with Ann Crile Esselstyn


Rip and Ann

Eating plant-based, especially in a firehouse, can be challenging.  In this episode, Rip introduces Joe to his mom Ann Crile Esselstyn, and serves up a dose of her unbridled enthusiasm. Thriving in her 80’s, Ann is a true force of nature and embodies the many benefits of plants. She’s learned many tricks-to-the-trade since starting this lifestyle in 1984 - hear how she keeps inspired, joyful, and motivated to experiment in the kitchen. She shares five kitchen essentials everyone should have, how to set yourself up for success, tasty hacks for adding greens to your meals plus a dozen simple and delicious ideas on what to eat.  These practical heartfelt solutions will help anyone to be brave and dive into the lifestyle, fork first! Joe’s made progress in the kitchen too and his palate is changing. He’s working hard to keep the new foods interesting, to plan ahead, and to prepare for ‘grab and go’ situations. Can you do the same in your house?

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Ann Crile Esselstyn graduated from Smith College and received a master’s degree in education from Wheelock College. She taught English and history for 27 years and was a field hockey coach for 15 years. Ann won the Hostatler Award for outstanding teacher in 1963. She stopped teaching in 2000 to focus on creating delicious and healthy recipes to prevent and reverse heart disease, and counseling patients with her husband Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. on how to follow a plant-based diet. Through the years she juggled raising four children, teaching, and figuring out plant-based, oil-free ways to cook. Ann developed the recipes for the New York Times Best Seller, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and in 2014 she wrote The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook with her daughter Jane Esselstyn.

Transcript of Episode 2: I’m In! Now What Do I Do?

Joe Inga: In the firehouse, especially in New York City, the kitchen and cooking is probably the biggest part of firehouse culture, and if you're not eating what the guys are eating, it just has a negative connotation to it among the guys, and trying to adapt that, and then if they make something, then I have to bring in my own or modify it. It becomes a little stressful-

Rip Esselstyn: There's a little bit of tension?

Joe Inga: ... a little tense. Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: So, at firehouses, we love to share meals with each other. It's very familial. That's where a lot of the bonds are really forged, in the kitchen and on the fire scene. In Austin, Texas, the shared meal is called The Wagon, and it's like, hey, are you in on The Wagon, or not? Back when we went plant-strong at Fire Station 2, it was a plant-strong wagon, and that was one of the beautiful things about it, is that we would trade off who would shop for that night's dinner, lunch, breakfast and then to make it easy, the preparation, you know what saying, many hands make for light work. We would all dive in. We'd chop, we'd cut, we'd prep, and we'd make this amazing dinner.

Rip Esselstyn: We would have a contest to see who could make the best fantastic dinner at the most economical price. We got it down to for 12 bucks we could feed five firefighters with leftovers and make a sensational meal. So, one of the issues that Joe is having at his firehouse is that he is a standalone plant-strong guy, so he can't do a wagon with the other four guys at this station, so he's kind of the odd man standing. So, we gotta get a quorum, and then we can get these guys to have a shared plant-strong wagon.

Joe Inga: One of the things that I found in my firehouse is guys tend to be a little open to it. I tell them, "Pick up whatever you want. I'll pull my vegetables aside. I'll cook them the way I want." When I pick up a meal for those guys, I cook what they want. I don't cook what I want, or if they decide they want steak, I'll make my meal as the two sides, and they'll eat my food as the sides, and they'll eat their steak with it. So, I'm kind of compromising in that aspect. You know what I mean? If sometimes they pick up a meal that I can't have, I try and make sure I prep or bring stuff with me so that I can try and succeed this time around.

Rip Esselstyn: So, you bring your own food, and then you're also paying them the 15 bucks to make sure-

Joe Inga: Yeah, whatever meal costs. Last night, I had my own food with me. They made a beef stew, and they put it over brown rice. I said, "Just don't put oil in the brown rice. I'll have the brown rice," but I paid $14 last night just to have the brown rice, and I put what I brought in on the top of it. So, then I paid for whatever it cost me to prep.

Rip Esselstyn: And they had no problem taking your 14 bucks for brown rice?

Joe Inga: They had no problem with it.

Rip Esselstyn: No qualms. They weren't like, "Man, Joe, nah. Just give us two bucks"?

