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Going Gluten-FreeJanuary 25, 2012

The Beauty of Substitutions

Did you catch the news about Paula Deen, the Southern queen of high-calorie cooking, being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes? She confessed that she’s had the condition for three years yet she doesn’t plan to change her cooking style to accommodate it. Just eat smaller portions, she told Matt Lauer in her interview on the Today show. What a golden opportunity she had to tell the world about the beauty of ingredient substitutions!

Anyone who’s living with special dietary needs is living with food substitutions. I’m not just talking about choosing fresh berries for dessert instead of a brownie. I’m talking ingredient substitutions.

Frankly, we’re experts at replacing key ingredients in recipes: a gluten-free flour/starch combo for wheat flour, some arrowroot or flax gel for egg, some hemp milk or rice milk for cow’s milk. This sort of thing easily becomes second nature. Once you get the hang of it, substitutions just aren’t that difficult. In fact, they open the door to creativity--exciting new foods and flavors. Not to mention a healthier way of eating.

I wish Paula Deen had opened that door…even cracked it just a little…with the idea that you can use, for example, healthy coconut milk rather than unhealthy heavy cream in dessert recipes. You can sweeten with a stevia product or low-glycemic coconut crystals rather than with refined white sugar. Even chopped dates add nutrients and fiber while they sweeten, unlike empty-calorie table sugar.  

With her national platform (a TV cooking show, a magazine, cookbooks), her obvious culinary talent, her notable Southern charm and now her medical diagnosis, there are so many things Paula could have said…but didn’t. Given the nation’s growing rates of obesity and diabetes, this missed opportunity is a crying shame.

The special-diet community has a leg-up on the topic of living well and eating well with substitutions. We’re nimble thinkers when it comes to food. Super-creative this way and healthier for it. I just wish Paula would join us.

Comments (6)

It's her life and her toes. Leave her be. We don't know the reasons for her choice.

Posted by: Kbf | February 11, 2012 10:05 PM    Report this comment

I agree with the first comment. Smaller portions is just part of the answer. She really needs alot of subs. That really reduced my sugar. As far as the last comment on her laugh...she isn't even from the south.

Posted by: charla s | January 26, 2012 7:56 PM    Report this comment

I agree with the first comment. Smaller portions is just part of the answer. She really needs alot of subs. That really reduced my sugar. As far as the last comment on her laugh...she isn't even from the south.

Posted by: charla s | January 26, 2012 7:55 PM    Report this comment

I was diagnosed with type 2 a year ago. Smaller portions and giving up sweet tea isn't a serious answer. If she is serious about bringing her blood sugar down...possibly without drugs, she needs to cut out white flour, sugar, excessive salt, and high-glycemic carbs. She needs to increase fiber and whole grains...and is lucky she can eat gluten. She needs to combine fruits with healthy oils...MUFA's. She needs to do serious exercise, not just take leisurely strolls with her husband, And then eat smaller portions. She chose a career in the public eye, and set herself up to be an authority on food. I have no compassion for her because she chose to become the spokesperson for a drug company instead of taking a responsible, healthy approach. When her show comes on now, I change channels.

Posted by: Linda G | January 26, 2012 5:50 PM    Report this comment

My reaction? Compassion is the first word that comes to my mind, when reacting to Paula's approach to her condition. Reading of her diagnosis had me remembering when I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed but, intensely motivated because this was something I could try, that might work, where nothing else had before. I tore down my food world and started from scratch with the help of a very talented Certified Nutritionist. Since then (six years ago), I have talked to and coached many food issue newbies. What I thought worked so well for me (the all or nothing approach) was not how anyone else approached it. Yes, it was (mostly) all or nothing regarding gluten, but the investigation of other possible food issues was avoided or ignored. Slowly, I realized, they were all doing the best they could. Everyone has a different relationship to food; a different approach to problem solving. Some people, for example, are more sensitive to disruptions in social relationships. I am guessing this would describe Paula. She isn't out to change the world. She is out to make fabulous comfort foods to share with people she loves. For us "change the world" types, I wouldn't ask her to change, I would ask her to give it some thought and go slowly. If portion size is working to improve her health, that is an excellent first step. There is, as you describe, a whole, huge, fabulous world of equivalent food approaches to explore, but, only when she is ready.

Posted by: sicl4015 | January 26, 2012 1:21 PM    Report this comment

Talk about denial! I hope she gets well, but actually maybe her irritating laugh will subside a bit!

Posted by: Monica M | January 26, 2012 1:10 PM    Report this comment

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