Registered dietitian Sarah Formoza enjoys cooking, caring, nutrition

In this issue’s Spotlight, meet Auxiliary Services’ registered dietitian, Sarah Formoza, whose recipes and advice influence nutrition for more than 4,000 campus residents eating in the college’s dining centers.

Q. Where were you born and raised?
A. I was born in Syracuse. I lived in Otisco, outside of Marcellus. Then we moved to Warners, near Camillus. I went to Bishop Ludden High School. I currently live in Baldwinsville.

Q. What can you tell us about your higher education?
A. My undergraduate degree is actually in business, with a concentration in entrepreneurship and marketing. I went to the University at Buffalo my first two years, and then I transferred to Syracuse University, which is where I did the rest of my education. My master’s degree is in nutrition science. 

Q. What led to your switch in academic interests?
A. In my senior year, I started going to job fairs, and I wasn’t seeing anything that seemed to say, “I can do this for the rest of my life.” I just did a self-reflection and looked at what job markets were growing, and that’s when I discovered there was such a thing as a registered dietitian. They had a program at Syracuse University. I’ve always loved to cook, I’ve always been interested in eating healthy with different sports that I played, and I liked the idea of helping other people. I wanted to do something that I was passionate about and that I loved.

Q. When did you come to SUNY Oswego?
A. In order to become a registered dietitian, you have to complete education under the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics’ didactic program in dietetics and do a year of an accredited internship. So I did that at Syracuse University, and after that I saw the job posting for here. I wasn’t really sure if I was qualified, but I took a chance and applied and went on two different interviews. I’ve happily been here for five years.

Q. What is the difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist?
A. Every registered dietitian is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist is a registered dietitian. They recently changed (the profession’s initials) from RD to RDN for registered dietitian nutritionist. Anyone can say they’re a “nutritionist,” so the “registered dietitian” piece means you have the education, you completed the internship, you passed the exam—you’ve done all the components to have that nationwide certification. Every five years, you have to earn continuing education credits, to stay current.

Q. What are your duties at the college?
A. I work with our staff to create our resident dining center menus, making sure that we have a variety of fresh and healthy options for students. I also work with students who have food allergies or dietary restrictions, making sure they have accommodations and making sure they have as many options as anyone else. I also do presentations for Athletics and for different nutrition classes—guest presentations. I do a lot with the menus, recipes and testing. And that’s the fun part of it, too—getting to come up with ideas and try new foods and recipes.

Q.  Can you tell us about the recipe testing? Do you have a favorite?
A. This summer, we added about 50 new recipes. We completely changed our menu. We have a five-week-cycle menu that repeats three times a semester. It was getting a little stale—that’s what our customers were telling us. So Ruth (Stevens, director of resident dining) said, “Alright, I want you to basically start from scratch and put different combinations of food in different spots and also add new recipes.” That was a very big task. One recipe that has some meaning to me is our quinoa chili. It’s a recipe I did for a cooking class a couple years ago, and it’s something I make a lot at home. We tested it this summer, and now it’s on at dinner at the dining centers. It’s a very nice vegan and gluten-free option. 

Q. What’s your favorite part of the job?
A. I love that I have the opportunity to influence over 4,000 students who eat at the dining centers. It’s just a tremendous feeling. I review all the nutrition information for all of our products. Every year, we find new products with better ingredients. I also like being a mentor to my nutrition interns and to students in health promotion and wellness and especially in the nutrition minor, who may be thinking about becoming a registered dietitian. Being on a college campus is a perk.

Q. How do students learn about specific ingredients, especially for food allergies?
A. The great thing is our nutrition information is online and on the (college’s mobile) app, so students can see the allergens and ingredients and they’re able to make the choices on their own to decide what they can eat. In the last year or so, we’ve had over 900,000 hits on the app, so we know people are using it. On the website there is also a feature where you can build your plate, so you can add up the total calories and nutrients for your meal. We also meet with students who have food allergies or other dietary restrictions. In some special cases, we develop a special menu for them, usually based on our regular menu with modifications. To avoid any cross contact, we can prepare the meals separately, too.

Q. What are some of your other interests?
A. I’ve been doing CrossFit for over a year. I do yoga about once a week. I like to run and do races like 5Ks and 10Ks. I love the way that food plays a big role in that, with how it makes you feel. It just goes hand in hand with the exercise. I also like to read. I love to cook and bake. I love to find recipes and tweak them to make them healthier. I have this great recipe for a blondie brownie made with chickpeas—garbanzo beans—and peanut butter and maple syrup. It is so yummy. You would never taste the beans, and it’s moist and delicious. I grew up baking, and I still bake, sour cream cutout cookies. I make them for Christmas and my son’s birthday.

Q. What can you tell us about your family?
A. I live with my very supportive boyfriend and 4-year-old son, who is full of energy and questions at this age, very curious. I have my grandparents, parents and my older brother, his girlfriend and her daughter. I have a large extended family. Our Thanksgiving and Christmas is, like, 40 or 50 people. We all bring some food. It gets a little crazy. (Laughs.)

Q. What is something most people on campus don’t know about you?
A. I grew up around my family’s business. I worked there for a while before coming here. It’s called Wood Etc. It’s a manufacturing company in Syracuse that makes custom cabinets and countertops commercially. When I worked there most recently, I did all the estimating and bidding. I would look at big blueprints and talk with contractors and give them prices.