Joe Inga: The thing is, if I try and ... I've been to work where the guys were like, "No, you didn't even eat it. All you ate was the brown rice, so don't worry about it." Yeah, I'm not gonna pay you right now, and then the next time I come into work, everybody's gonna be like, "Oh, you're not eating? You're not paying?" No. It's easier ... Let me just give you the $14, and it saves me the aggravation of word starting to spread. $14 is a small price to pay for my health.

Rip Esselstyn: I completely agree.

Rip Esselstyn: I'm Rip Esselstyn. I am the founder of Engine 2, and I am gonna be working with Joe Inga. He's an amazing firefighter, father. He's just a really amazing human being, and we're gonna go on an amazing journey and witness Joe transform before our very eyes from somebody whose health has spiraled out of control to somebody that is gonna take back his health. What I've done in order to take Joe on this journey is I've marshaled together some of the most amazing doctors, inspirational leaders to help work with Joe and possibly yourself. Listen in as Joe is absolutely transformed from a couch potato to a veritable sweet potato triathlete in less than six months. Episode after episode, Joe gains momentum and confidence, and all the tools and tricks to what it means to become a plant-strong man. I can't wait to have you listen in on this journey. Welcome to Plant-Strong.

Rip Esselstyn: So, here's the ironic thing. On the surface, these firefighters think, “Oh, my gosh, plant-based, plant-strong, I'm gonna be eating a bunch of twigs and berries. This is excruciating,” but the reality is, and what we did at Fire Station 2, is we just took firehouse favorites like burgers and fajitas and pizza, and we just [plant-strongified 00:05:35] them, and so it's easy to make a black bean, brown rice, jalapeno burger with all the fixings. It's fantastic to make a cheese-less, whole-grain pizza crust with all the amazing veggie toppings you want, from sun-dried tomatoes, grilled corn, sauteed onions, portobello mushrooms, and the like. You can do that on, and on, and on with everything.

Rip Esselstyn: So, it's easy to make plant-strong meals delicious, firefighter-friendly, and I learned from the master, and that's my mom, going back to 1984. My mom is in her mid 80s. She is like the Energizer Bunny. She does not stop, no joke. She is on zero medications. She is vibrant. She's alert. She is mentally absolutely as sharp as a tack, and every day she is doing something, some sort of movement for at least an hour, whether it's a Crossfit class at the Y, whether it's going for a swim, whether it's going cross-country skiing at the Metro Parks, going for a job. She gets after it like nobody's business. I mean, I want to be like my mom when I'm in my 80s. That's what I aspire to.

Rip Esselstyn: We're in Cleveland, around the Lazy Susan table at the house where I grew up, just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and I'm here with my amazing force of nature, mother, Ann Crile Esselstyn. I love, love that you're here on the podcast. Thank you, Ann.

Ann C. E.: Thank you, Rip.

Rip Esselstyn: Yes, my pleasure. So, you have been in lockstep with Daddy since he started this in 1984. You've been by his side. You have been his most avid supporter. You've been so incredibly loyal. You have come up with all these amazing recipes, many of which are in Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease, the follow-up book, The Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook. You've contributed many recipes to all the Engine 2 books.

Ann C. E.: Yes, indeed.

Rip Esselstyn: Yes, you have. Yes, you have.

Ann C. E.: Especially when you started.

Rip Esselstyn: I know. I know. So, one of the things that is, to me, I find to be so just charming and enamoring about you is your unbridled enthusiasm, and you ... I could come home ... I was home a couple weeks ago, and you said, "Rip, you have to try these fava beans." I've never had a fava bean in my life. Right? I mean, was it Anthony Hopkins who goes ... Fava beans, right? What was it? Silence of the Lambs. So, what are you most excited about right now?

Ann C. E.: Right now, fava beans, because sometimes they can be a foot long, and what's crazy is that there are little beans in them, but you can eat the whole pod. So, you just put this big, long, green thing, this kind of like a skinny green corncob, corn on the cob, and just cook it up, and you can eat it all. Amazing. My other new thing is Jerusalem artichokes, and you just slice them up and bake them. Now, every other time, I burn them, but I even have gotten to like them burnt, and it's just when you find something new that's good, it is so exciting.

