Mia is one of those girls who will just email you out of the blue because she’s interested in what you’re doing. Which is exactly how we met. She emailed us, we emailed back, and met face to face for the first time at a local juice shop. We talked about her holistic nutrition practice, RASA, and it was love at first sip. Mia practices the exact food philosophy that we do at The Moment: Our food choices make us feel and look good, but we indulge when we want to, we live our lives, because that’s important too! Beauty it wellness, but it’s also happiness.
So, it naturally made perfect sense to start collaborating. Mia is our official beauty food expert, and we will have a new recipe or two for you every month. She goes into why the foods are so good for you, and we vouch for how delicious they are. If you’re been watching Laney’s Instastories lately you’ve probably seen a few teasers of what’s to come, and it’s really good.
Since I’m sure you’re curious like we are, we asked Mia some questions about how she became a nutritionist, why she loves what she does so much, and of course, what’s in her makeup bag.
There is just so much conflicting information out there and wellness is such a hot topic these days it’s easy to get confused. What’s really important is to figure out what makes you feel good.
The Moment: Hi Mia! Can you introduce yourself, talk a little bit about RASA?
Mia: My name is Mia Rigden, my company is RASA; I offer personalized nutrition services for people. That can be through healthy recipes, through simples tips, through one on one coaching with people, and through whole food detoxes. My services range for people depending on their budget and how much time they have. I just try to help people find some balance in their lives and what works for them. There is just so much conflicting information out there and wellness is such a hot topic these days that I feel like people get confused. What’s really important is to figure out what makes you feel good. I try to help people find that.
I love to cook. Cooking is my first passion. I went to culinary school and I’ve been cooking my whole life. I focus on healthy recipes and I try to celebrate food instead of demonizing food. Even on detoxes I do with clients when we’re eliminating things from their diet. I try to focus on things that they can introduce into their diet and things that they can enjoy, so that their new routine doesn’t feel like a sacrifice and they just naturally start craving different foods as they find new dishes that they like.
For example, if you can’t eat gluten and you can’t eat pasta, find something that you enjoy just as much as pasta that makes you feel better. Zucchini noodles, brown rice pasta, or even the cookies that we made today. [Recipe coming soon!]. They satisfy that cookie craving and maybe feel a little naughty but really aren’t.
The Moment: How did you get started with RASA? Why did you want to go in to nutrition?
Rigden: I’m from California; My grandmother was a dietician. She studied nutrition at Carnegie Melon in the 30s. I grew up in San Francisco and my grandmother and mother are fantastic cooks. We would go to the farmers market every Saturday. I always just really enjoyed cooking and eating. I had a very big appetite for food. Obviously I enjoyed junk food, but then I equally enjoyed broccoli. I started working in restaurants when I was 15, then I went to school in Santa Barbara.
After I graduated, I discovered that I could do PR for restaurants. I could still be working for restaurants and have a “regular” 9-5 job. I started hospitality pr and I just really wanted to cook and be involved in the restaurant side so I ended up moving to NY and going to culinary school. I dabbled with going to the Natural Gourmet Institute, but ended up at the French Culinary Institute and even after culinary school I thought about going to NYU and getting a food science masters. Even in college I wanted to study nutrition, but they didn’t offer it at UC Santa Barbara so I felt like nutrition was something that I was dodging for a lot of my life. I ended up working for Daniel Boulud, which was an incredible experience but perhaps not the healthiest.
I also worked for an awesome PR firm in NY and got to work for a bunch of great chefs and I had a killer tequila brand. I did’t feel that great to be honest. I had to entertain a lot for work. I started experimenting with juice cleanses, which was when juice cleanses were really big and I got in to this weird place, like I was always at an extreme. Either on this extreme juice cleanser or eating some really indulgent meal. Sometimes I didn’t want to be eating it, but I was working and entertaining people so I couldn’t say, ‘Isn’t this tiramisu so delicious?’, and not take a bite.
I was in my mid 20s and really struggling to find balance. I ended up moving to Asia and I was still doing restaurant marketing and I had the same issue. I wanted to be eating differently. I would eat one way at home and I had to indulge when entertaining for work. I had a little bit more free time when I was living in Asia so I decided to get my health coaching license. It was done online through IIN and I started consulting for friends and family for fun. I would do group detoxes every January and elimination diets. I had family member and friends that were loosing weight and sleeping better. I just felt so good about it. It felt so good to feel like I was helping people.
