Thursday, January 19, 2012

Newsflash: Paula Deen is Not Healthy

I knew something was up when I saw Paula Deen on the Today Show teaching us how to cook healthy.

Now the news that Paula Deen has Type-2 diabetes has hit the press, conveniently at the same time that she launches a new batch of lightened-up recipes and an advertising campaign for the diabetes medication Novo Nordisk. I'm always skeptical when someone makes a sudden about-face in philosophy, in this case going from "you know I love my butter, y'all," to explaining the basics of nutrition, portion control, and healthy cooking. It didn't take long to figure out that either a) her sons sat her down for  a heart-to-heart that convinced her she was part of the nation's obesity problem, or b) she had landed a new endorsement deal. Turns out it was the second one.

Paula Deen is being blasted for not revealing her medical condition to the public, but why should she? It's a personal issue and she doesn't owe us an update on her health status. As a fan of Southern cooking, I'm glad to see her embrace a healthier lifestyle and shift to a message of moderation and portion control. There is no way I would step foot in her restaurant because as an ambassador of health, I can't personally condone a lifestyle of food excess and worship. But if her recipes truly do reflect a lighter interpretation of the decadent meals that have made her famous, then I hope it is a true shift in priorities and not just one for self-promotion.

Southern cooking is often assumed to be unhealthy, probably because we immediately envision ourselves tucking a napkin under our chins to dig into a meal piled high with buttered biscuits, cheese grits, fried chicken, sausage, and of course, decadent desserts. But it doesn't have to be.  I'm a Southerner, and I cook healthy every day. Just check out these healthified Mardi Gras recipes for proof! Almost every single meal that anyone could want can be "healthified." Almost. I still cannot get my mom's buckeye cookies, peanut butter balls rolled in powdered sugar and dipped in chocolate, under 100 calories each! 

Are Paula Deen's new ways going to stick or will her recipes slide backwards in the name of "moderation?" Time will tell. In the meantime, I hope her medical condition raises awareness of the dangers of high-fat eating and helps a few people wake up and stop eating like they're at the state fair every day.

Don't get diabetes. Stop eating fair food and get out there and get healthy! 

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