Ann C. E.: I mean, I must say, we are in a rut of loving rice and beans with all ... I mean, the easiest meal for anybody who's starting out, don't get fancy. Cook your rice. Find a way to do that. A rice cooker is great. Get a can of beans, rinse them under hot water. They go on top of the rice, and then just rinse some frozen corn. That goes on top. Chop some tomatoes and some mango, and it's delicious. If you're not worried about heart disease, have some guacamole or have some salsa. It's such a simple, quick meal. It's our favorite. What I like now is so different than what I used to like, and I think what people like-

Rip Esselstyn: So, can you give me an example of something that you used to like but now you can't stand, and now something that you like that you maybe didn't like?

Ann C. E.: Well, I grew up thinking that vinegar was something you made Easter eggs with, and now it's something that is my go-to in anything that needs a little more taste. But also, I've lost my interest and taste in salt. I can't eat salty things at all. I mean, I love all the leafy greens. I didn't grow up eating all that. We did not even know about the existence of mangoes until our youngest son Zeb came back after he graduated from college. He went around the world, and he came back and introduced us to mangoes, and ever since, mango is the thing that makes a meal good.

Rip Esselstyn: Absolutely. This is a common occurrence. As you get used to a plant-strong diet, Joe noticed it, too, for example, when I was growing up, the only vegetables that I liked, this is no joke, were peas and corn, period. That was it, and now I love green, leafy vegetables. I love certain types of mushrooms. I love bell peppers. I love squash. I really just don't like eggplant, but otherwise, it's amazing how your taste buds, they change. They become more sophisticated, and now you go to crave these nutrient powerhouse foods.

Joe Inga: One of the meals I made the other day that I made at home, I made a big batch of it, is a stove top mac and cheese that was made with ... It was made with potatoes, nutritional yeast, carrots, onions, garlic, and you kind of blend it all together, and you pour that over a whole wheat pasta, and it was unbelievable. My wife, she liked it, but she's like, "I wouldn't crave it," and I said, "Well, the difference is my palate is changing, and yours isn't. So, you still love your cheese. I'm starting to get used to this. I'm starting to enjoy this, so it's different."

Joe Inga: Getting started, that's one of the hard things, too, is ... We were just saying broccoli and quinoa and all this other stuff, and a lot of people are probably, "I don't like that," and I know guys in the firehouse are the same way. They go, "Vegetables? Green stuff? No, I'm good. Meat and potatoes, whatever." So, people don't realize, but when you mix these flavors together, or when you get on this diet, it takes at least a week, and I want to say at least a week before you really start to taste and enjoy it, but once your palate starts to change ... Yesterday for lunch, they made my hands-down favorite meal in the firehouse.

Rip Esselstyn: What's that?

Joe Inga: It's pasta, but it's got sausage and broccoli rabe mixed in with a chicken broth, my favorite meal in the firehouse. They were like, "Look, sausage," kind of taunting me with it. I honestly had no desire to even try it, or oh, maybe I'll take a ... I had no desire for that. I just know how I've been feeling and how things have been going, and I'm not willing to give it up.

Rip Esselstyn: Good. Yeah. No. Good for you. Here's the thing. To get to that point, you need to set yourself up for success, and that starts with what tools you have in your kitchen. If you had to come up with five kitchen essentials that every kitchen needs to have in order to make this plant-based lifestyle easier and run smoother, what would those five things be?

Ann C. E.: There are lots of fancy things that people love, but if you're just starting out, and you don't want to spend money, I would say one of the things that I really like, it's T-E-V-O-L-O, and it's this little spatula thing, and I don't use any other thing to stir. It's the tool I use. Now, that is one thing that, to me, is essential. I also think that it is helpful to have a rice cooker, not necessary. You can cook rice or any of the grains just in a pan. One thing that is nice to have is a good wok, and I happen to ... It was a Christmas present from my husband, and they're expensive, but it's a really good wok, so I can burn things, and it doesn't wreck the pan, because I burn everything. But I love cooking all my greens in this wok, and so the greens are great cooked in that. For anybody starting, I would say find some kind of food processor, because that is vital.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah. One of the things we use the Vitamix for is I love putting oats in there and making oat flour in the span of 30 seconds and then using that for pancakes, waffles.

Ann C. E.: Yeah, and Jane does that, but I just buy the old flour.

