Paula Deen’s missing ingredient: honesty

Paula Deen has diabetes. In other news, water is also wet.

Okay, it’s not really news. It was really more of a when than an if.

However, if two years ago she had come out in her brash style and said, “Y’all, I have diabetes. Just like a lot of you. And you know, I looove my Southern Food, but I think I can tweak these recipes so they fit in more with the dietary changes my doctor says I need to make,” well, I would have stood up and applauded.

But she didn’t.

She continued to profit. It’s not even the whole continuing with her fat and sugar fueled recipes that really bothers me. I get that she is the brand that sells her product. But to cut a deal with Big Pharma to hawk diabetes meds all the while promoting unhealthy food choices, like a hamburger with donuts as the bun (I had angina just writing that), well, that just, as I am sure Paula might say, sticks in my craw. It’s deception.

However, what REALLY pisses me off is her lame ass excuse that she cooks with crap high fat/high sugar ingredients because they are cheap and the average American can’t afford prime rib (this is from her little spat with Anthony Bourdain). BULL SHIT. High fat/sugar is Paula Deen’s brand. She knows you can make good, healthy food on a budget, but:

A) that doesn’t promote her brand (so fewer profits).

B) doesn’t get her advertising dollars (again with the $$).

C) she may not like the taste of food made with less than 2 sticks of butter.

Eating healthy and tasty food for less is accomplished much the same way as eating high fat, high calorie food for less is accomplished. Since Paula Deen isn’t promoting fast food, we’ll start with the premise that the ingredients for her recipes come from the grocery store, just like the ingredients for the meals that I make.

This weekend I made a very healthy dinner for two nights and lunch for the 3rd day with about $10 (9 meals as there are 3 of us at a meal). All ingredients from Safeway.

Meal 1 (dinner): Roast chicken, made the gravy from scratch (stock from the giblets and separating the fat, of course, from the pan juices), mashed potatoes with 1% milk, and carrots with a hint of lemon butter (1 tsp butter per serving). I stuffed the cavity with the lemon (which came from my boyfriend’s garden, but a store bought lemon works too!).

Meal 2 (dinner): Home made chicken noodle soup with the stock made form the chicken carcass, and left over potatoes, carrots, no fat egg noodles and celery.

Meal 3 (lunch): Left over soup.

So when Paula Deen hides behind “economics,” it smacks of back peddling and damage control. Just like her claims of eating in moderation. The kind of high fat, often chemical laden concoctions that she serves are very difficult to eat in moderation, unless a serving size is a tablespoon.

One thing about her brand has been the ideal of honest home cooking, you know real people food. Unfortunately, honestly seems to be the only thing that she is serving in moderation.

Join the Conversation


  1. You rock. You are so right on and I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m really enjoying your blog, I just don’t always have time to post.

    Keep fighting the good fight and leading the way! Hope to meet you some day!


    1. I agree with your comments about Paula Deen. I do think however, (this is off topic a bit), that that the ten dollars you spent on a a chicken dinner and leftovers costs a lot more for someone living in a food dessert. Imagine a 2.50 dollar bus ride to get those groceries, and then, if you stock up at all, a 15 dollar cab ride home. Imagine you live with Grandma whose feet hurt so bad she can’t walk to the store, so goes once a month when she gets her paycheck . Imagine you are a teenager living with Grandma who comes home from school starving (like all teens do) and there’s nothing prepared in the house to eat. You go to MacDonalds which is a block away. I’m 55 years old, but I remember when I went to college, being held hostage by the fact that I had nowhere to shop in my neighborhood except the tiny corner grocery. I did not eat well (whole sophomore year on liverwurst sandwiches). Poor people need access to affordable food. We have a caste system in this country with food as well. If you haven’t experienced it personally, you would never know. Sorry, this has nothing to do with Paula Deen, but more about your comments.

      1. I think we need to start teaching REAL Home Economics in the high schools. I had no clue how to feed myself in a healthy way once I was away from home, without a car, and living in an urban food desert…. and I grew up eating great food. That was 30 years ago. I’m sure it’s still like now for kids. I love the food shows as entertainment, but they don’t sway the way I eat. I doubt they really have much an impact. I wish I had been educated about making practical nutrition choices for myself.

  2. I applaud you for your honesty in bringing this out. I am Southern, not a follower of her, knew she had to be making mega bucks.

    However, I cook like you do and wholeheartedly agree with your statements on fresh food & cost factors, not to mention nutritional factors.

    I can buy 3 chicken breasts (w/skin+bone) boil in water on med-high for 30-45 min, add 1sm onion, clove garlic, sea salt to taste. Done.

    I remove skin & bone when done, however, I believe they give flavor, good fats, and there must be something in the bone marrow that is good for us, because home made chicken soup always helps people recover from colds, flu, etc.

    My Dad cooked for us when mom went to work, so we ate well, and had very little money, a situation much like people are in today. It’s inexpensive to cook this way, and the health benefits cannot be over- emphasized.

    BTW- I am a cancer survivor-twice, and I believe I made it thru in large part by growing up eating fresh food. I am Cancer editor at On Twitter@RannPatterson

    Great job, and thanks!

  3. As a doctor, you should know that eating sugar and fat doesn’t give you diabetes. From the American Diabetes Association

    Let me guess, you’re one of those doctors who tells people condescendingly that they need to lose weight to get pain relief, not understanding for half a second that it’s the pain that caused the weight gain in the first place.

    1. The ADA specifically recommends a diabetes food plan and nothing made by Paula Deen is going to fit on that plan. The ADA recommends a healthy diet and that is not what Paula Deen cooks.

