When we’re looking for people who know how to treat their bodies well, we look to Vanessa Rissetto and Tamar Samuels. Two well-known New York City-based dietitians, Rissetto and Samuels recently came together to create Culina Health with the shared mission of carving out space for people of color in a predominantly white nutrition industry and arming their clients with evidence-based methods for eating and treating their bodies well.
Here, Samuels and Rissetto share their top tips for eating right (including their advice for kids who are picky eaters!), what they think about supplements and CBD oil, and so much more.
Tell us about your health journeys and how you came together to create Culina Health?
Vanessa Rissetto: I always had an interest in health and science but studied history in college and later received an advanced degree in marketing from NYU. Science was still my first love, and I was very interested in nutrition after having a nutritionist (Keri Glassman) help me achieve my weight loss goals post-college without any fads or gimmicks. Just evidenced-based practice, and support — she was really authentic, and it made me think I wanted to help people in that same actionable way.
Tamar Samuels: I’ve always been passionate about helping people. I initially thought I wanted to be a therapist, but fell in love with nutrition after working with kids in Harlem teaching a healthy cooking class. I’ve personally managed a lot of food sensitivities and GI issues for as long as I can remember and found that making changes in my diet and lifestyle were the only things that helped manage my symptoms.
After working as a dietitian for several years, I discovered health and wellness coaching and became fascinated with the behavioral aspect of helping people become healthy. Vanessa and I actually met at Mount Sinai, she was an RD there and I was her dietetic intern years ago. We instantly connected as two women of color in a predominately white industry. We reconnected last year and have been inseparable ever since. We started Culina because we felt there was a huge gap in representation of women of color in the wellness industry, and New York City in particular. We also have a shared vision of bringing relatable nutrition to the masses and breaking down barriers for people to engage with the wellness industry with trustworthy professionals who understand the real struggles people go through to integrate healthy changes in their life.
Most of us are pretty health-conscious here at Auric Living, but sometimes we end up with too much on our plates, which then throws our personal health balance off. Any advice?
Make sure you eat three meals and one to two snacks per day. Aim for the plate to be 50% green vegetables, about the size of your whole hand (maybe a little more depending on your size and goals) and then, if you were to cup your hand, you would have that much starch on the plate. These are tried and true rules that never do us wrong. If you are properly fueled at your main meals, you’ll be less likely to be scrounging around for sweet treats after dinner.
Any favorite quick recipes we can all make this week?
Turkey tacos! Ground turkey, taco seasoning, diced tomatoes, and kidney beans — this takes about 20 minutes. We’re also big fans of stir fry. You can make stir fries vegetarian or meat based. With a ton of veggies and flavor, this is a go-to in our homes.
What are your thoughts on CBD oil?
We love CBD oil to help with sleep, inflammation and stress. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and does not produce a high, even in high doses. CBD works via the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates a wide variety of bodily functions. CBD has been shown to have five key benefits in clinical studies, the best established benefit being its effect on relieving pain and inflammation. It can also support mental health. Studies have also shown effectiveness with social anxiety, OCD, and PTSD.
It has anti-seizure properties, too — studies have shown that CBD can successfully treat drug-resistant children who have epilepsy with no side effects. CBD is antimicrobial. It has activity against viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Finally, CBD is anticarcinogenic. Several studies demonstrate that CBD may inhibit cancer cell migration, adhesion, and invasion.
CBD is available in several different forms, the best route of administration will depend upon the use. It is generally well-tolerated and has few side effects. CBD does interact with several medications, though, so check with your doctor before taking CBD if you are on medication. The dosage is very individualized and takes some experimentation. Always start low and build up slowly. Finally, a good quality CBD product is most important — look for options with stringent quality control and testing.
Any advice for new moms struggling to make time for their own personal nutrition?
Setting a routine for you and your new baby are paramount, as is getting used to your new normal. I think making sure you eat a varied diet, drink plenty of water and rest when you can is the most important. When anyone asks what they can do for you, ask them to make healthful meals so you don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner.
Trust us, your kid needs a happy, calm mother — weight loss and exercise can come later.
Auric Living glass water bottle
GLASS bottle with Cork lid and sleeve.
We’ve teamed up with FLASKA to bring you your very own water structuring glass water bottle. Based on the work of Dr Masaru Emoto, vibrational water structuring begins immediately when you pour water into your Flaska. Wait 5 minutes before drinking for perfect results.
Shop Now >
What supplements do you recommend as essentials for an optimal health foundation?
Vitamin D3 (immunity and gut health), calcium (strong bones), probiotics (gut health) and magnesium (for sleep and digestion). Keep in mind that supplements are not regulated and don’t require pre-market approval. That means it’s very possible that they don’t contain what they are supposed to and in some cases they have additives and other ingredients that are not supposed to be in the product. This is why we recommend talking to a dietitian about supplements so you can determine the right product for you.
How do you start and end your days from a wellbeing perspective?
VR: Meditation and gratitude is how I start and end my days — puts things into perspective
TS: I also start my day with gratitude and intention-setting. I try to avoid tech completely until I’ve done this and moved my body, whether it’s a long walk with my dog or a workout. But before anything else, I make myself an oat milk matcha latte. I also try to squeeze in some gua sha a few days per week. I usually finish my day reflecting on my wins for the day and areas for improvement.
Any favorite cookbooks?
VR: Anything Skinny Taste and Ina Garten — Also Moosewood Cookbook for awesome vegetarian recipes
TS: I’m also a BIG fan of Skinny Taste. I love Alison Roman and Ambitious Kitchen as well.
Can you give advice for our moms with picky eaters? Any quick snack or recipes for kids that work wonders?
Kids crave attention, positive or negative. Don’t pay a lot of attention to what they aren’t or are eating. Make sure you offer them the foods they like, but put them with foods they haven’t gotten used to or don’t like, too. Remember their taste buds are different and things that we like might be bitter to them. Just offer the food and eventually they will eat it — trust us.
Do you have a go-to perfect health protocol for those struggling with anxiety and stress?
Limit alcohol and sugar close to bedtime. When we drink, we don’t get restful sleep and that leads to anxiety the next day when people are downing their morning cup of coffee. We also recommend planning in advance to help with anxiety related to decision-making and not being prepared, especially with food and exercise. Stop drinking caffeine after your morning cup, and limit to no more than one to two cups for the day. Make sure you have three meals and one to two snacks per day to stabilize blood sugar (low blood sugar can trigger anxiety and sometimes panic attacks).
What are your favorite gut-healing strategies and staples?
Probiotics, kombucha, dairy-free and gluten-free foods, hydration, and movement. Also, pay attention to your body — if something doesn’t make you feel good, don’t eat it. Stress management and sleep are also big for balancing your gut as the gut and brain are intimately connected via the brain-gut axis. Some people also do better with cooked versus raw vegetables