Shopping Is Half The Battle #pickingupthepieces

Eating healthy is a big part of trying to lose weight and reducing your risk for disease. Having a daily workout regimen aimed to increase your heart rate and burn fat (or calories) is detrimental to getting your body in the shape that you desire for optimal health. Combining these two practices make for one heck of a journey towards a healthy future. As a personal chef, I know that preparation before execution is everything.

Having your mise en place means to have everything ready in its place.

In every professional kitchen, all cooks have their mise en place ready to go before creating a dish, jumping onto the line to start dinner service, or even to test out a new recipe. We try to make sure everything is sorted, washed, prepped, cut, chopped, and sliced ready to be used in the final cooking process. I teach all my clients, learning how to cook, to make sure their mise en place is in order. This means planning a weekly menu, researching recipes, making an ingredient/shopping list then going to the grocery store and buying the right kind of ingredients to use for the week. This may seem like a ton of work at first. But if you think about it, doing this sets your week up with planned dinners and meals. All your thinking for the week has been done all in one day or weekend.

Now when you go to the grocery store I advise you all to keep your eyes open when shopping. Don’t go in there like robots picking up the first item on your list right off the shelves without “shopping around.”




Here are a few Successful Shopping Tips:

1. Look for deals or sales. Usually marked with bright colors, most grocery stores have sales every week. This will help out with your grocery budget and ultimately keeping your finances in check. Cooking at home for you and/or your family is not expensive if you shop smart.

2. Pre-cut and pre-prepped fruits and vegetables are usually more expensive. Buy whole produce and do the prep yourself. You may more because you are being charged extra for doing all the work for you. Sometimes this can help you out but if you plan your week accordingly, doing all the prep yourself can save you ton of money.  

3. Another key thing with fruits and vegetables is that every ingredient has its prime season for the best flavor and ripeness. When shopping for produce, buy seasonal ingredients.  Apples and squash are best in the fall to winter. Melons and tomatoes are incredible mid summer. Buy seasonally assures ripeness, full flavors, and inexpensive prices.

4. Along with shopping seasonally, purchasing products from local growers and producers not only save your a buck or two but help out your community. Locally grown produce and made products are most often cheaper than items brought in from more than 100 miles away. This not only assures fresh tasting foods but also promotes supporting businesses and farms in your neighborhoods and state.

5. Buy in bulk! The bulk department is my favorite department because you can buy as much or as little as you want. You can control the costs of the products you buy. You can reduce your costs in half because you don’t have to pay for packaging or the limited size and quantity. You will also eliminate any potential waste at home. Buying some packaged products for some recipes are great. However, if you only need a little bit for one recipe, your product may expire or go bad before you ever use it again. You’ll end up throwing out an entire container of spices or dry ingredients meaning money in the trash…something we don’t want!

This past weekend I set up my own mise en place for a detox that I was going to start. It is the Beyond The Resolutions: 11-Day Winter Clean Eating Program run by Portia Joyce Wellness. It is a detoxifying meal plan set in place to help remove toxins and waste from your body that it has acquired through the air and especially through what we eat. It is also a great way to a healthy recovery and start on a clean state. Detoxing before making any drastic changes, such as altering your diet, makes a whole world of difference. Check out my links if you have a chance and if you think this is something for you.

So I went shopping for the week. I actually designed my groceries for two people. I brought my mother along this journey in hopes to lower her Triglycerides and increase her HDL levels. If anything, she’s definitely more excited because she doesn’t even have to lift a finger. I have shopped, prepped, and I packaged and serve her meals everyday. She has no excuse and now that I have done the same for her, I don’t either. Here are the results of my shopping experience at my local Whole Foods Market.

Detox Week 1 Shopping List & Totals

Detox Week 1 Shopping List (1 of 2)

Detox Week 1 Shopping List (2 of 2)

I visited Whole Foods Market in Paramus, NJ and not to my surprise I was able to find everything I needed. As you will see, with much preparation and organization, you can pre-plan and shop for your week with ease. Then, once you have everything you need, take another hour or two washing your produce, chopping and prepping them all and pack them away in reusable containers. You’re week is basically all set and ready for you to cook. So believe me when I say,

“A few hours today will save you double the amount of time throughout the week. Planning your week out and then taking your time to organize yourself, well you’ve done the hard part. SHOPPING IS HALF THE BATTLE…now the cooking part, well…GIVE ME A CALL! :-)”

If Firefighters Can, So Can You!

