Read an Excerpt
The number one question I’m asked by fans of my television shows and cookbooks is, “How do you stay so trim?” This book is my answer. It’s a personal look into how I keep my body and my mind in a happy and healthy balance!
But I want to get one important thing straight right now: This is not a diet book. I don’t live my life on a diet; I just don’t believe in them for me. They are tough to stick to and encourage a sense of deprivation or missing out, resulting in roller-coaster weight loss and gain—and the mood swings that come along with that. I’m not a yo-yo and I can’t put my mind or body through that. Instead, I have adopted a balanced way of cooking, eating, and living that works for me and my family. This didn’t happen overnight, or by sitting down and scribbling a bunch of rules to follow, but rather over time, by tuning in to my body and what makes me run the smoothest and tuning out what doesn’t.
When I was younger, I was completely addicted to chocolate and sugar. I relied on them to give me an energy boost throughout the day. In fact, I would eat less “regular” food in order to leave room for dessert! If it was coated in chocolate, it was for me: chocolate-covered almonds, graham crackers, cookies . . . chocolate anything, really. I put tons of sugar in my coffff ee and iced tea. I was also a fan of the Italian custom of dipping sugar cubes in espresso and sucking on them, going through several cubes at a time.
And when I was young, this didn’t seem to affff ect me much. Sure, I had some dips here and there in my energy level throughout the day, but I had more energy in general and didn’t see a huge downside to this lifestyle.
When I became pregnant with Jade, however, everything changed. I was responsible for this little life inside of me and I took the saying “eating for two” to heart. My body needed—and my baby deserved—better. This made me rethink my whole lifestyle.
So I started making little adjustments here and there, changing bit by bit. I cut down on my sugar intake and started being more mindful of what I was eating in general. I ate more, which makes sense because I was pregnant, but that meant more vegetables, protein, and whole grains and a lot less sweet stuff. I started buying organic ingredients and produce, trying to limit the pesticides and chemicals in my system as much as possible. And guess what, I began to feel better—even better than better. I felt great. Pregnant! And once Jade was born,
I didn’t revert back to my old habits. Jade has taught me so many things, but I like to think of this new lifestyle as her fifi rst lesson, her fifi rst gift to me.
I continue to tweak and improve upon it, always looking to make healthy adjustments, but I have to say I feel better than I ever have. I have more energy than ever before, which is how I keep up with my crazy busy schedule! I can honestly say that, in my forties, I am healthier than I was in my twenties or thirties. I sleep better. I feel happier. Jade changed it for me and I am grateful for all the joys she brings me. I knew there would be many; this was just an unexpected bonus!
I still love chocolate—that’ll never change, and I don’t want it to! I still eat it often, only now I do so in moderation. It’s one of my pleasures, a little treat that makes me smile.
That brings me to my number one philosophy on eating: Eat a little of everything, but not a lot of anything. It’s such a simple idea but it took me a long time to embrace it fully. I don’t believe in deprivation; it just fuels cravings and creates a vicious cycle of negative feelings. On the other side, overindulgence with any one thing just dulls your taste for it, leaving you eating more of it, trying to get that same pleasure, which isn’t a good thing.
I’m not saying you can’t eat burgers. You just can’t eat them fifi ve days a week! The good news is that when you make smarter choices, your taste buds will change. Your body will tell you what it needs to run best and your cravings will reflect this.
I now really gravitate toward whole grains and keep an eye on how much wheat I consume. Being mindful also of how much meat, fat, and salt I consume has led me to discover and fall in love with many kinds of whole grains, including quinoa, hominy, and kamut. Replacing foods that are high on the glycemic index (GI)—that is, foods high in refied sugar and refined complex carbohydrates, like white bread—with foods with less sugar and more fiber has made a huge difference in my energy levels. Low-GI foods are absorbed more slowly by the body and keep you going longer. These days, I opt for light agave nectar instead of white sugar to sweeten my drinks. (You can even buy agave packets to take with you on the go.) It’s still sweet but it doesn’t give you a sugar high—and the resulting crash. You’ll find nondairy milks in my fridge at home—from almond to coconut—to replace some of the regular dairy. In writing down many of my favorite dishes for this book, I realized that many are gluten-free,
vegetarian, and even vegan (entirely free of animal products), and I thought, this born and bred Italian has come a long way! But it’s great because this way I can still eat a bit of everything—and enjoy it all!
