Mia Rigden is a board-certified nutritionist, chef, author, and all-around wellness guru. Her approach to healthy eating, The Rasa Life, is intuitive and right up our alley—as much as we love a good reset, we also love pizza and margaritas and Mia's all about that balance. We loved hearing her philosophy on balanced nutrition and how to sandwich it into the everyday demands of life. She's super real, honest, and smart...plus, she's a beach girl at heart so we automatically hit it off.
Melissa: Tell us about your passion for cooking, wellness, and nutrition and where it came from?
Mia: I grew up in Northern California and everyone in my family cooks. My grandma was a nutritionist so there was always a healthy slant to things. She was putting coconut oil on everything in the ’90s when everyone was afraid of fat—she was way beyond her years. After college, I started doing restaurant PR in San Francisco and then I went to culinary school in NYC because I knew I wanted to go into food. I started working at another PR firm in NYC working with big chefs and restaurants. It didn’t feel good, so I switched gears into nutrition and now my whole thing is trying to blend the clinical with the practical.
Melissa: That is amazing. How do people find you?
Mia: Lots of word of mouth, social media, press—those sorts of things. I find that people come back around. I have been doing this for the better part of a decade.
Melissa: What do people primarily come to you for?
Mia: Depends on the individual—my clients run the gammit. I have people coming to me from a recommendation from their doctor…maybe it’s gut issues or an autoimmune disease. Others are looking to learn more about nutrition, whether you have a diagnosis or not I think people come to me to feel better. Think of this as you are doing a nutrition course that is tailored to your life—clinically and then try to put it together in a way that is doable and is not more of a stressor to your life.
Melissa: Do you find most people cook for themselves or are they still able to order out?
Mia: I find that to be a common worry—thinking that they are going to have to cook everything. I don’t even cook everything myself. I am a busy, working mom so I don’t have time to cook gourmet meals all the time and meal prep all day on Sunday. I try to make it realistic—I operate on the good, better, best mentality. I think it is important to have options depending on the circumstances.
Melissa: What do you tell people to always have? Do you have go-to things?
Mia: I think having food in the freezer is important. Frozen meals—frozen pizza and plain arugula. You can make a meal out of that. Always ingredients to make a smoothie, to get the day started. Having some pre-washed greens, vegetables that you can cook… healthy fats and proteins.
Melissa: That sounds easy! Walk us through the RASA re-set program? How do you keep people motivated to power through that?
Mia: I like to preface everything that I am a normal person and I like to eat pizza and drink margaritas. My clients enjoy knowing that. I enjoy doing the things that everyone else likes doing. The re-set is a light elimination diet that people are typically intolerant to or have food dependencies too. Things like refined carbohydrates, sugars, alcohol, processed foods, gluten, dairy – the low-hanging fruit and common denominators. I like to think of it as ripping the band-aid off. A smoothie for breakfast, a rice salmon bowl for lunch, snacks, soup for dinner—you are not on a caloric restriction or anything. It teaches people to get into good habits and then you start a re-introduction period and figure out where your boundaries are. I try to do it every January as I find it is a good month to restart the year. It is a good time to set intentions and good habits. Your wellness journey doesn’t need to be linear but as long as you are moving in the right direction.
Melissa: Did you find more people wanting to do this during the pandemic?
Mia: At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone thought it would be temporary. I was cooking elaborate dinners every night and drinking wine every night. That felt good for a minute. Most of my clients I worked with for a minimum of 3 months. Now that things are opening up, it is a bit tricky. I tell my clients to not force themselves to do the 21 days. There are 4 pillars of health: physical, mental, social, and spiritual health—so I don’t like to prioritize one or the other. I am a very social person and enjoy having a good meal with friends. As long as I am not eating things that do not make me feel sick, I am going to choose to do stuff with people I love. I encourage people to be more mindful of what works with you and your body. I recommend scheduling massages, hikes with friends, lunches and planning activities, that makes it easier. If you are thinking about it negatively, then you should forget about it. I think the re-set is a great tool for the right person, I think it can be really helpful and can set the tone for a new way of eating.
Melissa: I completely agree. What is your favorite smoothie and soup?
Mia: My favorite smoothie that I always go back to is a mint chocolate chip. Vanilla protein powder, cocoa nibs, almond milk, spinach, almond butter, and fresh mint. It has no fruit so it is low in sugar and it has your fiber, protein and healthy fats. Zucchini is also a good smoothie edition, it blends well and gives a good creamy addition. I love cucumber and cauliflower as a sub for a banana to mitigate a lot of sugar.
Melissa: What is your favorite protein powder?
Mia: My favorite protein powder is Sun Warrior and the Primal Kitchen collagen. I don’t do whey protein because of the dairy. I do pea protein or a collagen. You can buy single-serve packages of protein powder at Erewhon and Whole Foods and you can test them to find your favorite. For most women, you need somewhere between 15-20 grams of protein per meal. I think having sustained protein throughout the day. That will keep you energized and full all day. Your body is constantly doing cellular turnoff- we are constantly re-building and protein is the building block. 3-4 ounces throughout the day is super important.
I try to make it realistic—I operate on the good, better, best mentality.
Melissa: Tell us about your fruit and veggie picks that are available in the summer? What do you like to do with them?
Mia: There is nothing like the produce in California. I love figs, I can’t get enough of Harry’s Berries. I love mulberries and I go to the Venice farmer’s market with my son every Friday morning and then we go to see the ducks at the park. He is covered in berries by the end of it. I love all the stone fruit and the tomatoes that come out—I only like them during tomato season. We are so lucky to be in California and to have all that great produce, especially in late summer/fall produce.
Melissa: Walk us through the well journey? How do you use it and what do you suggest?
Mia: I always have my client’s food journal, and this started as an elaborate Google sheet because I hate My Fitness Pal because it denotes everything to a number. I wanted to help people foster a good relationship with food. There is something so inherently ugly about calorie counting apps – this is more for connecting the dots and how you live. So much of nutrition is about numbers and I think when people focus too much on calories and weight you miss the big picture.
Melissa: I would be able to do the re-set because of this, because it keeps you accountable.
Mia: Exactly…in a way that feels healthy.
Melissa: Walk us through your particulars!
Mia: I love Celine sunglasses, and these are ones that I got off of Amazon for the beach—they are a good dupe. I love bags. I am a basic mom that lives at the beach—you will typically find me in flats – Converse, hats. I love jewelry as well.
Melissa: Amazing. Thanks so much for your time, Mia!