It might be hard to believe that any celebrity chef eats just like the rest of us, and maybe harder still to believe it when that chef is Giada De Laurentiis. She did, after all, train at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, which brings to mind fancy gourmet meal after gourmet meal. And then there are those pesky rumors about her spitting out anything she puts in her mouth while filming (which have been denied by her rep). But if you dig a little, there’s plenty of evidence to prove that De Laurentiis enjoys the same foods we all do. She loves chocolate and French fries and pasta, of course, but also makes sure to incorporate healthy snacks and protein-packed dinners into her diet.
So what does she really eat? Here’s a peek at how De Laurentiis satisfies her hunger in real life — when she’s not noshing at fancy restaurants with other Food Network stars, that is.
First things first
When Giada De Laurentiis wakes up, she doesn’t head straight for the coffee or the Cheerios. Instead she reaches for water with lemon — two glasses to be exact — and prefers warm to ice cold when she’s still shaking off last night’s slumber. She told Delish, "You get dehydrated as you sleep and need to help your body rehydrate when you get up." And she’s not wrong. According to nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH, who spoke to Business Insider, there are plenty of good reasons to knock back a couple glasses of water first thing in the morning, especially if your morning routine includes a cup of joe. Batayneh explained, "Most people have their coffee first thing in the morning. Although it is a good source of antioxidants, it is also dehydrating. You can offset this with water." Other benefits include increasing your alertness, fighting off illness, and jump-starting your metabolism. Sounds like Giada is onto something here.
Then, it’s hearty grains + olive oil for breakfast
Once she’s finished her morning water routine, it’s time for breakfast, and it’s a real stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal — but it’s not eggs, and it’s not sweet. Along with an Americano for a hit of caffeine, De Laurentiis prefers carbs (can we get a "heck yeah"?!). She told PopSugar, "I do brown rice, with olive oil and salt. I like a carb for breakfast, and I like a savory breakfast. If you start your day with sugar, you’re jacked for the rest of the day. I get up really early in the morning, so I need a carbohydrate. So I’ll do 1/4 cup of brown rice, with warm olive oil and salt." She added that she might switch things up by substituting oatmeal for brown rice, or she might throw in a handful of Marcona almonds for a little added protein. Sounds deliciously Giada, doesn’t it?
Or, pancakes if it’s the weekend
De Laurentiis might be all about the grains and olive oil combo Monday through Friday, but she’s all about the pancakes on the weekend. Her love for this classic breakfast staple is evident by a quick search of Food Network’s database, where at least a dozen renditions of her recipe resides. From ricotta to blueberry to almond, she’s got enough variety for a different stack each week. But when De Laurentiis is noshing with her daughter, Jade, she’ll make a stack of fluffy lemon buttermilk pancakes. They’re Jade’s favorite, and hit the spot for adults, too. She wrote on her website, Giadzy, "When I make pancakes on the weekend I like to make a few extra and freeze them. That way, I can defrost a few in the toaster oven on weekday mornings so Jade can have a hot breakfast without my having a lot of kitchen cleanup." Smart, and a whole lot tastier than Pop Tarts.
Eggs for lunch or dinner, not breakfast
Based on her carb-heavy food choices in the morning, it’s not a big surprise to learn that De Laurentiis isn’t a protein-for-breakfast kind of girl, which consequently leaves eggs off the table. She told Food & Wine that it’s because of the way she was raised — as a child in Italy she ate traditional breakfasts, which consisted of starch, starch, and more starch — things like bread and pastries (which really sounds like a dream come true, right?). She explained, "I am not a protein person for breakfast – it’s not my thing. I’m a starch girl because that’s the way I was brought up… We can eat eggs for lunch and dinner, like in a frittata, but not breakfast. I can’t do eggs for breakfast." These days, with farm fresh fried eggs gracing our hamburgers and hard-boiled eggs in our pho, it’s easy enough to follow Giada’s lead and pack in your protein later in the day.