      Diabetes (type 2) is directly related to obesity and obesity is related to calorie consumption. Sugar and fat are higher in calories and sugar. One serving of many of the meals that Ms. Deen makes have 50% or more of your calorie needs for the day. In addition, manyof her recipes include products with trans fats, the consumption of which should be zero.

      I never tell anyone anything condescendingly, I use facts and evidence based medicine and personal experience. I was over weight and understand how hard it is to lose weight and how hard it is to hear that you need to lose weight. However, obesity is a factor in many chronic pain conditions, especially low back pain. To say otherwise is wrong. In addition, diabetes can lead to neuropathy. I am unaware of any studies that indicate that pain causes weight gain, although some of the neuropathic medications are associated with a 5 lb gain. While many people who have pain reduce their exercise (and unfortunately, this can paradoxically make pain worse, especially for people with muscle pain), studies tell us that exercise is not essential for weight loss, only calorie restriction is. My weight loss certainly cured my low back pain.

      1. They recommend a diabetes food plan for people with diabetes. Paula Deen does not have a cooking-for-diabetics TV show, and that she personally has diabetes does not obligate her to do so. Nor did her role as a TV show host obligate her to ever reveal personal health information to anyone. Alton Brown has revealed issues with his cholesterol, but recipes for high fat and high sugar foods are still on his shows and website, and unlike Deen’s deal with “Big Pharma” to promote medication which will help diabetics control their disease, Brown’s endorsement deal was with “Big Agra” to shill fruit juice which is nothing but concentrated sugar. Tasty, but not actually all that healthy. So where is your slam on him?

        Also, while T2 diabetes is related to obesity, it isn’t caused by obesity. Obesity raises the risks. You, as a doctor, knows what that means. Raised risk isn’t guarantee. Raised risk isn’t causation. Correlation isn’t causation. Even the ADA says quite plainly that you cannot give yourself diabetes.

        “Many of the meals” and “many of her recipes” — which ones? How many? If you’re going to make this criticism, please be specific. These generalizations are flying all over the place, no one has ever quantified one of them. The “brunch burger” (the one with the donut bun) you mentioned is the functional equivalent of having a bacon burger and a piece of cake or pie afterward. Is it the healthiest meal? No. Did she sell it as health food? No. Did she sell it as a part of anyone’s daily diet? No. (The very name, “brunch burger” would indicate that it’s meant for an indulgent weekend meal, not something mundane.) Have you ever actually looked at any of her cookbooks or her website to see recipes like grilled tilapia and stuffed turkey breast and shrimp stir-fry, which aren’t high fat/high sugar at all, or was it easier to make the low information generalization?

        Let’s be clear — she makes the food that Food Network audiences want to see, and has been embraced by her audience — which is why she’s had three stand-up cooking shows. Food Network has had shows specifically about low-carb and low-fat cooking. They had one with two chefs, one making traditional recipes and the other making “healthier” versions at the same time so that people could pick and choose. All of those shows were cancelled for lack of viewers. People weren’t interested, they are interested in Paula Deen. That clearly chafes the hide of people who make a living trying to drum up panic over OMG!OBESITY and the ugliness is coming out, double barreled.

      2. Central abdominal fat, a waist circumference of 35 inches or more for women, is one of the diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome (as is high cholesterol). Both of which (obesity and high cholesterol) could be caused by eating Ms. Deen’s food. Metabolic syndrome is often a precursor for diabetes.

        Not everyone who is obese will get diabetes and not everyone who smokes will get cancer. They are, however, major risk factors and as doctors we recommend patients adjust their risk factors to avoid a disease.

        If you wish to eat the kind of food Ms. Deen cooks, that is your choice. And I wouldn’t have cared at all about any of this has she not A) jumped on the pharma bandwagon (she can promote a drug but not a healthy lifestyle?) and B) defended her cooking by saying it’s economically driven.

  4. I love this entry. I have a diabetic mother in law, and this issue is close to my heart. I love what you have written.

  5. We need more articles/posts like this coming up around the internet (although your blog offers a good serving).

    What frightened me more than anything, though, is that as soon as I started reading “Y’all, I have diabetes. Just like a lot of you…” I heard her voice fill my head in her heavy Southern drawl. It just spooked me a little is all I’m saying.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly with you. She could have become a positive role model for health and nutrition. I’m stunned that she has said she has no plans to make significant changes to her show, how irresponsible.

  7. Hi Dr. Jenn Love your post!.

    Regarding Ms. Dean, she IS a public figure, a celebrity. Privacy is lost when you expose yourself in front of millions of people. I know she’s not perfect, but her brand sold “wholesomeness…” I feel cheated by her, She was a Mother figure, that had her quirks but tried to do no wrong…

  8. I’m not a doctor, but I had the same response as you when she “came out”. Three years? Really? Own up to your mistakes and bring your audience along on the new path you’re walking. (nice to find you here…. I’d been poking around writingmamas recently and wondered if you were writing somewhere else – here you are!)

  9. Although I agree in general about the fact that we need to rethink the way we eat….I honestly do not believe I could buy the ingredients for those meals for $10 in my area. Perhaps if I had the option of buying just one carrot or had someone to split a bundle of carrots with or if I didn’t have to drive to the next town to buy groceries? I could not make Paula’s food for $10 either probably (I don’t have cable so I am just guessing from distant memory of when I did) so I am not saying her way is better. Just asking for understanding for all of us who are desperatly trying to eat fresh or frozen organic non processed foods but are struggling to do so because of lack of nearby options. Also if you require glutten free noodles or other ingredients, it drasticly raises the price.

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