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How Giada DeLaurentiis Used Food To Revamp Her Health + 7 Recipe-Free Meals She Loves

Giada de Laurentiis' new cookbook
Image by Kristin Teig / Contributor
March 16, 2021
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Some kids watched cartoons after school, but for me, it was always cooking shows. And one of those shows that I still remember being glued to was Everyday Italian—helmed by Giada DeLaurentiis in her bright kitchen, cooking the Italian dishes I knew and loved from my own Italian family.

And while she's become known for those simple, classic Italian recipes, DeLaurentiis just released her latest cookbook, titled Eat Better, Feel Better, which dives into the well-being world and the journey that led her there. "Over the last decade, it became impossible to ignore the fact that the choices I had been making for the last 20 years just weren't working for me anymore," she tells mindbodygreen. "With my busy schedule and the amount of traveling I usually do, I was constantly suffering from sinus infections and other health issues. I came to understand that what made everything worse was the food I was putting in my body."

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DeLaurentiis explains how she and some foods became the "best of frenemies"—meaning they were less pleasant treats and more triggers for "lousy" next days. And so, she made changes, and her new book is the product of those changes. "That's not to say I gave up everything," she explains. "In the book, I tell people to eat the foods that love you back. We're all so strapped for time, but eating to feel better shouldn't be stressful."

And that's one of the key elements of her new book: finding ways to make healthy changes feel simple, accessible, and honestly good—not like a chore.

One of her favorite strategies for keeping nutritious eating simple is meal prep and planning. "It all starts at the grocery store, with a well-thought-out list," she tells us, "Using preplanned menus makes it easier for some people to stay on track while they are getting comfortable with a new cooking strategy."

The thing about meal prepping, DeLaurentiis points out, is it doesn't always have to mean planning the exact meal: "I also highly recommend batch cooking things like brown rice, chicken, roasted veggies, homemade chicken broth, lentils, or pesto so you always have something healthy to grab for when you're hungry." This sort of batch prep tactic lays the groundwork for one of the strategies I love from her book: recipe-free meals.

While the cookbook is packed with tasty recipes, it also outlines a "non-recipe recipe" technique—using tried-and-true combinations to make a tasty meal, without referencing a ton of lists. For DeLaurentiis, these seven easy-to-follow formulas can help whip up a nourishing meal, even when you're short on time.

7 of Giada's favorite formulas for recipe-free meals:

  1. Start with a bowl of raw greens and top with ¼ cup cooked grains or beans and cooked veggies of any kind. Ladle on hot broth.
  2. Make a breakfast bowl with ½ cup cooked rice or quinoa, quartered eggs, and a little pile of cooked greens. Drizzle with a bit of EVOO and a sprinkle of flake salt.
  3. Toss a couple of handfuls of baby arugula or spring mix with a tablespoon or two of cooked grains. Top with strips of lemon and oregano pounded chicken. Spoon a bit of kale pesto over all.
  4. Arrange cooked greens and ¼ cup cooked beans in a bowl; pour hot broth over all, and sprinkle on a bit of grated pecorino. 
  5. Pile chicken strips and roasted veggies on dressed greens. Add a few olives and chopped nuts.
  6. Mix sautéed greens or roasted veggies into beaten eggs for a fast frittata.
  7. Pair some of last night's leftover broiled salmon or steak salad with lightly dressed lentils and sautéed greens. 

While starting in the kitchen is great for shifting to greater well-being, it's also crucial to view health—including gut health—more holistically. "Eating better is just one part of the larger picture to feel better," shares DeLaurentiis. "I try to support my mind and body as much as I can, which includes a mix of things," including an (almost) daily yoga practice, frequent acupuncture sessions, daily meditations, and taking supplements.

"I've also learned to say 'no' more," she adds, "so I don't spread myself too thin and have more time to focus on the things that matter and take care of myself." It's something we all need to remember at times: We can say no with grace, to maintain healthy boundaries.

Excerpted from Eat Better, Feel Better by Giada De Laurentiis. Copyright © 2021 by GDL Foods Inc. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
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