A don’t-knock-it-til-you’ve-tried-it treat
We all have our favorite weird food combos — that dish you dreamed up late one night (maybe one drunken late night?) to satisfy a very specific craving, and which happens to sound downright disgusting to other people. Think peanut butter and pickle sandwich, Cheetos with milk, or Frosted Flakes with cheese (yes, these are really things people eat). And just because De Laurentiis is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and is capable of creating drool-worthy dishes and fancy desserts, that doesn’t mean she can’t come up with a pairing that might make us tilt our heads in question. One of her favorite creations? Milano cookies or Nilla Wafers dipped in lemonade. Yep, you read that right. But who knows? Maybe it’s the sweet and sour treat we’ve been missing out on all these years without even knowing it. It’s got to be better than Frosted Flakes and cheese.
Proof she’s just like us
Most of us would have a hard time passing up a hot basket of salty French fries, and Giada De Laurentiis is no different. In her "Day in the Life" diary for Shape she wrote, "Fries are some of my fave comfort foods. I love the crispy indulgence, but I make sure they aren’t a daily habit!" Naturally.
Need more proof that De Laurentiis is just like us? Her guilty pleasure food is chocolate. She admitted in Health that a seven-layer chocolate cake would be her last meal, saying, "I would eat all of the frosting on the outside, then I would peel off the cake and eat the layers in between. I like a scavenger hunt. It’s more fun, and it takes longer to eat, so you get more pleasure out of it." She has also confessed to topping cold spaghetti with chocolate chips as a midnight snack. And she nibbles on bittersweet chocolate chips when she craves a sweet treat (frozen, because they take longer to melt).
An enviable "cleanse"
If the word "cleanse" makes you want to inhale a bag of Cheetos and suck down a two-liter of Coke, you might want to think about this Giada De Laurentiis method. Just after the new year, after proclaiming that she’d had her fair share of white sugar and prosecco, De Laurentiis took to Twitter to tease her detox plan, saying, "I do this whole-foods cleanse a few times a year when I need to reset. Not a fan of juice cleanses or fasts… just healthy, whole foods. Here’s what I’ll be eating this week!"
Turns out her cleanse includes chocolate and pasta (cue the happy dance!). Before you get too excited, you should know that she does restrict alcohol, unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and dairy for this detox, but avocado mousse and whole wheat noodles with plenty of veggies are on the table. That’s a win, as far as cleanses are concerned.
And another cleanse we can get behind
If you’re not convinced by now that De Laurentiis eats like the rest of us, this should seal the deal: Even during a juice cleanse, she manages to sneak a little protein into her diet — proof that even the most camera-ready celebrity chefs don’t want to drink every single meal. Delish reports that she spills the secret for her tried and true bloat-busting method in her cookbook, Giada’s Feel Good Food: My Healthy Recipes and Secrets, saying "I always incorporate some protein when doing a juice cleanse. For me, it’s an important component in getting my strength back and feeling balanced." For dinner, that might mean her homemade detox broth, which consists of chicken broth with added spices like ginger and cinnamon (a recipe you can find in her book), plus poached chicken. Because let’s face it — when you’re doing a juice cleanse, even plain ol’ poached chicken tastes like a delicacy.
Lemon, lemon, lemon
When asked by Sweet Paul Magazine to name her perfect meal, she answered, "lemon spaghetti with a simple arugula and Parmesan salad." When asked to name her favorite menu items at her eponymous restaurant, she told The Daily Meal it was her lemon ricotta cookies (and once again cited her lemon spaghetti). And when asked what the most essential ingredient in her kitchen was, she somewhat surprisingly went with lemons, telling Cooking Light, "You’re probably thinking I would say garlic or olive oil, but for me, it’s lemons. I use their juice or zest to bring out the flavors of almost everything I make. Lemon juice is fat free and full of clean flavor, and it’s especially useful for lighter dishes. You can also use it as a substitute for the crispness of white wine in a recipe, if you prefer not to use alcohol." All this, not to mention her morning ritual of drinking lemon-infused water. It’s definitely safe to say that De Laurentiis has a longtime love affair with this tart citrus fruit.
