A Pinecrest dietitian teaches her clients—including the Miami Marlins—to eat and live well

Miami-based dietitian Monica Auslander follows one rule: Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full. The 28-year-old Pinecrest native is the founder of Essence Nutrition, which provides nutritional services for individuals, groups, businesses and restaurants.

“I’m always the 28th dietitian that a client has seen,” she says with a laugh. “They’ve been dieting for years, but diets don’t work. They’re temporary, limiting and make you feel guilty and food crazy.”

Among her current roster of clients, you’ll find her coaching the Miami Marlins, offering interactive presentations at Soho House and representing Fresh Del Monte Produce.

Auslander never planned to dive into the world of food and nutrition. At the University of Florida, she studied linguistics and French. But during the economic downturn in 2008, she thought, “How am I going to get a job?”

She enrolled in a few science and nutrition courses. A month after graduation, she began at Florida International University’s master’s program in dietetics and nutrition. Her first job was as an inpatient clinical dietitian at Jackson Memorial, where she worked with teams of doctors to provide medical nutrition therapy for pediatric and adult patients with cancer, trauma, burns and organ transplants.

“I felt creatively confined,” she says. “I wanted to do more to reach a broader audience. I decided to open my own practice. At first, it was just private clients. But then I started writing e-books, working with corporations and teaching at the University of Miami. I’m developing an app right now, too, and working on cooking demos with local chefs.”

Regardless who Auslander is coaching, whether a private client or a fitness buff, she teaches a concept called “intuitive eating,” in which a client honors their hunger, respects when they’re full and never labels food as “good” or “bad.” Auslander’s theory at Essence rejects quick fixes, cleanses and 21-day diets. Instead, she guides clients to make sustainable lifestyle changes as a means for leading a more-balanced life.

“People aren’t dogs,” she says. “I’m not going to feed them a half a cup of broccoli or kale. That doesn’t honor someone’s culture or how they grew up. It’s OK to have pizza or a croissant. It’s just about getting to a place where some days you eat vegetables, and other days, you don’t.”

Even for clients concerned with losing weight, Auslander forgoes scales in her office.

“Weight loss is the smallest part of nutritional science,” she says. “We don’t really care what people weigh here. If you’re sticking with the tools we provide, you’ll feel the difference. There are people who are very slender but eat like 12-year-old boys. It’s about honoring your organs and nourishing your body.”

Auslander provides nutrition plans based on lifestyle: general nutrition, pregnancy, bridal, menopause and diabetes. She also works in performance nutrition geared toward professional athletes, in which Auslander helps fuel players to increase performance. For all her clients, she offers services such as pantry makeovers, supermarket tours, individualized meal plans, seminars and support.

“With the Marlins, it’s very regimented. They have all these different game times, and it’s important to focus on pre- and post-game nutrition,” she says. “They’re training hours and hours every day. It’s totally different. But with everyone, it’s about getting to a place where you’re in tune with your needs and hunger.”

Since opening in January 2016, Auslander hasn’t taken much time off. She’s been featured in national publications including O, The Oprah Magazine; Reader’s Digest; Women’s Health; Self and Elle. She also consulted for Shannon Allen and her husband, basketball player Ray Allen, before the couple opened the healthy, fast-casual restaurant Grown.

“Nutrition doesn’t rest,” she says. “People are always eating.”

Essence Nutrition

Location: 3250 NE First Ave., Miami

Contact: 305.280.1316; essencenutritionmiami.com

Eat Like Monica: Five Essential Tips

1. No alien foods. That means the foods we can’t immediately recognize. They’re typically in processed foods, like frozen meals, sauces and condiments. Eat real foods, where you can identify every ingredient.

2. Have a “yay” meal. Have one or two slices of pizza and put some vegetables on top. Balance it out. It’s about enjoying but also choosing things that are good for you.

3. Do the math. It’s important to think about nutrition in terms of numbers: if you eat 21 meals a week and two are horrible, you still get a 92 percent. Nutrition and health are about numbers and time. It’s not about one week—it’s about all 52 in the year.

4. Put the “fun” in functional. When you choose to eat something, make sure it has a function. There’s got to be some protein and fiber in there. Look for functional foods. If you’re set on having some chips, add some hummus or guacamole to fill it out.

5. Rest and refresh. Don’t feel guilty about eating terribly yesterday. Try to talk about it and find out why it happened and how you bounced back. It’s about resetting and refreshing and understanding where you are coming from when you make food choices.