Giada De Laurentiis' Slim-Cooking Secrets


Andrew MacphersonFood Network star and best-selling cookbook author Giada De Laurentiis is sitting in a lounge chair overlooking the Pacific Ocean, taking in the beauty of the sunset. Its a short reprieve from her incredibly busy schedule: By the time you read this, the host of Giada at Home will be on tour to promote her new book, Weeknights with Giada, which focuses on cooking for the family with clean, fresh ingredients—like Giada does for her 4-year-old daughter, Jade (with husband Todd Thompson). We asked the 41-year-old multitasker how she takes time for herself amidst the (happy) chaos.

I bet the number-one question you get is: How do you eat all that great food and stay so slim?
That is the number-one question, and the answer is I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything. Everything in moderation. I know thats really hard for people to understand, but I grew up in an Italian family where we didnt overdo anything. We ate pasta, yes, but not a lot of it. Pasta doesnt make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat.

Would you ever do a kids cookbook?
I dont believe in kids cookbooks. Jade eats what we eat—food the entire family eats. I grew up eating what my parents put in front of me.

Whats the secret to serving fresh meals quickly?
Doing your homework ahead of time. Stock up your pantry and your freezer with things that arent perishable: Your favorite jar of tomato sauce that lists "tomato" as the first ingredient, lots of grains, olive oils, vinegars, tomato pastes, onions, shallots. When you go to the store, you only have to pick up meats and produce.

Youre very close to your family.
I wouldnt be who I am today without my family. Im a product of three people: my grandfather, who had the passion. His family owned a pasta factory in Naples before World War II, so he had a real passion for Italian food. My Aunt Raffy, whos on the show a lot, is the creative one. She brings me recipes from all over the world. And my mom. She had four children and had to get food on the table as quickly as possible. My mom [taught me] speed.

How do you keep your energy up when youre on the road?
I do yoga—stretching and core work. Every morning I do sun salutations. Sometimes I do a little meditation. My sister-in-law introduced me to Deepak Chopras website, which sends you daily reminders. I try to center myself because Im around a lot of different energies, and it gets a little crazy and chaotic.

What are your travel must-haves when it comes to food?
Almonds are my staple. Theyre nonperishable and can sit in my bag for the entire book tour. Plus lots of water, and—Im not gonna lie—Americanos [an espresso-based drink] everywhere I go, with a little agave because I dont do sugar.

Do you ever meet any overzealous fans on the road?
A few years ago at a book signing in Seattle, a young guy asked me if I would sign his salami. I just looked at him like, "Oh my God," and then he pulled out a real salami from behind his back. It was cute. It was definitely a fraternity dare because all of his buddies were laughing in the background.

Next Page: Giada's favorite workouts [ pagebreak ]When youre not on the road, whats your fitness routine?
I do yoga with an instructor for an hour three times a week. I started doing yoga when I was pregnant, and I was told by my OB/GYN that I could no longer go to the gym because my daughter wasnt growing enough. I was a big gym rat for a long time—treadmill, elliptical machine, StairMaster, weights. But I started doing yoga and paddleboarding, which is peaceful, almost like a meditation. And I go hiking.

Besides exercise, what do you do to keep yourself healthy?

giada-walking-outside giada-walking-outside -minute regime that I cannot go to bed without doing. And I keep my skin—especially my face and neck—out of the sun. My brother died of melanoma eight years ago, and Ive got SPF on all the time, 24-7. It makes you realize, the sun is a wonderful thing, but it can be a very devastating thing. So sunscreen is key, and a lot of laughter, too. Laughing is so, so, so important in your life. It keeps you happy.

When are you happiest?
Im happiest when Im in my own kitchen without any cameras. Im cooking for my daughter and husband, and theyre hanging out with me.

What goes on when there are no cameras?
I cuss a lot. People say to me, "A pretty girl like yourself and that mouth?!" I have a really bad potty mouth; theres no question. Ive had to try and scale it back because my daughter will copy everything.

Youre 41. Did you have any epiphanies when you turned 40?
I was so nervous to turn 40, but the last year and a half has been the most fun I have ever had. I became a lot more confident. It happens to a lot of women. All of a sudden you realize, Im comfortable in my own skin. I know Im not going to ever be Cindy Crawford or Elle Macpherson. I want to tell Jade to enjoy every moment of life because its so fleeting and insecurity is such a waste of time.

Weeknights is your sixth cookbook. What was your inspiration this time?
It has become trickier to get Jade excited about mealtime. I have to reinvent the wheel each time to keep it interesting. And for my husband as well—I came up with a global chapter with some of Todds favorite Thai dishes. Lots of little fun twists that youve never seen from me—thats what makes this book different.