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Meet the Experts Behind Diabetes Food Hub
The Diabetes Food Hub Team Answers by The Diabetes Food Hub Team

Meet the Experts Behind Diabetes Food Hub

In honor of National Nutrition Month, we are highlighting the nutrition experts behind Diabetes Food Hub! Learn more about the dietitians at the American Diabetes Association and what they're doing to help people living with diabetes thrive.



Uzma Qurashi, MS, RD

Director, Education Recognition Program

What do you do at ADA?

As Director of Education Recognition Program (ERP) I enjoy assisting 1,600+ programs with achieving or maintaining their prestigious ADA Recognition by meeting the National Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Standards so in return they can help hundreds and thousands of people manage their diabetes and live a healthier life.

Education

Bachelors in Community Nutrition from Kansas State University and Masters in Nutritional Sciences from University of Texas at Austin. 

Background

I started my career by working at hospitals to provide clinical care. I usually worked with patients in critical and intensive care units as well as following surgery, but my favorite assignment was successfully starting our outpatient Diabetes Education program. After starting a family, I moved to community care and worked at a Health Department where I fell in love with Maternal and Child health. One of my proudest accomplishments was developing a program to work with overweight children. 

Why did you become a dietitian?

From birth through college I lived in three different countries. Two of the countries were very affluent and obesity was a growing problem, while the other one was at the other end of the spectrum where starvation and malnutrition were everywhere. I felt it was important to learn and educate about nutrition for optimal health no matter where one was born.

What is one of your food related challenges/struggles?

Portion control when I go out to eat! Sometimes I am too hungry or enjoying company that I am not paying attention to the amount of food I am eating. For me, the best solutions have been sharing with my husband, asking for a box as soon as I am served so I can put half of it away, or adjusting what I eat the rest of the day so I can balance out the calories. 

What is your favorite vegetable?

I just love Asparagus to Zucchini and every vegetable in between! Now with summer around the corner, I am looking forward to grilled zucchini


Caroline Blanco, MS, RDN, LDN

Director, Mission Program Development & Evaluation

What do you do at ADA?

I work with various initiatives focused on health disparities, health equity, and diabetes self-management education and support programs at the Association.  I have also worked with ADA’s Diabetes Is Primary – a medical education conference geared for primary care physicians, and ADA’s Project Power Camp, which is a program that focuses on type 2 diabetes prevention in youth nationwide.

Education

 I received my Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at the University of Houston, and my Master of Science in Nutrition at Texas Woman’s University in Houston, TX. I have served as the President for the South Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and as a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Public Health/Community Nutrition Committee.

Background

I have been fortunate to have worked with numerous organizations nationwide to promote various types of health and wellness programs. I have facilitated nutrition grants focused on policy, systems, and environmental changes in schools, restaurants and community centers with funding support from organizations including the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Walmart Foundation.  

Why did you become a dietitian?

My father was a cardiologist and my mother a nurse, so as a child, I basically grew up going to the hospitals they worked at and even got to connect with some of their patients.  My parents focused their entire careers on research, working on various clinical studies to help improve the complications of heart disease and diabetes as part of their patient care.  After taking a nutrition class in college, I became very intrigued by how nutrition plays such a strong role on our health to prevent and/or better manage chronic diseases.  Growing up in both Texas and Louisiana, there is such a high prevalence of diabetes and heart disease especially in high health disparate areas.  As a registered dietitian, I am passionate about focusing on health initiatives that not only promote healthy eating, but also incorporate increased access to healthy foods in the community.

What is one of your food-related callenges/struggles?

Having 2 little ones that are picky eaters at times, and juggling work and after-school schedules is always challenging to try to have dinners ready during the week.  Doing meal prep on the weekend is key and having the kids contribute to picking out some meal options makes it easier to plan ahead.  Chicken tacos is one of our favorite meals we can all agree on, and it is also an easy & quick meal to make too.  We sauté chicken with onions and bell peppers, and have some toppings on the side for the kids to add on themselves such as avocado slices, tomatoes, low-fat cheese, salsa, etc. We usually have a salad or veggie on the side and voila – dinner is served!  This is a great Chicken Taco recipe with some extra seasonings if you want to spice it up a bit.

What is your favorite vegetable?

Ironically my favorite veggies now are ones that I never liked to eat when I was a kid, so there may be hope for my picky eaters.  I love eggplant and mushrooms - they are so flavorful and versatile so can easily be added to many dishes.  Grilled, sautéed, or roasted, they can be prepared and seasoned so many different ways.  Here is a great Roasted Vegetables recipe that includes a combination of vegetables including eggplant and mushrooms - you can add your favorite veggies to the mix too. Yum!



Ryan Woolley, MSPH, RD

Associate Director, Evaluation and Outcomes Research

What do you do at ADA?

I am a registered dietitian and associate director of evaluation and outcomes research for the American Diabetes Association. In this role I analyze and report on data-driven outcomes of the Association’s initiatives, such as the impact the Diabetes Food Hub has on helping users meal plan and reach their nutrition goals. 