Rip Esselstyn: No, I get it. I get it. So, I want to go through some fruits and vegetables and whole grains and beans, and I want you to pick your favorite. All right? Just try it. So, fruit. What's your favorite fruit?

Ann C. E.: Raspberries.

Rip Esselstyn: Raspberries.

Ann C. E.: Love, and blueberries. My latest thing ... Oh, my god. I forgot to tell you my latest favorite thing.

Rip Esselstyn: I knew there'd be something.

Ann C. E.: Frozen cherries. They are so sweet, and I have made this sort of pie-like thing where I put frozen blueberries, frozen cherries in, and then put kind of a little bit of oat flour made from the bag, and vanilla, and oat milk, and a little vanilla, and put sort of a bit of that on the top and bake this, and it's this absolutely amazing kind of dessert with a little ... Well, I love to have on it some tofu that I've put a little maple syrup and lime in, or lemon, and put those two together. It's great dessert, but the cherries are my latest favorite thing, and even when you've finished a meal, and you want something sweet, just get a few of those cherries, even plain frozen, or else sort of thaw them, and eat them. They're wonderful.

Rip Esselstyn: I've become a big fan of the dark cherries.

Ann C. E.: Dark? Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: The frozen dark cherries, and I put them in my cereal bowl-

Ann C. E.: Oh, I bet that's good.

Rip Esselstyn: ... in the morning, and they're heavenly. So, raspberries, dark cherries, of course, the mango.

Ann C. E.: Well, mango.

Rip Esselstyn: Always gotta love the mango. What about your favorite potato? What's your favorite type of potato right now, and how often would you say you have potatoes every week?

Ann C. E.: We have sweet potatoes. We have a lot of sweet potatoes in things, and my favorite thing is something we had last night when you, Rip, came home, is my favorite thing, and this is my special thing for guests, and I'll tell you about it because it is amazing.

Rip Esselstyn: We loved it.

Ann C. E.: I take Yukon gold potatoes and bake them, plus one very large Japanese sweet potato. They're white inside, so when you mix them with the regular potatoes, it looks like it's just white potatoes, but it's half sweet potatoes, and then along with that, I bake a couple of onions in some garlic, and I put that in my Cuisinart and use that as the liquid for mixing the potatoes up, and then I add some, per potato, about a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and pepper, and we stuff that little mixture into the skins. That's my new favorite thing.

Rip Esselstyn: Is that in any cookbooks?

Ann C. E.: No. I'm saving it. I'm only telling you here.

Rip Esselstyn: Really? Okay.

Ann C. E.: Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: That will be our little secret. The neat thing is Joe has already discovered some of his favorite recipes, and foods, too. What are some of the meals that you've been having? So, for example, what did you have before you came over here this morning?

Joe Inga: I made my own pre-prepared Rip's Big Bowl. I went out when I started the diet. I picked out my different cereals, and I premixed them into zip-lock bags so on the go I could just grab them and take my almond milk, and just have my cereal. Last night, while I was at work, I made the frozen banana ice cream with blueberries and strawberries. It was a big hit. So, little by little-

Rip Esselstyn: Big hit meaning they also tried it?

Joe Inga: They liked it. Yeah, they liked it, too. I do a lot of kind of just stir fry, mixed vegetables, but with vegetable broth, low-sodium vegetable broth, no oil.

Rip Esselstyn: Fantastic. If there was one breakfast that you had to have for the rest of your life, what would it be, and you would not get sick of it?

Ann C. E.: Well, I have gone through all sort of breakfast stages, and I didn't eat breakfast a lot, I did eat breakfast, I ate whatever, and now I just think, I can't believe that people eat a piece of toast. I mean, I feel that it's so important that what you eat is gonna be powerful for you, so I've got a really great breakfast now, and I feel bad if I miss it, and it's half a cup of steel-cut oats, two tablespoons of shiitake mushrooms, I mean two tablespoons of nutritional yeast, a teaspoon of sriracha hot sauce, you don't even notice it, about a fourth to a half teaspoon of tumeric, which is really powerful against inflammation, and then about half a cup of shiitake mushrooms.

