As a single mother and host of multiple cooking shows, Giada De Laurentiis spent much of her career losing sleep, relying on caffeine and sugar to keep going, and generally just grabbing whatever food she could between airports and takes on set. That’s if she even ate at all.
Though she was genetically predisposed with a slim body, on the inside, her unhealthy dietary habits were taking their toll.
The final straw was a long bout of sinusitis, or swelling of the sinuses. This is when she decided to try a superclean diet. And that has changed her relationship with food forever.
This article is an insight into all the health wisdom Giada has accumulated over the past decade. They’ll show you how to cultivate a new, balanced diet that will leave you feeling better than ever before.
Inflammation and digestive problems are common with modern diets
What would you eat the night before an important meeting at work? Would you go for nachos and chocolate ice cream? Or, would you reach for a hearty bowl of soup?
Chances are, you’d opt for the soup and skip the risk of digestive issues before your big day. And yet, in our everyday lives, many of us instinctively reach for the processed stuff.
What most people don’t realize is the cumulative effect that unhealthy eating wreaks on our bodies. Giada once attended a friend’s baby shower. She noticed that nearly half of the attendees she spoke to were suffering from gastrointestinal conditions, using medication to placate their digestive problems. And they were only in their twenties and thirties!
Your digestive system is centered around your microbiome – an ecosystem of microorganisms in your gut. When your microbiome is balanced and healthy, it breaks down the food you eat so that the nutrients can be delivered to your organs. This helps to keep your immune system strong and your body healthy.
Now, when you eat certain foods that the body perceives as harmful, your immune system is signaled to defend itself. This might be because of a toxin or a protein that the body can’t break down easily, such as those found in dairy or gluten.
When this happens, the bacteria in your gut can go into overdrive trying to break the intruder down, causing inflammation. And when this happens too often, you might be in trouble.
Just imagine that your body has a virtual bucket where it stores toxins and inflammatory foods as they come in. Eat too many and the bucket can overflow and leak into areas you don’t want it to.
When the body has to process toxins or inflammatory foods too often, inflammation can spread and cause your immune system to dysfunction, attacking healthy cells in addition to harmful ones. A disrupted digestive system causes a rippling effect throughout your body and can lead to fatigue, body aches, skin problems, and even serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or autoimmune disease.
Most people deal with milder digestive issues by medicating the symptoms. But if you want to avoid the more serious diseases down the line, you need to get to the source of the problem. And this means changing your diet.
Eliminate foods that cause inflammation by following the elimination process
If you’re afraid of going to the doctor, brace yourself: Giada recommends regular checkups as an integral part of monitoring your health. Her doctors monitor her kidney, thyroid, and liver functions as well as doing regular blood work to check that she’s getting the right nutrients and that her toxin levels are in check. She also consults her doctors before making any significant dietary changes.
If you experience issues such as stomach pains, sudden weight fluctuations, or diarrhea, changing your diet is not a substitute for the care of a doctor. But if you get the go-ahead for a new dietary plan, the first thing you need to do is figure out which foods to include. And this is all about listening to your body.
Which foods are inflammatory? It turns out that this is different for everyone. If you have a gluten or dairy intolerance, for instance, you might have already been tested and know to avoid these foods altogether. But if you don’t know which foods cause you problems, you can use a process of elimination. Cut certain foods from your diet, and see what happens.
If you feel more energized or less bothered by digestive problems after eliminating a kind of food, chances are, it’s been causing inflammation.
There are a number of foods that tend to cause inflammation for everyone. Alcohol, processed foods, caffeine, red meat, dairy, gluten, sugar, and refined grains and carbs all fall into the category of foods that you should approach with caution.
To eliminate toxins, you should also cut back on commercially produced meat, certain kinds of fish such as tuna or swordfish, and packaged food. Even products like packaged chicken broth or nut milk can contain chemicals or additives that will keep your body from healing.
You might also consider reducing tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants in your diet. These fruits and vegetables fall under a category called nightshades. Though it might come as a surprise to some, nightshades have been found to cause inflammation because they contain alkaloid compounds. As an Italian chef, Giada doesn’t avoid tomatoes completely. But she’s learned to rein in on using them in her recipes – especially when she isn’t feeling her best.
Plan your meals around gut-supporting foods
Here’s a piece of good news: transforming your diet doesn’t mean you have to give up the food you love. Unless you have a gluten intolerance, you won’t even need to give up pizza or pasta. If you eat healthy most of the time, your body will be able to handle inflammatory foods when you eat them.
The trick to eating healthy is shifting your focus to foods that are as tasty as they are nutritious. And when you see how good healthy food makes you feel, you might even start craving it, too.
Your new diet should be centered around foods that are nutritionally dense, free of contaminants and toxins, and not a strain to the immune system. A typical meal might include vegetables, greens, or sweet potatoes, combined with a small portion of lean animal protein such as chicken, turkey, or lamb.
