is low in sodium; it has been shown to lower blood pressure. It is a dietary pattern that focuses on eating lots of plants- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. It also includes lean animal protein such as fish and chicken and low fat or fat free dairy. Foods high in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar are kept at a minimum.

Inan era dominated by pharmaceutical solutions, there is a rising consciousness about the incredible healing and preventive powers of food. As the age-old saying goes, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” But how does this translate in today’s world? Can we really use nutrition as a potent tool against sickness and disease? How does one curate a diet that supports health, longevity, and wellness? In this series, we are talking to nutritionists, dietitians, medical professionals, holistic health experts, and anyone with authoritative knowledge on the subject. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES.

Sheri is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes care and education specialist with over 20 years of experience. Currently, she is the lead dietitian for a Food as Medicine program at a cardiac and pulmonary wellness program, consultant for Consumer Health Digest, and owner of Sheri The Plant Strong Dietitian, LLC. Sheri encourages well-balanced nutrition that consists of mostly plants.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

When I was around nine years old, my grandmother who was living with type 2 diabetes taught me how to administer her insulin shots. From this experience, I learned a lot about diabetes and the unfortunate suffering it can bring to people. This experience helped me to realize I wanted to help people to live healthier lives with prevention.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

At the end of high school, I was planning for college and thinking about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I felt a bit lost. I had an interest in helping people and in the medical field, but the most common choices like becoming a nurse or doctor, did not sound appealing to me.

My mother suggested that I become a dietitian since I have always had an interest in eating well and exercise. I did not know what a dietitian was at first, so we did research. Shortly after, I was able to shadow a dietitian for a day. I quickly decided this was the right choice for me, so I stuck with it and never looked back.

It has been said that our mistakes can sometimes be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I spent my first couple of years as a dietitian working with patients who were in the hospital after having a heart attack, stroke, or major heart procedure. My focus back then was to give patients all the knowledge they needed to return home and completely change their diet and lifestyle. Little did I know how overwhelming that can be for someone. Not all people are ready to make any changes, let alone drastic ones.

Also, my focus was not the best. When counseling patients, I pushed what NOT to eat. I was giving too much information on all the foods to avoid- no fat, no salt, no sugar, blah, blah, blah. I did not realize how negative that could feel for the patient.

Eventually, I changed my approach. I spent more time listening and trying to gauge what the patient was ready to do. I personalized education and goal setting based on the individual. I also focused on what food they should eat instead of what to avoid. The message felt so much more positive and inspiring. With this shift in my approach, patients seemed more open to try new things.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Relationship Development

I feel relationship development is one of my strongest traits. Working with individuals to make behavior changes is not an easy task. Not only does the individual need to be ready to make a change, but they need to trust and feel comfortable with you as their guide. Letting the client talk and lead the nutrition session, allows them to feel heard. Asking a lot of questions is important too.


I like to focus on the positive. I give lots of praise for the small changes my clients make. Lifestyle changes cannot happen overnight. You cannot beat yourself up for falling off the wagon. What you choose most of the time is what matters. It is not good to have an all or nothing mindset.

Lead by Example

I lead by example with a healthy lifestyle. I enjoy eating healthy, cooking at home, creating healthy recipes, and staying active. My patients hear about my experiments in the kitchen and the last half marathon I ran. I hope that by sharing what I do, it encourages them to do good things too.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I recently completed a media course and have been more active with spreading nutrition information in the media. My goal is to bring light to billions of people with a positive and helpful nutrition message.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview about cultivating wellness through proper nutrition and diet. To begin, can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority on the topic of nutrition?

I have been a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes care and education specialist for over 20 years. My focus on plant-based nutrition started about 6 years ago when I was hired to create a Food as Medicine program at a cardiac & pulmonary wellness center in the Bay Area. I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful cardiologist who has a strong passion for nutrition and using food to treat disease. Together we developed a great program that I continue to successfully provide.

We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

We need to be ready to make a change. We all know basic things we can do to be healthier, but nothing happens until we are ready.

Unfortunately, many people do not change until after something bad happens. Prevention needs to be an important part of our culture.

From your professional perspective, do you believe that nutrition plays a pivotal role in supporting the body’s natural healing processes and overall well-being, particularly in cases of chronic diseases? We’re interested in hearing your insights on the connection between a holistic approach to diet and its benefits for individuals facing health challenges.

Absolutely, I agree nutrition plays a substantial role in preventing disease development and progression. A balanced diet that focuses on lots of plants provides nutrients that are important for prevention. The same type of diet can help to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation.

Food cannot take the place of medication in most situations, but it can help to improve conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. When following a consistent healthy diet, medications can be reduced and sometimes discontinued.

Based on your research or experience could you share with us five examples of foods or dietary patterns that have demonstrated remarkable potential in preventing, reducing, or managing specific health conditions? If you can, it would be insightful if you could provide real-life examples of their curative properties.

  1. DASH diet

The DASH diet is rich in potassium, fiber, calcium, and magnesium and it is low in sodium; it has been shown to lower blood pressure. It is a dietary pattern that focuses on eating lots of plants- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. It also includes lean animal protein such as fish and chicken and low fat or fat free dairy. Foods high in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar are kept at a minimum.

I encourage this plan for clients who do not want to cut out meat 100%, but are interested in improving their diet quality. When following this plan consistently, healthcare providers find great improvements in the patient’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and medications can usually be decreased or stopped.

2. Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is very similar to the DASH diet because it also encourages lots of plants, smaller quantities of animal protein (especially red meat), fish regularly, and it limits sweets and processed foods. Other important elements of the Mediterranean diet are regular use of olive oil, regular exercise, sharing meals with family and friends, and enjoying wine in moderation if you drink alcohol.