Ann C. E.: I buy them already sort of chopped up, and I freeze them, and then I just get a little bit out and put them in, and then this is the best, and that is to put in about two cups of kale chopped, and I strip it and then chop it up, and I cook it for about 10 minutes. I know most people think you've gotta cut steel-cut oats forever, but I don't, and I like to have ... I don't like oatmeal because it's too mushy, and this I can chew, so it's great. It's my best breakfast.

Rip Esselstyn: To me, you have been a fan of this breakfast now, it seems like for three years.

Ann C. E.: Yeah, and I feel like for everybody, I feel you need to find a breakfast you like, and then just eat it every day. You do that, Rip.

Rip Esselstyn: I do it.

Ann C. E.: Also, my husband does that. So, I think then you're not fooling around with junk, and you're eating what's powerful.

Rip Esselstyn: Mm-hmm (affirmative). No, I tell people that that breakfast bowl that I have every morning has been really the lynch pin of my success for 30-something years, and there's no effort. It's just super simple. I love it. Yeah. So, do you know if it's any of the books, either the Engine 2 cookbook or Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, or one of the cookbooks that's out there?

Ann C. E.: It's in the Engine 2 cookbook, just as I described it.

Rip Esselstyn: Perfect. Okay. Awesome. What about lunch? What's your go-to favorite lunch?

Ann C. E.: Well, I try and have soup, just because it's easy, but I always have at least, say, a head of kale, a whole bunch of Swiss chard in any soup that we eat, and we may add extra, and so then we'll ... That's kind of what lunch is.

Rip Esselstyn: Uh-huh. What about dinner?

Ann C. E.: Dinner's different all the time. We don't have ... Except rice and beans is frequent. I'm always trying new things. Some of them are good. Some of them are not so good.

Rip Esselstyn: What advice would you give to people that are out there that are trying to embrace this lifestyle, and they have a failure of a recipe?

Ann C. E.: When you make something, you tend to like it. I mean, I must say, since I'm not really a chef, in doing the first book with my husband, I said I would do the recipes, and so then I would think, okay, yeah, we've got to have, say, a carrot cake. Well, I wasn't a baker, so I would make carrot cakes with the ingredients that I thought were good, and it would rise. It would be half an inch high. It would taste okay, but it wouldn't look right, but then we liked it. I mean, because you've made it, and you like it, and the finally I figured, all right, about this carrot cake, I'm gonna rename this, and I'm gonna call it a carrot cookie cake, so then it's okay that it looks like a cookie, but it's really a cake. You just change. Your attitude changes, and you've gotta try it. You've got to keep trying it, and you're gonna be so surprised how you feel, and new things are gonna be fine.

Rip Esselstyn: Is there a certain period of time that you would tell people to be patient, because this is how long it typically takes for your taste buds to change, and to where this food is now gonna taste delicious?

Ann C. E.: I think a whole lot, and this is really what I've learned, is it depends on the person's attitude. If they are going into this because they're not feeling well, and they start to feel better, that helps. If they're fighting it the whole way, they're gonna ... "I'm missing my meat. I'm missing my meat." They're gonna miss their meat. But attitude is it.

Joe Inga: In the firehouse, it's kind of like high school. So, one of the meals that I made a while ago was I made the sweet potato lasagna. It was my favorite dish.

Rip Esselstyn: It's a labor of love.

Joe Inga: I love it, though. So, I made that at the firehouse, but I made that as the side to a bourbon chicken that I made, but the thing that circulated was, "Inga made a vegan meal for the guys at the firehouse." No, no, no. I made that as the side. You guys had your bourbon chicken. But that's how it is.

Rip Esselstyn: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and they call you Inga?

Joe Inga: Yeah. Everybody goes by last names in the fire department.

Rip Esselstyn: Yeah.

Rip Esselstyn: You know what? I want to meal planner with you. This week, I've been thinking a fair amount about meals and how the real success of my living plant-strong has always been in planning ahead. At least, that's when I'm always typically on my game. I've been on my game now for close to 32 years and counting, and the cool thing is that the ideas for meals, they're automatic, but the habits that are ingrained in me, and the arsenal of recipes that my family enjoys, they're rock-solid, and for people who are new to this lifestyle, it can take a lot of effort, no joke. To build these habits and the confidence that sets you up for success, this is where the meal planner comes right into play, and it's why we built the meal planner, because we know if you fail to prepare, you're preparing to fail.