Lots of healthy snack options
Yes, Giada De Laurentiis really does snack throughout the day, and no, it’s not just green juice (though she swears by a blend of kale, spinach, apple, lemon, ginger, and cayenne).
She gave Dash a glimpse into the kind of snacks you might find in her purse — nibbles like goji berry snack mix, popcorn seasoned with citrus and herbs, and almonds with smoked sea salt, whose smoky flavor De Laurentiis says will light up your taste buds. She also shared that when she’s in the mood for a sweet treat, frozen berries hit the spot, promising, "The freezer turns them into almost like a sorbet."
De Laurentiis elaborated to PopSugar that what she eats varies based on her day: "If I’m in my restaurant or testing recipes for my cookbook, I’m constantly tasting as I cook. A few bites of pasta here, a brownie there… it’s always different! I keep roasted vegetables and pasta in the fridge to snack on, too. You never know when hunger will strike, and I like to have healthy options that are easy to grab."
A protein-packed dinner
We know that De Laurentiis doesn’t do protein for breakfast, but she does make sure to get a healthy helping of it for dinner. That often means salmon, because as she told Food Network, "If I don’t eat protein at night, I don’t sleep well." One of her favorite ways to prepare the fish is with lemon (shocker), capers, and rosemary.
If it’s Monday, she might go meatless, but still manages to pack the protein in. Cooking Channel reports that De Laurentiis spells it out in her cookbook Weeknights with Giada, saying, "In an effort to eat healthfully and mindfully, we’ve started having meatless Mondays in our house, which has coincided with my discovering my new favorite ingredient, quinoa. It’s got a nuttier texture than rice and is higher in protein, which is great for vegetarian-friendly meals…"
Anything seems to go on Sundays though, including pasta, and it’s exactly what you’d expect of an Italian feast a la Giada. She shared with PopSugar, "On Sundays we have family over for supper, so I’ll do something a little more special like lasagna rolls, chicken cacciatore, and a big, beautiful salad like this whipped ricotta salad."
Everything, including pasta, in moderation
One of the most discussed topics around Giada De Laurentiis is how she stays so slim while cooking and eating for a living. She let Cooking Light in on one of her secrets, saying, "Italian cooking relies on fresh vegetables, but I like to use even more than a recipe might call for. Roasted vegetables give off so much flavor, and they can keep a dish interesting. Plus, they’re filling. You can enjoy what you eat and not overeat."
She shed more light on the subject, explaining to Health, "…I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything. Everything in moderation. I know that’s really hard for people to understand, but I grew up in an Italian family where we didn’t overdo anything." She went on to say that yes, of course she eats pasta, but not in huge quantities, continuing, "Pasta doesn’t make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat." Amen to that.
No green peppers or coconut, please
Everyone has something they just won’t eat, so what does Giada De Laurentiis turn up her nose to? Green peppers and coconut.
She adamantly told People of her downright hatred for green bell peppers, proclaiming, "I don’t like the flavor or the look. No green peppers will ever be found in any of my recipes." As for coconut? De Laurentiis revealed to Bravo’s The Feast, "I don’t eat coconut. I don’t like anything with coconut. Not [coconut] water. Just no coconut—at all. In anything."
And as long as we’re talking Giada dislikes, go easy on the truffle oil, too. She vented to The Feast that it’s the one food trend she’s sick of, saying, "Truffles in everything: truffle oil, truffle butter. Truffles are something that should only be used when in-season. They are a specific flavor, and they should be used delicately. I don’t think they should be added to everything under the sun. It doesn’t make you more of a gourmet cook to use truffle in everything. It’s very overpowering. Use in moderation! It’s been overused a little too much."