Education

I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and my Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) degree in human nutrition at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. During my master’s program, I completed dietetic training at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center to obtain my RD credential. 

Background

After completing my undergraduate degree, I knew I was interested in translating research into programs and policies that could have a widespread impact on the health of the population.  Before starting my graduate coursework, I did clinical research on bone health at Massachusetts General Hospital. The studies I worked on explored the downstream effects of one’s nutritional status on bone strength. While in graduate school I focused my studies on the food system and learned about the health implications of food access inequities. I conducted research on a community-based intervention for childhood obesity prevention and explored the impact of socioeconomic disparities of the food environment.

Why did you become a dietitian?

I love nutrition because it combines my biology background and interest in how the body works, my passion for preventative healthcare, and the joy I find from sharing food with others. We all need to eat, but food carries so much more than just a survival component. A balanced diet can help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes but being able to find that balance is challenging. There are so many factors in our environment that affect what we eat such as access to healthy food, socioeconomic status, cooking experience, stress, and time in the day. I became a dietitian to learn more about these challenges and how to help others overcome them both on an individual and population level. 

What is one of your food-related challenges/struggles?

I’m always on the go and finding the time in the day to prepare healthy foods is challenging. I’m sure others can relate. When our days are filled with work, commuting, exercising, meetings, and other responsibilities of daily life, we need on the go food to fill us up when time is limited. When I have busy days, I like to pack an extra snack or two such as fruit and a granola bar. Not all granola bars are the same though, so I love to make these Peanut Butter Banana Oat Bites when I have extra time on Sundays. I keep them in my fridge or freezer, so I can easily grab them for on the go.

What is your favorite vegetable?

I love eating veggies when they are fresh and in season. If you’ve had tomatoes in the summer time you can taste how flavorful they are compared to the rest of the year! I always get excited in early spring when my favorite vegetable, asparagus, is in season. You can grill, roast, or steam them quickly and they pair well as a side with so many dishes! 
 


Jaclyn Konich, MPH, RD

Acquisitions Editor, ADA Books

What do you do at ADA?

I am a part of the books team that publishes ADA’s cookbooks, self-care books, and professional guides. I help find authors to work with and initiate new books projects. I also help manage and produce a lot of content for the Diabetes Food Hub. 

Education

I received two Bachelors of Science degrees from Texas Woman’s University in political science and nutrition. Later I went on to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to get a master’s degree in public health and complete the requirements to become a registered dietitian.

Background

One of the great things about being a dietitian is that there are so many different career paths you can take. I have explored many of them since I started studying nutrition: I have worked at a food bank, taught community cooking and nutrition classes, volunteered at a local organic farm, interned at a public health office and a hospital, and I even had the incredible opportunity to work at the Office of the US Surgeon General under Dr. Vivek Murthy. Prior to joining the ADA I was working at a nonprofit that did research and advocacy supporting sugar-sweetened beverage taxes. My latest passion (personally and professionally) is cooking, so in my role at ADA I’m very excited to be a part of producing books and other content that empower people to cook more meals at home and feel more confident in the kitchen. 

Why did you become a dietitian?

I decided to study nutrition because I absolutely love food, and I wanted to help other people love food, too. Unfortunately, most of us live in a food environment where it’s really hard to make healthy food choices (a few examples: you can buy candy literally anywhere at any time; the stuff that is the worst for our health is also super tasty, and cheap, and convenient; unnecessarily large portion sizes entice you to overeat; heavy marketing of unhealthy foods triggers cravings; I could go on and on!). As a result, food is a source of stress, confusion, and guilt for a lot of people.
Ultimately, I wish we could all live in an environment where eating healthy is easy. But until then, I want to empower people to know what’s best for themselves, understand all the traps and pitfalls of the food environment, and learn to truly enjoy cooking and eating without feeling pressured to eat a “perfect diet.”

What is one of your food-related challenges/struggles?

I absolutely love cooking at home, but I am terrible at planning in advance. I rely too heavily on being able to “throw something together” with what I have on hand…which sometimes means I have popcorn for dinner. Lately I’ve found a happy medium between rigorous meal planning and “winging it”—each week I plan and shop for 2-3 recipes to cook at home while also keeping some staples on hand for last minute, “go-to” lunches and snacks. I’m usually just cooking for myself, so I stretch the leftovers from those 2-3 recipes to cover most lunches and dinners for the week. This little bit of planning ensures that I actually have ingredients on hand to make healthy meals when I have time, and embracing leftovers means I can have a healthy home-cooked meal every day, even when I don’t have time to cook at home. 

What is your favorite vegetable?

All of them? I love all food equally and I could never pick favorites! My favorite way to eat more servings of vegetables is to snack on raw veggies with some kind of dip (like this lighter homemade ranch dip). My favorite raw veggies for dipping are carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli, and celery.



Sacha Uelmen, RDN, CDE

Managing Director, Diabetes Education & Nutrition

What do you do at ADA?

I am a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and managing director of nutrition & diabetes education. One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet and work with so many dedicated volunteers across the country to better understand the diverse needs of the people that we serve. My current role allows me to focus ADA’s efforts where we can make the most impact to improve the lives of people living with diabetes.