Another key to my lifestyle is that I eat many times over the course of a day. While breakfast is absolutely the most important meal of the day, you can forget that old rule about not snacking between meals. Five smaller meals a day are so much better for you; they are easier for you to digest than three big ones, which makes for a happy metabolism! Instead of the highs and lows and feeling like you’re starved or stuffed, you stay much more even-keeled throughout the day. Your body adapts to this routine and begins to work much more efficiently. This will become part of your schedule, and to help you get there, this book has great grab-and-go snack recipes. You can make them ahead and then stash them in your bag for a midmorning or afternoon pick-me-up.
Portions: You have to pay attention to them. A steak the size of your head is not a single portion. Many people don’t know what a real serving size is because it is not what we were taught growing up (though thankfully that is changing!). Four ounces of protein—meat, fish, or tofu, for example—is the equivalent of your palm (your hand minus the fingers) and about the same thickness, too; it’s a good guide to aim for.
Vegetables, legumes, and fruits—all packed with fiber—make up the majority of what I eat. When I want pasta (which is often!), I usually tend to have it at lunch so I have more time to use its fuel during the day. At dinnertime, I pack in a little more protein to hold me until morning and I always make sure to give myself plenty of time to digest before I go to bed; I aim for three hours or so before falling asleep.
After I’ve been traveling a lot—and especially if eating the way I prefer to has been challenging on a trip—I turn to juices and smoothies to help rewire my body, kick jet lag, and get myself back into my routine. I’ve dedicated a whole chapter in this book to juices and smoothies because they taste amazing and are great almost any time of day. I love how you can pick a flfl avor to match what you’re craving, whether it is something sweet or something green—or maybe both! If I’m feeling truly lethargic, I might even go on a juice cleanse for up to a couple of days.
Here’s another revelation: I will never be a gym person. I am just not a runner. The idea of being strapped to a treadmill every day is my worst nightmare . . . and that’s okay! I like walks along the beach and my morning yoga, both of which keep me centered and happy. Todd and I also love to paddle-board out on the ocean together. You definitely have to use your core muscles to stay on the board! Exercise is important, but I also think it is important that you enjoy it. Exercise keeps your energy flowing and the blood circulating; it stokes the inner fire. But, I truly believe that great health starts with what you put in your mouth.
Because of that, you’ll notice that this is the fifi rst cookbook of mine where you’ll fifi nd a nutritional breakdown for each recipe. While personally I do not count calories or carbs, I know that many people do and find it helpful—and I want to open up these recipes to as many people as possible. Some dishes have more or fewer calories—or grams of fat or milligrams of sodium; I believe in overall balance. It’s all about finding what works for you and sticking to it—and knowing what is actually in what you are eating is a great start. You’ll also see that I’ve called out vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free recipes. I wanted to give you many alternatives to cook meals that make you and your family feel good.
Everyone is different. Genetics made me short and small-boned. But it’s not about how much you weigh or if you look as thin as someone else; it’s about looking in the mirror and loving yourself. Having more energy and fewer ups and downs is half the battle in my world. I feel stable and can give my full attention to everyone and everything in my life: my daughter, my husband, my friends, my work, and myself.
Above all, give your body a bit more attention; plan your meals a little better, and your body will reward you tenfold. I promise you will smile more and you will enjoy life more because you will feel better!
This is what works for me. I hope it helps you fifi nd what works for you.