Then one holiday my husband and I went on this amazing trip to India and we are laying by the pool of this beautiful hotel and I was reading Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health. I was reading about Ayurvedic medicine and I came across this word, RASA. It means taste but it also means sap or juice or essence. It has a lot of different meanings, but what I found so interesting about it was that in Ayurvedic traditions, the way something tastes is indicative of its nutritional properties. It’s a very loaded word that has so many meanings and I could talk for hours about it. What I took from it, is basically, if you’re craving a donut, that’s your taste buds talking, not your body asking for some nutrient only found in donuts. So how can I help people align their cravings with what their body really needs? If you’re craving sugar, there’s a reason for it. I wanted to help people conquer their cravings and find foods that satisfied their taste buds and their bodies.
When I started working with more and more clients, I discovered that they loved the recipes, so I started focusing more and more on recipes and how to help people find easy solutions, not be slaving in the kitchen all day. Quick and easy things that they can eat that make them feel good and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, but maybe it’s a healthier option than what they used to have.
The Moment: You lived in so many places! Spain, China, San Francisco, NYC to name a few. How did all of these cultures influence your journey to wellness?
Rigden: I’m really into celebrating food. Growing up, my parent were great cooks, I grew up in wine country. I was visiting vineyards from a very young age. Not necessarily drinking, but I learned about these things and appreciated the craft. In Spain, people have so much joy for life and there’s so much community around food. In Asia as well. I feel like, sometimes food can be really demonized and become something people are afraid of or they dread. Sometimes it feels so good just to be with friends and family sitting at a table and eating a lot of food. You’re health is not just what you eat, it’s how you eat it too. There are so many studies about eating communities and eating traditions and how important those things are to health.
I want to be really healthy and eat healthy delicious foods, but I also want to live and have fun and I don’t want to put restrictions or labels on my life. I want to help people find a way that they feel like they are empowered because they know their bodies. If you know that you get bloated when you eat gluten, but you’re at this amazing Italian restaurant with all of your friends and somebody orders a pasta and it’s Saturday night, you’re like, ‘OK so I’ll just be a little bloated tomorrow.’ You know that about yourself so you’re empowered to make that choice. Whereas if it’s Tuesday morning and you’re stopping at Starbucks, do you need to get that croissant? Maybe save that. I think that it’s really empowering to know your body and to be educated about foods and how they affect you. It’s a journey, something I’m still finding out everyday, and I’m trying to help people get there.
I think that health and wellness should be democratized.
The Moment: What’s your next move? Future goals?
Rigden: At times, wellness feels like it can only be for wealthy people. A lot of these things can be really expensive. Adaptogens are great but it doesn’t mean that if you can’t afford to spend $60 on a mushroom powder that you can’t be healthy. I think that health and wellness should be democratized. I run a detox called the RASA Challenge and there’re 10 day and 21 day options. The 10 day is $39 and the 21 is $59. I help people through the process. I give them a guide book and a seasonal recipe book because I want people to be cooking fruits and vegetables that are in season and experiment with things that they never tried before, just like the rainbow chard that we used in our soup today. I want them to know that they can do this, at any time of the year from anywhere in the world. It’s not a huge financial investment.
If anything, you could be saving money by not going out for coffees or drinks or dinners. It’s not a juice cleanser. You can live your normal life on it, but it’s an elimination diet. The 21 day is a little bit stricter. So, for example, you eliminate eggs and soy and nightshade vegetables. A lot of clients are like, ‘why can’t I have tomatoes?’ I always say, ‘Well for you they might be fine… but let’s see!’ For some people, tomatoes (nightshades in general) can be a really big cause of inflammation. You might think tomatoes are fine until you pay attention. It doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Food affects different people differently. It’s about discovering how things affect you. Just like dairy. In Asian, over 90% of East Asians are lactose intolerant. There’s no history of dairy cultivation in China. Maybe your family is Dutch so your body can process eating cheese and drinking milk. I’m not here to tell any one what they should or shouldn’t eat, but instead find out which foods make them feel really good.
One of the tops things people will ask me is, ‘Is this bad for me?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t’ know if it’s bad for you, let’s figure it out.’ Also, bad is a bad word. I don’t like to say that something is bad. There’s a time and a place for everything. I just started eating pizza again because I love Roberta’s. All the ingredients are so fresh. If once a month I have a slice of pizza, it’s fine!
The Moment: What are the food rules that you prescribe to?
Rigden: I listen to my body. If I’m by myself, I eat really clean. I’m not going to sit in a dark corner and stuff my face with chocolate croissants. Some people, that’s all they want to do. For me, I would rather save that for when I’m out with friends and family so I can try things and indulge in good company.
I don’t eat a lot of grains and I’m eating less and less, but with that said, I’m a California girl and I love chips and guacamole.
The Moment: What does beauty mean to you? How do beauty foods fit in to that definition?