One of the benefits of this diet is the replacement of saturated fat with unsaturated fats, which is linked to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher HDL (good) cholesterol. Eating fish provides omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to lower triglycerides (a common type of fat in the blood) and reduce inflammation in the body.

3. Vegetarian

Vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry, or fish, but they do usually include dairy milk, eggs, cheese, and butter. To get the most health benefits from a vegetarian diet, choose nutritious plant sources of protein such as beans and tofu to replace animal sources of protein, whole grains, and a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. A vegetarian diet that is poorly balanced and relies heavily on processed foods such as French fries, meat substitutes,cakes, cookies, or other sweets can be high in sodium, added sugar, and fat and lack fiber and other important nutrients.

4. Vegan

Vegans avoid all animal products- no meat, poultry, eggs, butter, cheese, or dairy milk. A vegan diet can be very healthy if it is balanced with plant sources of protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains and heavily processed foods are minimal. A vegan diet is the most restrictive of plant-based diets. It is important for people who follow a vegan diet to listen to their healthcare providers recommendations for supplementation. Often vegans need to supplement with vitamin B12, omega-3s, and vitamin D.

5. Flexitarian/mostly plant-based

A flexitarian is a person who eats mostly plant-based foods, however, occasionally eats meat and other animal foods in moderation. This way of eating is high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, plant protein, and unsaturated fat. It offers the same benefits for heart health, weight management, blood pressure, and cholesterol control as other plant-based diets. Many people find it is easier to follow a flexitarian diet than a vegetarian or vegan diet since no foods are off limits, they are only reduced and saved for sometimes.

Studies like this 2002 review, support the use of plant-based diets for the reduced risk of heart disease.

Do experts generally agree that merely choosing healthy foods isn’t sufficient, but that understanding how to consume them is key to unlocking their full health benefits? (For example, skins on/off, or cooked/raw, or whole grain/refined grain) Could you provide advice on how to approach this and sidestep common errors or misconceptions?”

Leaving the skin on fruits and vegetables whenever it makes sense is beneficial for the fiber content. For example, eat the skin on apples or potatoes, but remove the skin on oranges or avocados because the outer shell is rough and bitter.

I encourage clients to eat a variety of cooked and raw vegetables. Some nutrients are better absorbed when cooked and some forms of cooking affect the nutrient content more than others.

You will get much more iron in a cup of cooked spinach versus a cup of raw spinach since raw spinach is loosely packed, more spinach is packed in a cup when it is cooked.

When broccoli is cooked lutein and beta carotene content increases, but you will lose some of the vitamins and minerals.

For vegetables, it is best to not boil them because the vitamins and minerals will leak into the water that is typically thrown away. Steaming vegetables instead means no contact with water and better retention of vitamins and minerals.

Choosing whole grains versus refined grains gives you more protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. There are three parts to a whole grain, the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains have all three parts, they are intact, not processed. When a grain is refined the bran and germ are removed, which is where most the fiber, protein, and vitamins are located.

With the recent prominence of nutrition’s integration into healthcare, what’s your perspective on the collaborative approach between medical professionals, health coaches, and nutrition experts when it comes to delivering holistic patient care? Can you please explain?

It is very important for the whole healthcare team to work together in patient care. We all have our individual expertise. The doctor manages medications, lab work, and disease treatment. The dietitian is the true nutrition expert that can educate on prevention and disease management with food. Health coaches guide the patient to goal setting and management.

It’s been suggested that using ‘food as medicine’ has the potential to reduce healthcare costs by preventing disease severity. However, there’s concern about the affordability of healthier food options. What solutions do you believe could make nutritious choices accessible to everyone, ensuring that food truly becomes a form of medicine for all?

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and other nutritious foods should be government subsidized so they are affordable for everyone. Everyone should have availability to them at a low cost.

Everyone’s body is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. How does one navigate the vast array of nutritional advice available today to curate a diet tailored to individual needs, ensuring health and longevity?

With all the general advice and nutrition misinformation that is posted on social media and the internet today, it can be very difficult to navigate the truth and find solid information that you can trust. Also, there is no one-size fits all plan that works for everyone, there are many paths that lead to health. Anyone who tells you otherwise, is trying to sell something.

Working with a registered dietitian will help you to get answers and advice that is evidence based. Registered dietitians are the true nutrition experts that can help you to develop a wellness plan that is personalized and realistic to you.

As our understanding of the intricate link between food and health continues to evolve, we’re curious to know which emerging trends or breakthroughs in nutritional science excite you the most. How do you envision these advancements shaping the future of healthcare?

I am excited to see the advancement of lab-created meat. There are emerging companies that are creating meat with animal cells in a lab. This means protein that is equivalent in nutrition to beef, chicken, and other meat is being produced without killing animals. This is fantastic for not only the welfare of animals, but the environment as well.

Lab-created meat can provide more protein and variety for plant-based eaters who feel comfortable with this concept. At this time, lab-created meat is equivalent in nutritional value to real meat; however, with advancements perhaps there will eventually be products that are much leaner and healthier.

How can we better educate the public about the medicinal properties of food, and what role do professionals like you play in this educational journey?

More dietitians should be involved in media work. Dietitians can work with brands and media outlets to develop educational content to reach the masses.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on Instagram, @Sheridietitian or my blog, Sheri The Plant Strong Dietitian to see new recipes I create and media work I’ve done.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Wanda Malhotra, a Certified Health Coach and wellness entrepreneur with 28 years of experience, is the visionary founder behind Crunchy Mama Box, a Mission-driven Marketplace promoting healthier, sustainable living. Committed to social engagement, Wanda supports causes like environmental preservation, animal welfare, mental health, human rights, and social responsibility. Through her work, Wanda writes passionately about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact, and eco-friendly living. She shares valuable insights, advocating holistic health and sustainability, and aims to simplify wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at

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