There’s one question Giada de Laurentiis is asked by fans over and over—and it’s not, “How long should I cook my pasta?” They want to know how she stays fit, when she has spent years cooking delicious recipes for Food Network’s Everyday Italian, Giada at Home and Giada in Paradise. Her new book, Giada’s Feel Good Food, is the answer.
“I’ve written seven cookbooks, and after a while writing cookbooks can get a little monotonous!” says Giada, 43. “I liked the idea of doing a cooking and lifestyle book, because being healthy is not just about food. It’s a whole way of living.”
We got the scoop from the Italian-born chef on what powers her through long days on set, the major health change she made during pregnancy, and her favorite meal to cook for daughter Jade, now 5.
Spry: What are your plans for Thanksgiving this year?
Giada: I think we’ll go to New York and see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We went last year, and it was just so much fun for Jade. I had to pick her jaw up off the floor! It’s nice to establish new traditions when you start your own family.
Spry: Staying healthy around the holidays can be a struggle, especially when it comes to food. How do you suggest coping with that?
Giada: Try taking a few family holiday recipes and tweaking them so they’re a little more modern. It’s empowering to hold onto a little bit of the past but also recreate it for now.
Spry: How is your approach to food influenced by your Italian roots?
Giada: Portion sizes are much smaller in Italy than they are here. In America, we have distorted what the portions for our bodies are. You see it in Italians who came here for a better life, too. In their minds, a better life was bigger meatballs! But we don’t need to eat so much. My philosophy is, I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything.
Spry: You’ve said being pregnant made you rethink your approach to health. What was the biggest change?
Giada: Sugar—I lived on it for a big portion of my life. I would eat a smaller savory meal so I could eat cookies! But when I was pregnant, my doctor warned me about gestational diabetes. I realized that I need to get energy from real food, not from sugar.
Spry: What do you do for a healthy energy boost?
Giada: If I’m feeling sluggish for more than a couple days and I’m at home, I’ll do a cleanse with homemade juices or smoothies. When I travel, I have a little bag of homemade trail mix with me for a quick pick-me-up. A nut mixture with a tiny bit of sweetness will last you to your next meal, to when you can get something a little healthier. I have a large mason jar that I keep filled with these homemade mixes, and I just refill the baggies when I need to.
Spry: Are there ever days when you just don’t feel like cooking?
Giada: Yes! Last night, for example—I took leftovers of different pastas and combined them with some egg and Parmesan cheese and fried the mixture in a pan. That’s sometimes how I get away with not having to make a whole meal. But if worst comes to worst, my husband is always happy with a bowl of cereal.
Spry: How do you make sure Jade eats healthfully on a busy schedule?
Giada: I always have two different kinds of carbohydrates—pasta, brown rice or mashed potatoes—in the fridge, cooked and unseasoned. Then I have containers with two different kinds of protein—maybe homemade chicken nuggets and lamb chops. Then I have veggies, like broccoli and green beans, which Jade loves. I take a little bit of one protein, one carb and some greens, and heat it in a skillet with some olive oil and Parmesan, and that’s her meal.
Spry: Do you approach fitness differently in your 40s?
Giada: When I was younger, I was a gym rat. I didn’t know what else was out there. When I was pregnant, my doctor suggested prenatal yoga, and I thought, “That’s not a workout! It’s stretching.” But yoga strengthens my core and helps my posture, which is great because I stand so much on the set. It also helps clear my mind, which you don’t often get to do when you have children! I look forward to an hour of yoga in a way I never looked forward to working out.