So here’s the skinny on the Engine 2 Diet…

For the best results, GET THE BOOK!!


The diet offers two plant-strong, 28-Day Challenges, the “Fire Cadet” and the “Firefighter.”

The “Firefighter” challenge hits the ground running by eliminating meats, dairy, and processed oils from day one. You live a plant-strong diet from the get-go and start to substitute your old favorite ingredients with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes which will become your new favorite ingredients.

The “Fire Cadet” challenge is a less rigorous program where you slowly eliminate the three food groups week by week.
WEEK ONE: Challengers remove dairy from their diets. That includes all forms of cow’s milk as well as cheese, which Rip describes as “the greatest source of saturated fat.” Best recommended substitutions are nut milks, (almond, rice, soy, and coconut) hemp milk, and rice milk. If you add nutritional yeast flakes to any dish, there can be a slight resemblance in taste to cheese.
WEEK TWO: It’s time to exclude meats, including fish and and all kinds of seafood. This by far was my hardest exclusion in the entire diet. Animal protein, however good you think it is for you, is the worst kind because of its highly acidic levels and it’s cancer causing traits.
WEEK THREE: The elimination of processed oils, even olive oil, are next. I make sure I talk about olive oil because up until now we have all been told that it’s the source of the least amount of monounsaturated fat. As least the amount is, we have to remember that it is still pure fat! One tablespoon contains 120 calories from fat. Can you imagine how much we actually use in recipes that we make? I know I used to use it as much as I could, why not? It’s olive oil right? Think again!
WEEK FOUR: This week is the time to reflect on everything you’ve given up and understand why it has changed you for the better. This is the transition period where you change from “dietary extravagance to dietary excellence!” This is also the time where you start to see how “plant-strong” you want to be for the rest of your life.

Both these 28-Day challenges are accompanied by plenty of support material online including a 28-Day Meal Plan that literally breaks down each day with a meal guide, recipes, and shopping lists. It’s practically fool proof. Along with all three food groups being eliminated from your diet, you are going to have to stray away from processed foods and products that are high in sodium and added sugar. When shopping you want to look at the ingredient lists for that key word “whole.” Whole wheat, whole oats, whole quinoa, and whole everything. The less processed the better!


Like I have been constantly stating, THIS IS NOT A WEIGHT LOSS diet, at least primarily. Will you lose weight? Of course you will but this diet doesn’t target weight loss initially. It targets lowering your cholesterol levels and reducing your chances for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. So you have to exercise in order to see the best results. Just like my pediatrician always told me, “EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE!” Whether its a daily walking regimen in the morning and a brisk walk in the afternoon or a yoga session and a Zumba workout at your local gym. Supplement this diet with physical activity.

Now I know that in order to really survive this challenge or live this lifestyle you are going to have to rely on cooking for yourself a lot more. Was it hard for me? Of course not but it was still challenging and time consuming for me. But in order to see the best results, we really need to try. The book includes 100+ plant-strong recipes that are all delicious and especially easy. There are plenty of other plant-based cookbooks out there but just be mindful of everything you are to eliminate and watch out for. I have plenty of recipes I developed myself that I’ll be posting so keep posted with my blog if you so dare.


Lastly, FIND A PARTNER OR SUPPORT GROUP! If you want to make it easier on yourself, try your best in finding a partner to take on this challenge. Trust me, it’s hard enough to do it with 20 other team members at my Whole Foods Market, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to do it alone. You need someone to help you destroy those cravings as well as give each other uplifting support. If you need one, I am here for you. I’m only a click away on FACEBOOK or a tweet away on TWITTER or comment me here on my blog. I can provide you with recipes, cooking tips, advice, and even motivational talks if you need. I know how much support from family and friends help so if I can be any of that, I wouldn’t mind a bit. This is how much I believe in this diet.


Recommended reading: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole by Drs. Matthew Lederman & Alona Pulde, and the movie Forks Over Knives (available on Netflix)