We live in a world where diet culture is so prevalent and heavily influential…and during the holiday season, healthy food management can seem impossible! We are so honored to welcome Vanessa Rissetto MS, RD, CDN to the Bene Blog to share her philosophy as a registered dietitian on better relationships with food, how she is making nutrition accessible and sustainable with her company Culina Health, her best tips on eating clean during the holidays and so much more! Xo Nina
Nina Westbrook: You received your Masters degree in Marketing from New York University and sought out the help of a registered dietitian soon after in order to understand the role food plays in one’s overall health. You then became a registered dietician yourself. What inspired this career path and your desire to understand how to build a better relationship with food?
Vanessa Risetto: I appreciated how my first dietitian taught me in a non-judgmental pragmatic way how food affected my body. She made me understand how to proceed based on my goals and I wanted to do that for others.
NW: Your mission for your company, Culina Health, is to make nutrition accessible and sustainable for everyone. Why is it important for nutrition care to be accessible and how can one prioritize nutrition care in their life?
VR: It seems that up until the point of founding Culina Health nutrition was only for the people who could afford it, and the price tag was high. We know that nutrition is prevention and that it can reduce the burden of, prevent and even reverse some diseases – so why can’t everyone have access to that? Why doesn’t everyone deserve to be well? Nutrition is a benefit that insurance companies offer so we decided to educate people on the fact that this is a benefit that they didn’t even know they had but they had a right to use.
NW: What are your future goals for Culina Health and how do you plan on achieving them?
VR: By reaching the 300M people we know need nutrition education. We continue to secure contracts with payers and also work with employers and hospital systems so we can touch everyone who needs this.
NW: The holidays can be a very stressful time when it comes to healthy food management. What is your best advice for eating clean during the holidays? How would you approach this for someone who may be just beginning their nutrition journey?
VR: I think deciding what your goals are and then working with a dietitian to help you navigate the best ways to achieve those goals. If your goal is to eat less sweets then we can work on that, if it’s weight loss then we likely aren’t going to attend every holiday party but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself and food. It’s just understanding how food affects your body and then trying to achieve your goals one day at a time.
NW: What are your favorite recipes to prepare during the holiday season? What inspires you to cook during the holidays? Do you have any cooking traditions?
VR: I love soups, stews, and chilis which I believe is mostly due to the fact that they are warm and it’s a colder time of year. I love to bake with my kids during the holidays and prep gift boxes for family and friends that include our delicious creations. We have a fun time doing it, and people love a sweet treat made with love.
NW: We live in a world where diet culture is so prevalent and heavily influential. Mindful eating is an alternative practice that can change overall eating behaviors. What is intuitive eating and how can we start implementing it into our lives?
VR: Intuitive eating (IE) is a tricky one because it’s really about your relationship with food and not about weight loss at all. I think people sometimes get it wrong thinking that if they practice mindfulness around eating it will automatically fix whatever issues they might have around food beliefs, and behaviors that may be harmful to them. IE helps us to understand those thoughts and behaviors and make peace with them, but it’s important to work with a dietician after that so that you can strategize how to move forward in a personalized and meaningful way.
NW: What overall message can you provide in order to create a healthy, well-balanced life and better our own relationships with food and nutrition?
VR: Remember that every meal is a chance to achieve whatever goal you have, and that goal doesn’t have to be weight loss. Working with professionals has a lot of value for long-term success and people should seek out that help as often as they can.