Rigden: I see a direct correlation between my diet and my skin. Not eating sugar and processed foods can really make a difference in your skin and obviously hydrating, eating a lot of hydrating foods like a lot of summer vegetables, cucumbers and zucchini, that have a high water content or fruits like watermelon. You can eat your water too. It’s a slippery slope because you can’t drink just one liter of water in a day and compensate by eating two cucumbers. That doesn’t’ count! If you drink enough water, the cucumbers are like a bonus, it’s extra credit.
When you feel good, there’s a certain glow and no amount of skin products can get you there. Sleep is so important. If I’m not sleeping, or I’m in a bad mood, I feel like my skin is not it’s best. Now I’m 32, I’ve never really had problem skin before, but now I’m really trying to take better care of my skin a lot more than when I was younger. I’m mindful of putting more collagen in to my diet and drinking more water and using better products. I’ve recently switched to all non-toxic beauty products.
The Moment: Yes for clean beauty! Speaking of which, what’s in your makeup bag right now?
Rigden: My favorite is the Vintner’s Daughter serum.. My mom got it for me for my birthday, I screamed and said, ‘How did you know I wanted this!?’ She said, ‘You mentioned it like 400 times!’
I love Tata Harper. I just bought a bunch of Juice Beauty products. I also like Le Labo. I love the Tata Harper Eye Cream. I like the Indie Lee Cleanser. I really like Credo. That store’s the best. I like my Ursa Major Deodorant. I work out a lot, so I get these whole body YUNI Shower Sheets, they’re the best. Then I can just workout and wipe down. I basically bought the whole line of Juice Beauty, the Ultra-Natural Mascara, everything. I’m just experimenting with new beauty products now and going non-toxic. I wore Bobbi Brown for so many years.
My husband and I just moved, it’s really exciting because we can start fresh with a non-toxic home. We threw out our old mattress and got an organic mattress. Detoxing your home is a major thing. You have to live your life, you can’t freak out too much about all these things, but I’m excited about having as much of a non-toxic home as possible.
The Moment: We admire how easy going you are, how do you keep that up? How do you stay in the moment?
Rigden: Sometimes I’m not that relaxed. When I was working for other people, I would be really stressed about making sure I was getting everything right and people were happy with my work. Not to say that I don’t think about that now, but I spent a lot of time in my 20s really stressed about things that didn’t matter. Everyday would be a new thing. I just learned that everyday there’s just going to be a new thing, so I try not to freak out.
I do have a meditation practice. Sometimes I’m more consistent with it than others; I fall out of it sometimes. I’m not the poster child for meditation. Although I really do think that breathing helps and I think that anxiety is related to diet. If I’m not eating well or if I drink too much, I get really bad anxiety. I spent a lot of years when I was younger thinking that I had anxiety and now I think I just wasn’t eating well. Your gut and your brains are intrinsically connected, so when you’re gut isn’t functioning or not happy, it affects your brain function and the hormones that you’re releasing.
It’s hard to get out of a rut but when your digestive system isn’t working properly, it really does affect your brain and what hormones are being released. Healthy eating makes you less anxious.
The Moment: Favorite cookbooks?
The Moment: Who’s your favorite person to follow on Instagram?
Rigden: Probably my dad, he gets really excited about Instagram. He won’t post anything for 6 months and then he’ll post a picture of a plate with fresh vegetables from my parents’ garden. It’s so cute! He just learned how to Instagram.
The Moment: Secret cooking tips?
Rigden: I like to cook with a lot of herbs. I always use the whole herb, even the stem. When I cook broccoli, I eat the stem. Everyone throws that out but there are different nutrients in there. Who decided that only the flower was edible? I eat the whole thing. I hate throwing out food. I make a kale stem pesto. Or if you don’t want to eat the stem, throw it in to your soups. It adds nutrients and flavor.
I also cook with a lot of spice. Spice is really good for you. I love curry, pepper, turmeric, and cumin. Herbs and spices make the food taste better and add so many nutrients.
The Moment: Who are your role models?
Rigden: I’m really inspired by female leadership. I think my role models are my girlfriends. Pretty much all of my closest friends own their own businesses. All of my bridesmaids were entrepreneurs. It was nerve wracking for me to go out and do something on my own. Having friends that are also doing it and being successful is really inspiring. There are a lot of questions that come up when starting your own business. Having people that I can go to to help me with little things, like setting up taxes, is life-changing. Seeing my peers just really kicking ass and being part of this community of women who are helping each other and lifting each other and connecting one another with people, I think that’s so cool! And I love to meet like-minded women who have dreams and goals and are pursuing them (like Laney!).
Special thanks to Mia Rigden!
Photo by Sally Griffiths