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Dietitian Spotlight Series: Rachael Hartley of Avocado a Day Nutrition


Interview by Anna Hudgins, nutrition student at Texas A&M University and intern at Nutrition Awareness.

This month’s spotlight features Rachael Hartley, a registered dietitian and self-proclaimed avocado fiend with a unique background in psychology. Rachael double majored in Nutrition and Psychology at Clemson University and completed her internship at Emory University Hospital. She started her career as an outpatient dietitian providing nutrition counseling and management programs. In 2014, Rachael opened Avocado a Day Nutrition, a private practice in Columbia, South Carolina, where she focuses on nourishing the body with whole foods instead of counting calories. At Avocado a Day, Rachael emphasizes mindful eating and nutrition not just for physical health, but mental health as well.

In this Dietitian Spotlight Series, we ask Rachel what gets her the most business, how she integrates psychology with nutrition in her practice and why she’s so obsessed with avocados…

1. Rachel, what does a typical day look like for you?

I quickly realized after starting my business that there’s no such thing as a typical day. I’ve been trying to streamline my schedule by setting aside specific days for clients, marketing and blog work, but I’m not quite there…yet! Right now, a “typical” day starts with an early wake up, taking my big fluffy dogs, Charleston and Savannah, on a walk, then a short meditation or yoga. From there, it’s usually full of a mixture of working with clients, writing or cooking/shooting recipes for the blog or other projects, marketing/networking, and more emails and social media than I’d like to admit!

2. As an entrepreneur and business owner, what strategies do you use to reach out to the public?

Absolutely my blog is the biggest way I get my name and message out to the public. Potential clients are able to learn a little bit about me, my nutrition philosophy and see my love of food. I also try to regularly make connections with people in the community, through email, in person or social media. As an introvert, it’s always difficult, but word of mouth can only get you so far.

3. How do you incorporate your psychology education with nutrition?

In college, I double majored with psychology. Since becoming a dietitian, I’ve been using techniques like intuitive eating, motivational interviewing, and mindfulness that bridge the gap between psychology and nutrition. But since starting my business, I’ve developed a bit of a specialty in working with clients on nutrition as an adjunct treatment for depression and anxiety. Most people realize they feel better mentally when they eat more nutritiously, but there are also specific nutrients and foods that target the brain and can positively or negatively affect mood.

4. What is your favorite ingredient to cook with? (I’m assuming avocados, if so you can elaborate on why!)

I suppose I have to say avocados! I love the versatility, how you can work it into a sauce, use it in baking, whip it into a smoothie for creaminess, or just eat it plain with a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.avocado.a.day.nutrition
A recent home-run recipe Rachael developed using avocado– Chipotle Tempeh and Cauliflower Rice Bowl with Kale Guacamole

5. If you could make just one fad diet disappear which one would you pick?

While I appreciate that the paleo craze has made the general public so much more aware of the dangers of processed foods, I wish people would stop following it so strictly. Humans have evolved to adapt to a wide-variety of whole food-based eating patterns, and there’s a ton of research showing the benefits of whole grains, beans and even small amounts of high quality dairy. Plus, cavemen actually ate these things! And while I don’t think everyone needs to be vegan or vegetarian, moving in that general direction is one of the best ways to protect against chronic disease and care for the environment.

6. Where do you stand on organic and GMO foods?

I believe organic produce contains more nutrients and reduces the risk of pesticide exposure. The lack of long term research on the safety of GMOs concerns me. Both GMO free and organic produce are much better for the environment so I try to purchase them as much as possible. That said, I don’t think non-organic produce or GMO foods are “toxic” – I’ve got both in my kitchen and I’m not losing any sleep over it!

7. What is your favorite recipe you have developed?

Oh, that’s a hard one. I feel like each recipe is my baby! Two of my most popular recipes are my shredded sweet potatoes with eggs, chimichurri and fresh salsa and my vegan macaroni and cheesevegan.macaroni.and.cheese

8. What is the first thing you look at when debating on buying a food product?

Whether it tastes great! I spend time looking at the ingredients list, but ultimately, I want to eat food I enjoy that makes me happy.

9. Do you have a role model or inspiration in the nutrition field?

I look up to Kathie Swift, an integrative dietitian specializing in digestive health. I’ve listened to her speak a few times and she is incredibly knowledgeable, inspirational and her joyful attitude is infectious!

10. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy yoga and spending time with my husband and friends. I tend to work a lot so I can indulge my passion for travel. This year, we’ve gone to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Nashville, and we’re planning trips to Vietnam and Hawaii later this year.

11. If you could only recommend one nutrition-related book, which one would it be?

Without a doubt, it would be Intuitive Eating. It changed both my relationship with food, and my approach to nutrition counseling.

12. When did you first get involved with Pure Barre?

I was actually lucky in that one of my dear friends works in their corporate marketing department. I wrote a few articles for their blog, which were quite popular, and since then, they’ve hired me to develop recipes, and I work with a few studios to give nutrition workshops to their clients. A bit of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs – your friends and family are your best cheerleaders! Make sure they understand what you do and they’ll support you like no one else. I’ve had friends who refer their coworkers and family, help me network, and share my recipes.

Thank you Rachael for being part of The Dietitian Spotlight Series! Be sure to check out Rachael’s blog for the latest in whole food nutrition, valuable tips on things like canning your own pickles and most of all– her mouth-watering recipes!sweet.potato.hash

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