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Refrigerator Look Book: Melissa Costello

(Photo: Melissa Costello)
Melissa Costello is the personal chef to Tony Horton and author of The Clean in 14 Detox.  (Photo: Melissa Costello)

Some people cook for presidents. Melissa Costello basically cooks for the president of fitness. And when she introduced her client P90X creator Tony Horton to the food-based cleanse program she created, he felt so energized by it, he says, that he stayed on it for 120 days.

Needless to say, we had to trace the roots of this inspiring dietary regimen back to the Santa Barbara personal chef’s own fridge for more details.

“The cleanse means you’re mostly eating all vegan, whole foods,” explains Costello, who’s also a nutritional educator, wellness coach, and the founder of Karma Chow.

“It’s helpful to have a reset. A lot of people think they’re super healthy until they do the program and realize how much better they feel after kicking coffee, sugar, and processed foods.”

And having guided fitness pros like Horton to better eating habits, she’s now sharing her program in her second book, The Clean in 14 Detox: The 2-Week Plan to Melt Fat, Kick Cravings, and Increase Your Natural Energy, which debuted in May.

At home, Costello’s healthy approach includes lots of foods and flavors—and she doesn’t preach diet purity. “When I went dairy-free, my asthma and allergies went away,” she says. “Still, every once in a while I’ll do a raw goat or sheep’s milk cheese.”

Here’s a peek at some of the other foods she’s eating, when she’s not whipping up meals for the wellness world elite.

I see soy creamer on the top shelf. Is that for coffee? I do a matcha tea latte. It’s a Japanese tea. I also use it in dishes, like for the base of a coconut curry to make it thicker. It’s great in mac and cheese. I make a sauce out of the creamer and add nutritional yeast and cashews for the cheese.

Wow, creative. What about the coconut water next to it? I drink it first thing in the morning with a greens powder. I’ll also do it as a shot after a hike to replenish, and in a smoothie with half coconut water and half almond milk. I recently picked up road cycling in addition to hiking and yoga, and I throw a P90X in [the DVD player] once in a while. Tony and I spent many years working out together in his personal gym.

Melissa CostelloLucky you! What’s in the tan box below the almond milk? It’s prepared food from the salad bar at Whole Foods. I was in a hurry and I ran to Whole Foods and I got black bean soup and a salad. I knew I wasn’t going to be home for a while and there’s always something super healthy from the salad bar there.

I do the same thing here in New York. I noticed the Pressed Juicery bottles. You don’t juice at home? My juicer is out of commission right now so I haven’t been! I’ll buy juice from a local company called Juice Ranch. I’m not a huge fan of Pressed Juicery because they’re not fully organic. But I popped grabbed it because I was craving green juice. I do make a lot of green smoothies…

Sounds like you’re coping without a juicer for now! Are those nut butters on the top shelf in the door? Yes, it’s organic peanut butter and almond butter, and some tahini is next to that and sunflower butter too. I make hummus every week for myself. Usually I’ll do a banana with peanut butter or an apple with almond butter. That’s my go-to for a snack. I like peanut butter and almond butter equally. They both have good amounts of protein.

So you’re a nut-butter lover! What about those gorgeous veggies on the bottom? With that huge head of cauliflower I made a coconut curry recently and put in broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes. I also steamed some of the cauliflower and made a cauliflower smash by pureeing it with white beans. It comes out just like mashed potatoes.

That sounds delish! Is that maple syrup next to the cauliflower? It is! It’s my main sweetener. I put a little bit in my morning tea. I also like raw honey. There’s been so much about agave recently, that it’s highly processed fructose, so I switched over to the maple syrup. It’s lower on the glycemic index. —Jamie McKillop

For more information, visit and check out The Clean in 14 Detox