Keep in mind that you should buy animal products that are clean, free-range or grass-fed, and free from pesticides and hormones whenever possible.
Giada’s updated approach to Italian cuisine puts gut-supporting foods center-stage. While a four-ounce serving of pasta used to be the center of many of her recipes, she’s now reduced it to two or three ounces per serving, making it a tasty accent to a more wholesome meal.
Take her Fusilli with Chicken and Broccoli Rabe. In this recipe, she swaps the traditional sausage for a healthier chicken and keeps the portion of pasta healthy. Here’s how you make it.
Start by cutting one bunch of broccoli rabe into 1-inch pieces. Blanch the broccoli rabe in a large boiling pot of water seasoned with kosher salt for 1 minute, transferring it to a colander to drain using a wire skimmer.
Using the same pot of water, add a ½ pound of regular or gluten-free fusilli and follow the cooking instructions on the packet, saving ½ cup of the cooking water before you drain the pasta.
While the pasta cooks, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet for 1 minute before adding 2 sliced cloves of garlic, a sliced shallot, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
Stirring often, cook the mixture for 2 minutes before adding 2 cups of pre-cooked shredded chicken. Mix in the broccoli rabe and a ½ teaspoon of salt and continue cooking until the broccoli rabe is wilted.
Top with the cooked pasta and ½ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, adding the reserved pasta water as desired to create a sauce.
Clean eating should be incorporated into an 80/20 diet after a three-week diet regimen
According to psychologists, it takes three weeks to create a new habit. So to ensure that you change your dietary habits for the long run, Giada suggests you follow her meal plans rigorously for 21 days.
Having a pre-planned menu for the first three weeks will help you stay on track while you get comfortable with your new cooking routine. This will ensure that your system gets the break it badly needs and that you maximize the healing effects of eating clean. Once you start to feel more energy, notice smoother digestion, or see how your skin has improved, you’ll be more motivated to keep up your new healthy diet on your own.
The first step to ensure that you hit the ground running with your new diet is shopping the right way. Focus on buying quality main ingredients for your meals, such as leafy greens, fish, and lean animal proteins.
But there are also some side ingredients you can stock up on that will add an extra punch and flavor to your food. Capers, olives, fennel, anchovies, and pecorino cheese will all make your meals taste incredible without disturbing the balance in your gut.
You can follow the three-week meal plan to the letter simply by following Giada’s recipes. But if you intend to freestyle a bit, there are a number of rules you’ll need to go by. Rule number one: aim to include leafy greens with at least two of your daily meals. Limit carb-based meals such as grain bowls, pasta, or pancakes to once a day.
This goes for animal proteins too, with the exception of eggs. Rule number two: confine alcohol or desserts to two servings per week and limit your dairy consumption to half a cup per day, making sure that you skip the dairy entirely on some days. And rule number three: consider having a few vegetarian days every week to give your body a rest from digesting animal proteins.
After three weeks of rigorous dieting, you can try Giada’s 80/20 approach. This means eating clean foods 80 percent of the time and foods that might cause inflammation, such as red meat or processed foods, 20 percent of the time. Of course, if you find that reintroducing some foods doesn’t sit well with you, you can cut them out of your future meals.
Prepare simple, precooked components for improvised meals without a recipe
When you cook at home, you decide what goes into your meal. So every time you choose to cook a meal instead of eating out is a win. But the reality is that most of us don’t have time to cook three meals a day from scratch – including Giada herself.
So using improv meals could be a good solution. These are quickly improvised soups, salads, or grain bowls that combine prepped ingredients from batch cooking with leftovers or items in your pantry. The goal is to make yourself a healthy meal without the need for a recipe – and all in under five minutes.
The key to creating improv meals is preparing batches of a few simple components. By having these components on hand, you can throw together a tasty meal in just a few minutes.
Before the beginning of each week, you can prepare a few quarts of chicken broth to use in your soups, risottos, and sauces. You could also prepare one or more cooked grains or legumes, a few roasted or sautéed vegetables, and one cooked protein. But to give your improv meals a kick,make sure to prepare a little something on the side.
Giada’s kale pesto is a great and nutritious way to spice up vegetables, eggs, grains, fish, or chicken. To make the pesto, chop ⅓ cup of walnuts in a food processor before adding a container of baby kale.
Pulse until the leaves break up and then add ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon of grated lime zest, 2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, pureeing until the sauce is smooth. Refrigerated with a piece of plastic wrap on the surface, the pesto will keep for 5 days.
To use kale pesto in an improv dish, try combining a few handfuls of arugula with a tablespoon of cooked grains. Add a few strips of leftover chicken and top the whole dish off with a spoonful of kale pesto. Or you could add a dab of pesto to a bowl of soup broth poured over a quarter cup of cooked grains with greens. Not only will this combination of flavors and textures taste delicious, but the mixture of colors will look delicious too.
