Our good friends, Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD, and Solomon Wolfson, recently founded a plant-based health program—Nutrinic—which is designed to compassionately guide people toward healthful habit changes.
The balanced and practical approach to plant-based nutrition is largely reflected in their program, and why we think it would be a great resource for anyone who’s looking to make realistic shifts in their dietary and other day-to-day self-care practices.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with one of Nutrinic’s founders, Matt, to ask him questions about Nutrinic—let’s get to it!
Vegan Outreach: What were you doing before Nutrinic?
Matt Ruscigno: The base of my professional work has been in public health nutrition. I taught community college and contracted for a federal program that worked with very low-income schools doing cooking and gardening. I worked with students, teachers, and parents not only on the benefits of eating more plant foods but how to shop for them cheaply and prepare them.
Additionally, I worked on some books like Appetite for Reduction with Isa Moskowitz and No Meat Athlete with Matt Frazier, along with public speaking at nutrition conferences and Vegfests. I also write for Today’s Dietitian.
Vegan Outreach: On your website, you explain that Nutrinic is different from other programs because the “…program combines empowerment, skill power, and problem-solving with evidence-based nutrition to set you up for a lifetime of good health.” Can you provide examples of what that looks like for participants?
Matt Ruscigno: Many programs make huge promises that would be impossible to deliver long-term. These programs bring in great speakers and brilliant doctors, but the everyday struggles people face aren’t discussed. It goes back to a lot of what I learned through my public health jobs.
Even the most motivated people burn out when they are told they can only use organic, non-GMO, fresh produce, and only eat dry beans that are made from scratch—it’s an impossible standard. In order to help people move forward, you have to understand where they are and then work with them to address real and perceived barriers.
Once I was on a panel with other nutrition and medical specialists and an audience member asked about good snacks. One of the panelists responded, “Don’t snack. Next question.” There’s no reason to be that strict. If you just got out of the hospital after a heart attack and you have a host of diagnoses, sure, but for your average person, they can see huge improvements by just eating more plant foods. That can be a frozen burrito, beans from a can, or a pre-made salad. That’s the philosophy at Nutrinic—it doesn’t need to be hard. And we show you how.
Vegan Outreach: What motivated you to create Nutrinic?
Matt Ruscigno: Doctors aren’t trained in nutrition and most dietitians don’t have enough counseling time to get people to make significant dietary changes.
It’s extremely difficult to eat well if you don’t know where to begin and don’t have the support you need. That’s why the program was established. It’s a 6-week program because we believe that habits can be solidified in that time. We teach the fundamentals of nutrition and disease development so our clients learn why they should eat certain foods. And then we guide them through the process of changing habits—everything from shopping to cooking, to dealing with unhelpful friends and family.
I often hear from vegans, both ethical and health-oriented, that eating plant-based is “easy.” It’s only easy if you are motivated, took time to learn how to do it, have strong convictions, and have a support system. Most people forget this after they’ve developed new habits. And telling potential new vegans that it’s “easy” while they are struggling to learn all of these new habits and ideas can be really discouraging. Healthcare and nutrition specialists need to be better about building a strong foundation, and Nutrinic is our attempt to help people build it.
Vegan Outreach: Any other details you want our readers to know about your program?
Matt Ruscigno: The goal is to expand to providers and work closely with doctors and insurance companies to make the program more accessible to more people. The catch is adherence—many doctors will agree that plant-based diets are best, but they don’t believe people will adhere to them long-term. That’s what we want to change.
I think the missing link that is often missing in our healthcare is empathy. Health care professionals should try to understand the limitations people face in their daily lives when they try to do better for themselves. It’s never going to be perfect, but switching to a predominantly plant-based diet can really help. What’s the saying? Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. That’s what we teach.
Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to talk to VO and for the work you and Solomon are doing at Nutrinic. We wish you the best of luck as your program continues to grow!