Interview: Giada de Laurentiis

Emmy award-winning Food Network chef and host of Giada at Home and Food Network Star, Giada de Laurentiis, is just as well known for her Italian recipes as she is for her pint-sized frame. In fact, the first question most of her fans ask is how she stays so trim. She spoke with House & Home to explain how she does it without denying herself her favourite foods. She also talks about her upcoming trip to Toronto to host Chef Challenge: The Ultimate Battle For A Cure on Feb. 8, 2014, where she will compete against other chefs in a stadium-style cook-off in support of women’s cancer research at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

H&H: On February 8th, you’ll be in Toronto to host Chef’s Challenge. How did you get involved with the event?

GdL: I was asked by the organizers and my Food Network cohorts, Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri, had both hosted before and said it was a really fun event. It’s also for a great a cause!

H&H: The event sounds like it is going to be high energy and intense for the chefs and guests competing in the timed challenges. As the host, how are your preparing for that?

GdL: I do it all the time so it’s in my wheelhouse. I just wrapped Food Network Star a few days ago and I’m still in that zone. Chef Challenge will be very similar.

H&H: What kind of meals will participants be making?

GdL: There’s a cocktail competition, dessert competition and entrée competition but I don’t know what each will entail or what the theme or ingredients might be.

H&H: Are there any restaurants that you’re looking forward to trying in town?

GdL: I was in Toronto last year and went to a Chinese/Thai restaurant that was phenomenal; but I can’t remember the name!

H&H: Your new cookbook, Giada’s Feel Good Food, is all about feeling good with healthy recipes and lifestyle tips. What made you want to focus on the healthier side of cooking?

GdL: It’s sort of the way I’ve been living for most of my life. After I had my daughter, Jade, I really started to feel that it was important to share that. Once I started to get to know my fans through social media and book signings and see what they were interested in, I found that those were the questions that people wanted answered. The number one question I get asked is how do you stay so thin and eat all that food and I wanted people to understand that it is a lifestyle, it’s not a diet. It’s healthy living and I think that people are ready to embrace that. You don’t need to give up the good stuff, you just need to balance your life as much as you can.

H&H: A major take away from your book is to “eat a little of everything, but not a lot of anything,” there’s even a monthly meal plan to help with that. Do you have any other advice on getting variety into daily meals?

GdL: I think that people need to try new things and be a little bit more adventurous. I’ve always said that the best way to introduce something new is to start with something that you know well. For instance, a lot of people like pasta but it can be made healthier and lighter. My lemon spaghetti has become one of my most popular dishes. You can have all the foods you want you just can’t have them all the time; I think that is how I’ve defined food.

H&H: You talk about your daughter, Jade, often in interviews and your book. Do you have any healthy eating tips for parents who may have a picky eater at home?

GdL: I started introducing my daughter to good foods at a very early age, so she has learned and developed her palette. It’s hard when palettes change constantly. As Jade is growing up I can see her trying to be more in control of what she’s eating. If she says she doesn’t like something one day, I leave it out for a while and try to reintroduce it in a different way. With broccoli, she liked it steamed and plan for a long time and then, all of a sudden, she didn’t want it that way anymore. I took it out of her diet for a while and reintroduced it in different ways—with a cheese sauce, tossed it in with steak, in a pasta dish that I knew she already liked. It’s about reintroducing ingredients but being creative with them. I found one of the most fun ways to get Jade involved is to go through cookbooks together and pick a dish to try. That way she’s participating in the menu planning.

H&H: What is your go to healthy breakfast?

GdL: A piece of brown rice bread with almond butter and sliced strawberries or a bowl of oatmeal made with water and topped with olive oil and salt.

H&H: What food trend or ingredient is really inspiring you now?

GdL: Right now, since I’m writing recipes and creating dishes for my restaurant that opens in May, I’m looking at a lot of spring things and incorporating a lot of tangerine and tangerine juice. So, I would say tangerine.

H&H: Along with hosting events and your TV shows and writing cookbooks, you’re also opening a restaurant in Vegas. How do you stay healthy when you’re so busy?

GdL: I like to do mini cleanses when I am home for a little bit. I try to watch what I eat and try to eat little bits of food throughout the day. I try to keep snacks in my bag, like almonds, so that if I have an energy low or need a snack I have one that’s healthy right in my bag and I don’t have to eat the first thing that I find. It’s basically planning, you need to plan regardless of whether you’re on the road or not.

Try recipes from Giada’s Feel Good Food and Giada At Home.

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