Marissa Lippert wants you to take time to nourish yourself.
That’s why the registered dietitian—named “Best Nutritionist” by the Citysearch Guide to New York for five years running—founded, Nourish, a nutrition counseling and media communications firm. Working with individuals and businesses, she makes it her mission to help others live more healthfully without sacrificing the pleasure of taste.
This was not immediately the obvious path for Lippert, who studied history in college and worked initially in fashion. But she soon enrolled in NYU’s Nutrition and Dietetics program and received her Master’s of Science in clinical nutrition and registered dietician license.
Now an acclaimed authority on healthy yet satisfying food, Lippert has authored two books and contributed to publications including Bon Appetit, Glamour, Real Simple, Self, Gotham and The New York Times, among others. She has appeared as an expert on CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America Health and Martha Stewart Living radio. And, this year, she opened Nourish Kitchen + Table in Manhattan’s West Village, serving up organic, healthful and delicious dishes that showcase taste and balance.
Here, Lippert laments the mainstream media’s treatment of “good for you” food and emphasizes the importance of taking time to care for oneself:
Live The Process: You graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in history with honors. What inspired you to begin your nutrition work?
Marissa Lippert: There wasn't a specific person or event that inspired me to change careers. I have always been intrigued by food and the culture around it. I can remember sitting on the kitchen floor with a stack of my mother's old Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines as a toddler!
I guess I’ve always had multiple interests: the culture, beauty and social patterns behind fashion and the retail industry, and the culture, beauty and wellness behind food—they were all fused into one with this work. I knew there was a distinct gap in the way the media presented healthy food, and that same gap extended to much of the general public. Eating well is too often viewed as boring and bland. I love to cook and love healthy food as much as I love flavor and the methods and stories behind the food itself.
I decided after about a year of working in fashion as an assistant buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue that I wanted to get into food—specifically from the perspective of health and nutrition. This eventually led me to enroll in NYU’s master’s program. I wanted to go back to school and figure out how to help bridge that perceived gap in some small way. Hopefully, that's what Nourish Kitchen + Table does, a little each and every day.
LTP: When and why did you decide to open your own restaurant?
ML: I first conceived the idea about five years ago. I had always envisioned owning a physical space that supported the idea that healthy food can be delicious and continued the conversation about what it really means to eat well. Building a separate business just for nutrition counseling was the catalyst: I was helping people change their habits and see how they could eat and cook and find delicious foods all around the city. I wanted to extend the concept that people could eat things that are healthful and delicious at the same time.
LTP: Does your busy schedule make it difficult to maintain your chosen diet? How do you stay on track?
ML: It can be challenging at times because so much goes on every day, but I do my best to fuel myself in the morning and have a decent breakfast. This is something I always hone in on with my clients because it really is the most important meal of the day. I try to build a routine throughout the day as far as mealtimes go and make sure there’s always good, healthy food available.
Often times, my day is chopped up into a list of different activities and I have to make sure to take a break for myself. Even if it’s just five or ten minutes, I take the time to drink enough water and eat something that’s going to fuel me for the rest of the day—or at least sufficiently for the next few hours. It’s really about forcing yourself to take a break and eat something.
I think we do so much for everyone else and we’re always on the go. You can’t be your best, if you’re not taking care of yourself. It’s challenging when you have a demanding work—or even life schedule— but putting food first is really important because it’s your primary fuel. It’s what will give you energy to tackle what comes your way throughout the day.
LTP: What advice would you offer those who wish to eat more healthful, organic diets, but do not want to sacrifice deliciousness?
ML: If you’re not going to cook, find places like Nourish that play up flavors and ingredients. We try to make vegetables shine on our menu because they’re the base of any wholesome diet. Your calories are always kept in check when vegetables are your primary base. I think that is most often what clouds someone’s vision of eating healthfully: no one craves boring and bland vegetables. So, when you can make those a little more exciting with simple herbs and spices or light dressings, you go a long way towards a better diet.
It’s also important to really think about the quality and quantity of your food. Buy fresh, local and seasonal ingredients whenever possible and consider the amount that you eat.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
ML: Right now, a day to myself on my couch, reading my cookbooks and cooking for my friends, is ideal. The funny part is that revolves around food too! Throw in a long gym session and a steam and that’s a perfect day.
On a larger scale, happiness is being aware of and content with yourself and what you want in life and recognizing what’s important to you. It’s taking to the time to really love yourself and nourish yourself and to be conscious of all the beautiful people around you. This is often eclipsed by what we have to deal with in a day, but happiness is taking care of yourself and those in your immediate world.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
ML: To me, it’s acting on what I teach to my clients. I eat what I encourage others to eat. I might have a burger and fries from time to time, but I do consider the quality of that burger and fries and how much I am eating and I’ll probably start the meal off with a salad.
I think it’s being true to yourself and your intentions. From my standpoint in food and wellness, it’s about keeping balance in my diet and being conscious of from where my food is coming as well as, again, the quantity and quality of what I’m eating. It’s being conscious and thoughtful about local purveyors and appreciating the taste and nutrients of well-grown food.