The Deen of Not-So-Lean

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You’ve seen her shows, read her books, and some of you have probably visited her restaurants too. And if you’re at all familiar with the food that celebrity chef Paula Deen cooks, it probably didn’t surprise you when she told the world this week that she has type II diabetes. After all, isn’t that what happens when you promote a truly “southern style” of cooking with copious amounts of butter, sugar, cream, salt, and everything in between? Ok, maybe not, but the proof is in the proverbial pudding.

The Controversy Continues

Interestingly, the announcement became a polarizing issue for the general public, other celebrities, and even healthcare professionals. Many fellow dietitians I know were proud to see her publicly address her disease, even if it was three years removed from her diagnosis, and then championed her decision to work on an anti-diabetes campaign with drug company Novo Nordisk. Others were annoyed that she decided to become a paid endorser for a drug company when, in their minds, she’s been part of the problem all along. It’s also interesting to note that her son now has a show where he cooks healthier versions of his Mom’s recipes, so many are asking why she didn’t take the initiative to do it first.

As a dietitian and health and wellness advocate, I have to admit that I’ve been a bit critical of her this week as well, but I would also argue that Paula is by no means on an island by herself.

Where’s the Beef?

My beef is this: the great majority of the most popular celebrity chefs focus much more on taste and texture than they do on the health aspects of the foods they cook.

Emeril Lagasse empties half a salt shaker onto almost every dish and Rachael Ray uses EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) like her life depends on it! Sure, olive oil is considered a healthy oil, but let’s be reasonable.
There are a few celebrity chefs promoting healthy cooking, but the likes of Jamie Oliver and Ellie Krieger can’t change the cooking landscape on their own. The scale is still tipped too far in the other direction, and expecting consumers to use restraint is probably wishful thinking. Speaking of thinking, what about you? Do you think celebrity chefs are doing us a disservice by cooking the way they do or are they simply catering to their audiences?

Let’s hear your thoughts…

Image via Leisure Group Travel

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