"Eating to feel better shouldn't be stressful," the Food Network star says.
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giada de laurentiis
Getty Images / David Crotty
| Credit: Getty Images / David Crotty

As a busy mom, host of multiple Food Network and Discovery shows, restaurateur, cookbook author and entrepreneur, Giada De Laurentiis found herself falling into a pattern many of us do when we're busy: reaching for comfort food or high-sugar treats for a quick energy boost any time she actually had time to slow down and eat.

Sure, it tasted great, but it left her struggling with severe sinus infections, bloating, tiredness and more. So the Italian chef decided to embark on a decade-long quest to adjust her diet to fuel her body with what makes it feel best while still savoring all of her favorite foods. (Yes, pasta is still on the menu!)

"I started really listening to my body and eating the foods that loved me back," De Laurentiis tells TODAY. "That helped my body heal itself and also indicated what foods worked for my body and what foods didn't."

Eat Better, Feel Better: My Recipes for Wellness and Healing, Inside and Out (buy it: $22.99, Amazon) has been a 10-year labor of love and is "the culmination of my personal health journey with recipes, wellness tips, my 3-day clean eating reboot and the reason I can honestly say I feel better (w/ more energy!) now at 50 than I did in my 30s," De Laurentiis recently explained on Instagram.

That three-day plan isn't as restrictive as it sounds, she clarifies on the latest episode of the Homemade Podcast from our sister brand, Allrecipes.

"With a three-day reboot I could eat—because a lot of people believe, like, 'go on a cleanse:' Water with pepper, cayenne pepper and lemon. Or just eat soup. Or don't eat anything... I just couldn't," she says. "So, I figured out a way that I could start with a three-day reboot...for the most part, I take out all refined sugar, all wheat products, and all dairy products. No alcohol, obviously, which I think for three days, most people can do that."

After just 72 hours, "it makes you just feel less foggy, more energetic and, honestly, you're in a better mood," De Laurentiis says. Then after that "reboot" (which she often pops into her schedule "after I've traveled or after the holidays or any period of time where I've indulged more than I should,") De Laurentiis eases back in to a well-balanced menu when she reintroduces some dairy, carbs, espresso and wine—all in moderation.

According to Lisa Valente, M.S., RD and Digital Nutrition Editor for EatingWell, Giada's plan isn't bad, but it does feel a little extreme. "I think many of us want to reset after a vacation or holiday. Naturally our bodies may crave more salads or vegetables at dinner. Her reboot is a lot shorter than many—3 days instead of 30—and it isn't as restrictive as other cleanses but you probably don't need to cut out plain yogurt or whole-wheat bread to feel better."

The overall plan focuses on fostering good gut health to keep De Laurentiis' immune system strong to combat those sinus infections and enough nutrients to maintain energy during her crazy-busy days. Adds Valente, "her overall approach to listening to your body and eating foods that make you feel good sounds great."

Here are five things she tells TODAY made all the difference to help her feel more younger, vibrant and healthier than she had in years.

5 Easy Ways Giada De Laurentiis Upgraded Her Nutrition (While Still Enjoying Food)

"Eating to feel better shouldn't be stressful," De Laurentiis vows. Here are five ways to follow her wise lead:

1. Start small.

At the beginning of her experimentation, De Laurentiis reduced but didn't eliminate any foods or drinks. "Many people think there needs to be a drastic change in order to eat healthy, but that's not true. My cooking still stays true to my Italian roots, with lots of delicious, fresh ingredients," she says. "Eating well is not about eliminating foods—it's about noting how they affect you and eating less of those that challenge your health. It's about finding the right balance for you." (This sounds a lot like the 80/20 philosophy that Drew Barrymore—and EatingWell editors—are huge fans of!)

2. Have a plan.

Fill your fridge and pantry with wholesome foods, and you'll be more likely to reach for them when it's time for a snack or to start making dinner. To do so, head to the supermarket or fill your online grocery cart with a plan, De Laurentiis suggests. "I used to shop for what I felt like eating in the moment, but I realized that I wasn't buying the most nutritious ingredients or meals because of it. Planning meals helps you stay on track and not over-buy. Eating better begins at the grocery store."

3. Focus on flavor.

Visit local farmers markets to buy produce if possible, she suggests. "I find that the vegetables and fruits from a smaller seller often have way more flavor than from a larger supermarket."

4. Prep wisely.

Meal prep saves the day on her most hectic filming days, De Laurentiis says. She "meal preps at the beginning of the week and batch-cooks things like quinoa, brown rice, roasted sweet potatoes or cauliflower, and chicken broth...Once you have everything prepped, it's super simple to make delicious, nutrient-dense meals in a matter of minutes." (Our beginner's guide to meal prep can help you get started if you're new to the concept!)

5. Load up on superfoods.

After you've discovered the healthy ingredients that help you feel your best, incorporate them into your menu often. De Laurentiis now tosses sweet potatoes into grain bowls, blends cocoa nibs into coffee and spinach smoothies, adds salmon to salads and pasta dishes and stirs a handful of dark leafy greens into soups.