Lauren Manaker is a registered dietitian, a certified lactation educator counselor, and the founder of Nutrition Now, a virtual private practice specializing in infertility, preconception, prenatal, and postnatal nutrition. She is also a freelance nutrition writer and speaker and has served as a nutrition expert for many media outlets.
Lauren has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2000. She has held leadership positions in both the Medical Nutrition Practice Group and the Women’s Health Dietetic Practice Group and is currently a member of the breastfeeding policy and advocacy committee of the Women’s Health Dietetic Practice Group.
She was named 2018’s Emerging Professional in Women’s Health by the Women’s Health Dietetic Practice Group.
Oola: What inspired you to focus on the field of diet and nutrition?
Unlike a lot of other dietitians, I was not inspired to follow this career path because I am a foodie. I hate to admit it, but my favorite foods are spaghetti and tomato sauce and a good PB&J sandwich!
I love science and am fascinated by how the food and nutrients people put into their bodies can impact their health and nutrition in profound ways. I recently launched my own business focusing entirely on reproductive health. During my personal journey with infertility, pregnancy, and motherhood, it frustrated me to learn how much inaccurate information is floating around on the Internet and how little time doctors have to personalize nutrition advice. I created this business with what I wish I had had when I was in that stage of life in mind.
It is also important to me to have a social media presence and provide accurate information to my followers, because I think these outlets are flooded with self-proclaimed “experts” who sometimes do more harm than good. (My Instagram page is a work in progress. My three-year-old daughter does most of my food styling.)
Oola: You specialize in infertility, preconception, prenatal, and postnatal support. Can you elaborate on what that entails?
One out of eight couples in the U.S. struggles with infertility, and therefore infertility support is becoming an area that is receiving more attention. More and more information is emerging on how diet and lifestyle play a role in fertility, and my role is to stay current with the emerging information and to convey this information to clients in a personalized and realistic way.
Experts are now recommending that couples seek preconception education at least three months before they start trying to conceive. When a woman is pregnant, the way she eats can affect her baby’s health in the short and long term. I coach people on how to modify their eating habits to help them achieve their goals and have positive outcomes. We come up with a plan together and ensure that it is realistic and achievable, and we follow up as needed.
I also provide a less intensive nutrition audit for people who don’t have a lot of time or money to invest in coaching sessions, or are generally healthy and want to make sure they are doing what is best to achieve their goals. It is also a good option for clients who need some guidance with prenatal vitamin or other supplement selection, since that can be an overwhelming and expensive task for many people. If a client chooses to participate in the audit, they will fill out an online questionnaire and in a few days will receive a report with diet and lifestyle recommendations according to their goals and a full assessment of any supplements they are taking.
Oola: What’s a common misconception people have about working with a dietitian?
One misconception is that dietitians will push clients to buy a bunch of pills and supplements. One goal of my business is to combat the supplement companies that market themselves as cures for infertility or have very creative labels that make pregnant women believe they are receiving the appropriate amounts of micronutrients in their prenatal vitamins when in fact they are receiving only a small percentage of what they need. I promote food first. I would much rather have a client eat eggs and spinach than take a fistful of pills every day.
Oola: One day we read in the news that something is bad for us, and the next day we read that it’s good. Is there a rule of thumb or method to use to figure out which report to believe?
The media reports what is interesting to the public. It is the role of the health professional like the dietitian to actually read the study that the media is highlighting to determine how well designed the study is, how accurately the results were interpreted, and how the study really applies to their clients.
Oola: Eating healthy while traveling can be a real challenge. Any tips for making it more manageable?
I am completing this interview while packing up my family to evacuate before Hurricane Florence hits, so this is a topic I will be dealing with tomorrow. Planning is key. I pack snacks that travel well and bring a small cooler with lunch to help us avoid hitting up the fast food!
Oola: If you could only keep one of the following items in your diet for the rest of time, which would it be: coffee, ice cream, or bacon?
Can you believe that I don’t eat bacon?! My family never ate it, so it never became a part of my diet. I am a busy working mom, so the obvious choice is coffee (and coffee popsicles on hot days — Chloe’s cold-pressed coffee pops are a staple in my house!).
To Learn More About Lauren And Her Work:
Website: Nutrition Now
Specialties: infertility, preconception nutrition, gestational diabetes, prenatal nutrition, postnatal/lactation nutrition
Designations: RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist), CLEC (certified lactation educator counselor)