Rip Esselstyn: The meal planner works because it has this AI intelligence where it recommends recipes that are personalized to you and your household, and it's based upon your preferences, from the amount of time you want to spend in the kitchen, to any potential allergens you have, to your likes, dislikes, and the whole motivation of the meal planner is to inspire you. The recipes can be adjusted to feed your family, and then also to provide leftovers, which is really smart, and here's the super cool thing about it, is they sync with a grocery list, and then the [inaudible 00:26:57] thing of all, they can be sent home with delivery from one of our partners. So, we like that. We want to make it easy to live your best plant-strong life. It's about a buck-ninety a week when you sign up for the annual plan, and with the code plant-strong, you can save $10. So, visit engine2.com today, and check out the meal planner.

Rip Esselstyn: Tell us some quick hacks that you use to incorporate greens into every day.

Ann C. E.: Let me tell you the best. Get the Engine 2 pizza crust, and then get Engine 2 pasta sauce, and then buy a whole head of kale, any kind, strip it, cut it into bite-size pieces, cook it, mix it with half a jar of the pasta sauce, and then spread that as the first layer on your pizza, and then you can add anything else you want, whatever, your choice. Then after that's all cooked and pulled out of the oven, put salad on top of it, and then a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar, and you have something stunning.

Rip Esselstyn: Well, Ann, thank you. I love you to the moon and back, and look forward to great things in the future.

Ann C. E.: Bye.

Rip Esselstyn: My mother's recipes inspired me to make the switch to being plant-based, and many of them are still mainstays in my diet today, and they've helped Joe, too. He's even got some tips of his own for sticking to it and making delicious food.

Joe Inga: I think I've done this a bunch of times, and I consider myself to be a very good cook. I'm learning how to cook in a different way now, but I love to cook. So, one of the things, going into this time, I was already a little bit familiar with what to eat, what not to eat, and how to cook it, but a lot of my previous times was very simple stuff. It was always my oatmeal or homemade Rip's Big Bowl for breakfast. Lunch would be a salad, and dinner would be something over some kind of grain. So, it would be like beans and vegetables over a grain, and it was the same thing every day. So, it kind of got a little redundant.

Joe Inga: This time around, I took it upon myself to spend a little extra money getting started, and I went to the store. We have one health food store. It's quite a distance from my house, but I went there, and I bought the plastic containers, and I bought bulgur wheat. I bought brown rice. I bought different kinds of rice, different kinds of grains, different kinds of dried beans, and I went through my cabinets, I cleaned out my cabinets, and I built my cabinets to this diet, and I started to pre-prepare my cereal. So, one of the hardest things, especially with being on the go, and sometimes I get off of work, here I am, I drove to Brooklyn for the interview, and I'm not gonna get home till whenever I get home. I brought my lunchbox with me.

Joe Inga: So, the hard thing is trying to prepare for when you're on the go. So, I pre-prepared my dry bananas and stuff in all these little baggies, so if I'm on my way out the door, I could grab a baggie, and I have snacks. I have something with me that I can eat. I ran into a big situation on Saturday that my kids were hungry, and my five-year-old was sick, so we called the doctor, and they said, "Can you be out here in an hour?" It's a 45-minute drive. So, we literally ... I grabbed him and the 21-month-old. We got in the car, and we left. I didn't get a chance to eat breakfast, and I didn't grab my snacks. I was starving.

Joe Inga: The kids were hungry, so I said, "You know what? We gotta go to Walmart. Let me hit up Applebee's, whatever, hit up a restaurant." So, we hit up a restaurant, and I'm asking on the menu, I'm looking on the menu. There was literally nothing for me to eat. I couldn't even strip down some things to be able to eat it. So, my kids sat there and ate, and I went till 4:00 without eating. So, one of the biggest things that I learned is pre-preparing my cabinet so that I don't have to go shopping that much, and if I do, I only have to go once every couple of days and grab a cucumber, a pepper, a whatever, and I prepare in bulk.

