Lara Felton, MBA, RDN
SHOPWELL & RDELISH NUTRITION
for something nutrishus
If you've been following this series, you've probably noticed the diversity in the field of dietetics as well as similar themes, like our love of food! Like Lara, many of us are lucky to work in nutrition because we're so passionate about it. She has a very unique technology position and is part of an exciting private practice consulting team in an area I love (the San Francisco Bay Area!). I can appreciate the challenges of working outside your comfort zone, staying up on trends, and trying to take weekends off!
Why did you become a RD?
I love food! I actually found out about the field of nutrition and dietetics when I was in college. I was studying to be a marine biology major but wasn’t excited for my career prospects so I did some reflecting on what I was really passionate about and it was food and health. I found out there was a major for Nutrition and Dietetics on campus and once I learned about all the career options for RDs I was hooked and never looked back.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I started out in clinical, working as part of an awesome cystic fibrosis (CF) team. Now I work in technology for a mobile app called ShopWell and am lucky enough to still be part of an awesome team. I also do consulting work for recipe development and nutrition communications with my business partner and dietitian partner in crime, Sarah for RDelish Nutrition.
How would you explain what you do?
In the tech world I do a bit of everything from: developing new features with the engineers and product development team, marketing, managing social media, blogging, quality assurance testing, and customer support. It’s a small team so I get to wear a lot of hats. It’s both an awesome learning experience and can be quite stressful.
For RDelish Nutrition, I write blog posts, develop recipes, manage social media, have brainstorming coffee dates with Sarah, and consult with start-ups who have a nutrition concept or product that they want a dietitian’s expertise and input on.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
Every day is different for me, although I try my best to stick to a weekly schedule to make sure I stay on task. I do a lot of support emails and work on the ShopWell database at the start of the week. I try to schedule out social media posts for the week on Mondays for both ShopWell and RDelish Nutrition. I am always looking at the analytics to learn more about who my crowd is on the social media platforms and what content resonated well. Midweek are my content days where I work on blog posts, healthy quick tips for ShopWell, spend time in the kitchen researching and developing recipes, and any food photo shoots that I dream up. I try to spend 20-30 minutes daily browsing my feed of other blogs I follow to stay up on trending topics, what others are writing about, and get inspiration for my own writing and recipes. I try to reserve weekends for family time but work tasks always creep in.
What has been your career path?
From my internship days I knew that I wanted to do something business-related with my nutrition degree. I completed my internship at Massachusetts General Hospital and we had a 2-week business plan development rotation that I loved. I wanted to learn more of those business skills and felt that was a gap in the dietetics education. I also got exposure to the cystic fibrosis patient population and was really drawn to how key the dietitian is on the CF treatment team. I was hired at Stanford Health Care after my internship and joined the adult Cystic Fibrosis team.
I still had an interest in business and the technology space, probably heightened by the fact that I live in Silicon Valley and start-ups are everywhere. A colleague at Stanford told me about the position at ShopWell. I was fortunate to get hired and really explore and hone my interest in business as well as be creative with how I share my nutrition knowledge.
Sarah and I started RDelish Nutrition in early 2015 as a way for us to explore new opportunities in the Bay Area and continue to foster our creative side through blogging and recipe development. I love having someone to bounce ideas off of, strategize with, and share the workload of maintaining a blog. We get along really well together and have complimentary interests in nutrition and similar views on food and life, which makes blogging and planning the content so much easier.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I have a Master in Business Administration, which was a goal of mine after completing my internship. I had a real interest in business and absolutely loved the MBA program (maybe except the finance and accounting classes). The knowledge I learned and connections I made in the program have been useful to me in my roles at ShopWell and RDelish Nutrition.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
Dietitians are leading the conversation and are thought leaders for topics relating to nutrition and wellness for the general public. I think the future of nutrition and dietitians is learning how to effectively reach more people through mediums like mobile platforms. With the pace of technology and particularly the changes in the health care space and telemedicine, I think RDs have the potential to reach larger numbers of people and have a real impact but likely less opportunities for the one-on-one touch we are familiar with today.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
We’re not the food police! Unless you are my client and we are talking about your meals and eating habits, I (we) are not judging you for what you eat so don’t be self conscious to eat food around us.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
I work in the tech space now and I think RDs are now starting to get respect and credibility in this space. A lot of times I am talking about the differences between dietitians, nutritionists, and wellness coaches and the value that dietitians can bring to a tech or start up team. I think another big challenge for dietitians is salary and getting compensated appropriately for our time, expertise, and experience. Although it is also the responsibly of the dietitians to ask for more.
What do people think that you do for a living?
Blog and play around on Facebook. Most people have no idea what my role could possibly be at a start up. Even when I was working at Stanford Health Care people assumed I wrote meal plans all day long and talked with people about weight loss.
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
Our expertise and education to be dietitians makes us much more credible (to me at least) but I do think we have an image problem in the more mainstream public. Since our profession is rooted in science we aren’t as swayed by fads and trends which often is not as exciting or as immediate.
What is your favorite meal?
Brunch, hands down. Specifically I love splurging on waffles.
More about Lara: