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Giada De Laurentiis' slim-cooking secrets

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Giada De LaurentiisReuters

Food 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. 

It's 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 multi-tasker how she takes time for herself amidst the (happy) chaos.

Q: I bet the number-one question you get is: How do you eat all that great food and stay so slim?

A: 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 that's really hard for people to understand, but I grew up in an Italian family where we didn't overdo anything. We ate pasta, yes, but not a lot of it. Pasta doesn't make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat.

Q: Would you ever do a kids' cookbook?

A: I don't 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.

I was so nervous to turn 40, but the last year and a half has been the most fun I have ever had.

- Giada De Laurentiis

Q: What's the secret to serving fresh meals quickly?

A: Doing your homework ahead of time. Stock up your pantry and your freezer with things that aren't 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.

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Q: How do you keep your energy up when you're on the road?

A: 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 Chopra's website, which sends you daily reminders. I try to center myself because I'm around a lot of different energies, and it gets a little crazy and chaotic.

Q: What are your travel must-haves when it comes to food?

A: Almonds are my staple. They're nonperishable and can sit in my bag for the entire book tour. Plus lots of water, and—I'm not gonna lie—Americanos [an espresso-based drink] everywhere I go, with a little agave because I don't do sugar.

Q: When you're not on the road, what's your fitness routine?

A: 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 wasn't 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.

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

A: Lots of water. Two liters of water a day at least. And lots of olive oil. It keeps my skin healthy. It keeps my whole [self] healthy and glistening.

Q: You're 41. Did you have any epiphanies when you turned 40?

A: 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, I'm comfortable in my own skin. I know I'm not going to ever be Cindy Crawford or Elle Macpherson. I want to tell Jade to enjoy every moment of life because it's so fleeting and insecurity is such a waste of time.

Q: Weeknights is your sixth cookbook. What was your inspiration this time?

A: 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 Todd's favorite Thai dishes. Lots of little fun twists that you've never seen from me—that's what makes this book different.

To read more of Giada's interview, pick up a copy of Health magazine on newsstands now.