Joe Inga: So, I always prepare extra. So, I'm not preparing for me. I'm preparing for three or four people so that I have three or four extra meals sitting in the fridge so that if I do get busy, if I do get called into work, if I am on the go, if I am on the road, I could just grab a Tupperware out of the fridge, stick it in a lunchbox, and bring it with me, and that's one of the reasons why I think I've been so successful this time around, and it's been so easy for me, is because I'm thinking ahead. I'm not thinking for today. I'm thinking for today, tomorrow and Friday. So, I'm pre-preparing.

Joe Inga: When I make rice, I'm not making a little serving of rice for one meal. I'm making extra rice so I have it in the fridge. Then I could take a soup, like a diet-friendly soup, and I could pour that over the rice, and I got a meal. So, I think that's one of the biggest things, was making sure cabinet was ready, preparing my snacks ahead of time, and making sure that I always have extra so that I can always grab and go.

Rip Esselstyn: I love it. Those are very smart systems that you've put into place that are working for you, especially when you're busy, you got young kids, you're out and about. What are you doing when you're not at the firehouse?

Joe Inga: I'm usually at home taking care of my five-year-old after school, because my wife works, or I'm drawing. I'm also an artist as well, but like I said, I love to cook. So, once every couple of days I actually look forward to this because then I get to try new recipes. I get to try and cook, and I get to pre-prepare all this. Then I guinea pig my family. I made lentil sloppy Joes the other day, and-

Rip Esselstyn: Delicious.

Joe Inga: ... my wife was like, “This is unbelievable.” I was like-

Rip Esselstyn: What kind of lentils did you use? Red lentils?

Joe Inga: I did a mix of red and green, so I mixed them both, and then I did the pepper and onion, and then the barbecue sauce and tomato sauce I made separate. I didn't buy the pre-canned stuff, which that's another thing. I've become a ninja at reading labels, but price shopping a lot of things, too. If you buy sloppy Joe sauce, and you look at the ingredients, and you look at the stuff on that, and then you go and you buy the friendly barbecue sauce and tomato sauce, and you add them together, the sloppy Joe sauce is not just more expensive, but it's got more of everything, the sodium and all that stuff in it.

Joe Inga: So, I'm starting to learn to save money, because one of the big things with people, with this diet, and one of the things I was nervous about is it's so expensive, it's so expensive. No matter where you go, you spend ... I went to the supermarket. I said, "I don't need a whole bunch of kale." The person told me, "It's by the pound. Take what you need. You don't need to buy the whole wrapped bunch. Break a couple leaves off if you want," and I was like, "Oh, okay." So, there's little things, and you're not buying ... You don't buy for a whole week either. You go every couple of days, you pick up a couple of things, and you cook for a couple of days. You just always cook extra so you always have extra.

Rip Esselstyn: You're figuring it out. You are totally kicking some major, major butt here.

Joe Inga: The best thing about this diet, at least the way I feel about it, is I could eat as much of it as I want. So, I have now, because I am making my vegetables as the sides with the meal that the guys are making in the firehouse, and I have my pre-prepared, now I have a snack for 4:00 in the afternoon to carry me over until we eat dinner at 8:00, 9:00. So, I'm just trying to stay ahead of everything. I know that this works for me. I know how it's worked in the past, and I know how I felt when I was on it, so this is what I want to do, and I'm gonna do it for my own reasons.

Rip Esselstyn: I'm Rip Esselstyn, and I want to thank you for listening. My hope is that this podcast has inspired you to take control of your health from a plant-strong lifestyle. I also want to thank my co-creator of the podcast, Scott Battishill with 10% Media, Laurie Kortowich, my producer extraordinaire and Engine 2 director of events, Tina Nole and Larj Media for podcast production and creative direction, and Brandon Curtis for never minding living in the barrel, and everything in between. Thanks for Whole Foods Market for giving me a platform for the last decade.

Rip Esselstyn: Special thanks to Joe Inga for your courage to take control and change your life, and for allowing us to share your story along the way. Lastly, I want to thank my father and mother, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., and Ann Crile Esselstyn, and all the plant-strong pioneers who have been pushing this boulder uphill for more than three decades. As they say, we're standing on the shoulder of giants. If you're digging the podcast, I want you to rate us. I want you to review the show, and I want you to spread this message with friends and family. We want to get this message out to as many people as possible. Join us on all of our social channels, either on Engine 2 or Rip Esselstyn, whether it's Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Until next time, peace, Engine 2, and keep it plant-strong.

Ami Mackey