The Facebook superstar set up her Healthy Eating on a Student Budget page in March 2014 after demand from friends grew for more pictures and recipes of Lauren’s inexpensive, Paleo-inspired meals. In less than a year the page’s popularity sky-rocketed, gaining nearly 275,000 followers.
“To tell you the exact reason why it’s got so big, I have no idea,” says the twenty-four-year-old. “I think people connected with the fact that I was a money-strapped student and not a supermodel or a nutritionist telling people what they should and shouldn’t eat.”
A Bachelor of Applied Visual Imagery graduate from UCOL, and former Massey student, Lauren developed a passion for food on migrating to New Zealand from her native England eight years ago. Fast forward to the present day and Lauren is totally committed to a diet of the freshest, best-quality, local food that inspired her passion – well, mostly.
“I’ll still eat carbs every now and then. I’m not trying to tell people you can’t have those foods,” Lauren explains. “My friend has celiacs disease and said her life was over because she could never have KFC again. So I came up with a recipe for gluten-free and dairy-free KFC. Instead of saying you can never have that food again I’m saying if you want a healthier option, here it is.”
I’m not sure that parents and older generations really understand how little their kids know
The Paleo diet is a lifestyle that excludes processed foods, dairy and cereals, and encourages people to eat only what early humans could catch, kill or grow. Lauren became attracted to the concept after a long battle with weight loss. “I was a chubby kid, a chubby teenager, and a chubby adult. I know now that I’ll never be the size six I always wanted to be. When I started following the Paleo guidelines it was the first time I’d thought to myself, ‘I’m not doing this to lose weight, I’m doing this to be a healthier person’.
“I was feeling absolutely miserable when I was studying and I thought I’d feel that way forever. But when I changed my eating habits I began to feel so much better mentally and physically. I think people still struggle to see food as an issue – that what you eat affects your mood – but it’s completely relevant.”
Lauren rolled her Paleo lifestyle, photography degree, and love of food together when she established her Facebook page from her Palmerston North flat. She posts healthy recipes that she creates for students, along with tips and tricks on how to maximise their food budget.
But the internet phenomenon is generating some big plans for beyond her Facebook wall. “I’m really interested in setting up cooking classes for students. There are so many of them out there who don’t know to boil carrots!” Lauren laughs. “It’s really scary what you see in a student flat. Having come from a home where I was taught how to cook I just assumed people could do the basics like me.
I think people still struggle to see food as an issue – that what you eat affects your mood – but it’s completely relevant
“I didn’t even know that mince on toast was a thing until I moved into my first flat. “I once lived with someone who grilled a sausage on the electric element. No pan, just the element. They thought that was how it was done. I couldn’t understand how someone who was so intelligent, studying something really complicated, could do something so out of this world to me! I’m not sure that parents and older generations really understand how little their kids know.”
Other projects up Lauren’s sleeve are a recipe book that she wants to be “universal, not just for university students”, and after a successful appearance at Palmerston North’s Festival of Cultures in March, Lauren is keen to get on stage for some more live cooking demonstrations. “It was amazing to have met Nici Wickes and Ray McVinnie at the Festival. I’ve admired them for years. I was cooking just before they were on and I was scared I’d ruin the demo before they came on! I didn’t pass out or burn my food though, so I think I’m good to do more.” Lauren has also been hitting the road, travelling the country and cooking for a very exciting secret project.
This girl is certainly one to keep your eyes on for the future as she continues to dip her fingers into many more (Paleo) pies.