California walnut grower-shippers will spend first quarter 2011 on a quest for the original health nut.

In what may be a low-key but nationwide promotion, the California Walnut Board’s Quest for the Original Health Nut asks the general public to nominate potential honorees. Beyond that point, the rules and regulations are a bit loose.

“They could nominate someone who’s into fitness and nutrition and is an inspiration to others, or who may have started a health program at a school or organized a race to support diabetes research,” said Jennifer Getz, the board’s domestic marketing director.

There are no expensive nomination forms. Rather, nominations, which will be accepted through April 15, may be made by visiting a new website, www.originalhealthnut.org, and writing a short story on why the nominee should win, Getz said. The promotion will not be accompanied by retail point-of-sale signs but will be supported by the board’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, she said.

Adding prestige to California Walnuts’ search are four health and wellness celebrities: Michael Roizen, Brian Wansink, cookbook author Mollie Katzen and fitness promoter Petra Kolber.

Roizen is a physician-author and co-founder of RealAge Inc., a consumer-health media company that is now a division of Hearst Magazines. Wansink is a researcher at Cornell University and was executive director from 2007-09 of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the federal agency in charge of developing 2010 Dietary Guidelines and promoting the Food Guide Pyramid.

Katzen was inducted into the prestigious James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2007. Kolber, a cancer survivor and is certified as expert by several national fitness, sports medicine and exercise organizations.

The grand prize winner of the Quest for the Original Health Nut will be the finalist with the most public votes and will receive a trip to the 2011 walnut harvest in Napa, Calif., and a $1,500 donation to his or her favorite charity, Getz said. In addition, the winner will choose a relative or friend to receive a health makeover from the celebrity experts, she said.

Regional finalists also will receive prizes.

“Walnuts are one of the original health foods and have been known for their health properties from the beginning,” Getz said.