Education

After graduating with a degree in Sociology from the University of Michigan, I explored a variety of career paths including social work, IT, and hospital administration before finally deciding to resume my education and become a registered dietitian.  While working full time as an administrative assistant on the research side of endocrinology at the University of Michigan, I worked toward my 2nd bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University in Nutrition & Dietetics where I took classes online and completed the required internships to become a registered dietitian. 

Background

I always new that prevention was my true passion, so early on I focused on jobs in outpatient settings providing medical nutrition therapy (MNT). I worked as an outpatient dietitian for many years beginning with dialysis prevention and counseling for special meal plans related to kidney failure before working in a weight management clinic in the Detroit metro area.  I then worked for a few years in research designing meal plans for weight management studies before finding my true passion, diabetes self management education where I worked for over 10 years before coming to ADA in 2016.  

Why did you become a dietitian?

I’m sure this goes back to about the age of 3 when my father  opened a small market in Flint, MI selling fresh pita bread and authentic Lebanese foods.  When I was about 11 years old, my dad had a heart attack, and the dietitian told him that he could live a long healthy life if he made sure to eat healthy and stay fit.  I instantly became my dad’s healthy eating and fitness drill sergeant by reading labels, checking restaurant menus to find the healthiest options, and going to the mall with him to walk laps after his rehab. Fortunately, my dad had a very positive attitude and willingly accepted the unsolicited advice of an 11-year-old.   Later after finishing college and working on the administrative side of the health system, I realized I wanted to have a more direct impact on people’s lives. Combining my love of diversity of culture and food with nutrition science is something can carry with me in my career and in my life. 

What is one of your food-related challenges/struggles?

Temptations and indulgences!  Celebrations, family, friends and social gatherings—the best parts of life can pose the hardest food choices and can sometimes lead to feeling bad or guilty when we overindulge.  My temptations are all in the form of chocolate, whether it’s candy, baked goods, or ice cream –  if it’s chocolate, I like it.  There are 3 key things that I have found to help me when challenged with my favorite temptations:

  1. I keep temptations out of reach.  If I have to actually go out and get something sweet, I’m much less likely to do so.  Plus, the extra effort to walk or bike to a place with sweet treats helps burn off a few of those extra calories. And when I do indulge, I keep the portions small, eat slowly and really savor the experience.  

  2. If I know I’m going to get dessert when dining out, I make different choices at the meal.  I’m not usually a salad eater, but this is a time I’ll choose a lighter salad to make room for dessert.

  3. When I inevitably overindulge at times, I avoid negative self-talk and guilt. I try to quickly assess what choices I could have made differently and then move on. Doing something good for myself, like stretching or going for a walk also helps me get past the self blame spiral that many of us struggle with. 

What is your favorite vegetable?

My favorite veggie of all are little trees (AKA broccoli). I definitely prefer my veggies hot—I like broccoli steamed but it must have a little crunch.  Here’s a yummy go to cold broccoli salad recipe that I love. This is a great side dish or healthy snack.



Shamera Robinson, MPH, RDN

Associate Director of Nutrition

What do you do at ADA?

I am a registered dietitian and associate director of nutrition for the American Diabetes Association. I’ve always been passionate about improving the lives of people affected by diabetes, but this role allows me to extend my reach beyond direct care by developing content, supporting professional networks, and promoting useful tools – like Diabetes Food Hub!

Education

I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Public Health from Spelman College. I then ventured to UNC- Chapel Hill where I spent 2.5 years earning my Master of Public Health (MPH) in Nutrition and completing the 1200 supervised practice hours needed to sit for the registration examination for dietitians.

Background

I worked in a hospital setting before joining the ADA team. As an outpatient dietitian, I spent years using a patient-centered approach to provide counseling, education, and medical nutrition therapy to help people reach their individualized health goals. While I was privileged to work with many different people with varying nutrition needs, I most enjoyed connecting and partnering with people working to live well with diabetes.

Why did you become a dietitian?

I watched my dear granny struggle with managing her diabetes for years. The complications led to many hospital visits, and the doctor would always tell her she needed to start “eating different” before every discharge. What did that mean? As a woman born and raised in rural Mississippi, she didn’t know what “eating different” looked like and would go back to making familiar food choices. I decided if her doctor wouldn’t help her understand how food impacts her body, then I’d be the one to do it. I’ve always had a love for food, but watching my granny battle complications was what pushed me to become a dietitian.

What is one of your food-related challenges/struggles?

Breakfast! Are there any morning people out there? Well, I admire you because it takes me so long to get out of the bed each morning. A slow start to the day often leaves me scrambling with little time, which means even less time for breakfast. Because I don’t leave myself with enough time to make a meal in the morning, I am always looking for breakfast ideas that I can prepare ahead of time and grab on my way out the door. These mini veggie frittatas are my go-to breakfast for meal prep!

What is your favorite vegetable?

Brussels sprouts are definitely my favorite veggie. I know most people either love them or hate them, but I can never say no to crispy, roasted sprouts.

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