A three-day mini-cleanse can improve your health
Despite your best intentions, there’ll always be times when you drift away from your superclean eating. And while there’s no shame in telling yourself you’ll do better the next day, sometimes you need a special program to help you get back on track.
If you’re in need of an extra health boost, you might consider taking a mini-cleanse. Giada typically takes a three-day mini-cleanse after the holiday season and following her annual summer vacation. When she feels three days isn’t enough, she extends her mini-cleanse to four or even five days.
When planning your own mini-cleanse, make sure you select dates when you’ll have time to plan your meals thoroughly and won’t be tempted to ditch your diet at a social gathering.
Planning a cleanse for Monday through Wednesday works best for Giada so that she can spend Sunday shopping and meal prepping and return to her normal eating routine by the following weekend.
Taking a mini-cleanse means avoiding some foods entirely. Processed foods are completely off the table. This means pasta, canned goods, red meat, dairy, baked goods, sweets, spicy foods, alcohol, nightshade vegetables, high-glycemic fruits such as pineapples and bananas, and starchy vegetables like potatoes and peas.
You should limit your sugar intake to one teaspoon per day – including sugar substitutes like agave or honey. And you should avoid eating large quantities of fatty foods such as avocado. If you can’t live without a cup of coffee, reduce your caffeine intake to one cup in the morning.
During your mini-cleanse reboot, your diet will revolve around plenty of greens and vegetables, moderate amounts of low-glycemic fruits such as berries, and whole grains like quinoa and millet, as well as lean protein like fish and eggs, just once a day. You should also limit orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes to once a day.
If you don’t feel super energized right away, don’t be alarmed. For some people, a three-day cleanse can make you feel even more bloated, fatigued, or groggy than usual, as your body rids itself of toxins.
If you’re addicted to a food on the no-go list such as sugar, you might even experience withdrawal symptoms like a headache. If that’s the case, be kind to yourself and work your way up to a full cleanse by eliminating various food categories one by one.
Complement your healthy diet with exercise and nutritional supplements
Giada used to suffer from digestive issues like cramps and acid reflux. But when she changed her diet, these quickly faded. Not only did this eliminate a lot of discomfort, but it also gave her energy for other health-promoting practices.
She’s Giada’s been receiving acupuncture treatments for over a decade, gets regular infrared sauna treatments, and aims for at least five to ten minutes’ meditation before bed each evening. She also makes sure to exercise regularly, and she takes nutritional supplements as recommended by her nutritionist.
Whichever additional measures you choose to adopt to boost your health are up to you. But if you’re looking for a good place to start, try the exercise and supplements.
We all know that exercise is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But figuring out what form of exercise works best for you might take some time. Giada first came to yoga while she was pregnant with her daughter Jade. She was immediately hooked and has been practicing ever since.
Yoga works well with her Giada’s busy schedule – she can even fit in stretches when she travels for work. If you’re the kind of person who is put off by going to a gym or a classroom, try online streaming programs or YouTube yoga classes. It’s never been easier to attend a yoga class from the comfort of your own home.
Now for the supplements. Giada takes these regularly to ensure she gets all the nutrients she needs to maintain her optimal health. Her supplements change from month to month, but she consistently takes pre- and probiotics, immune enhancers such as eyebright and andrographis, and various adaptogens like ashwagandha or bacopa, which help her maintain an optimal gut ecosystem.
You might be wondering why you need to take nutritional supplements at all. After all, you’re already following a superclean, healthy diet. The problem is, even when we eat clean, our diets don’t stack up to that of our ancestors – not even our grandparents’! One big difference is that our ancestors used to eat entire animal livers, hearts, or other organs regularly. But we don’t – and so we miss out on all those nutrients. On top of this, industrial farming has reduced the variety and nutritional content of products that make it onto supermarket shelves.
That’s why it’s worth visiting a nutritionist and finding out what supplements might benefit you, even if you’re eating superclean. Add this to the other tips in these sections and you’ll be well on your way to a new, healthier you!
Most modern diets are a one-way ticket to chronic inflammation and disease. Which is why you need to change yours! To adopt a superclean diet, prioritize foods that nourish your gut over foods that cause inflammation.
You can whip up a meal without a recipe in less than five minutes by preparing batches of simple, healthy components. Complete your health transformation with exercise, nutritional supplements, and occasional mini-cleanses.
Take a look at these popular supplement brands for full-body wellness and weight loss:
- Resurge: According to the official website, Resurge’s formula is designed to help users recover from shallow sleep syndrome and improve the process of metabolic regeneration that occurs during sleep.
- BioFit: This supplement contains probiotics selected for their ability to support digestion and bowel movement.
- Okinawa Flat Belly Tonic: This supplement supports a flat stomach and weight loss by optimizing metabolism and digestion.
- Java Burn: A single-serve pack of Java Burn, according to its creator John Barban, can improve your energy levels and help you burn fat.
The loss of even 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can produce health benefits, including improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.