Jan. 22, 2012 at 1:28 PM ET
As you have certainly heard by now, Paula Deen, 64, that Southern belle from whom we've all been taking cooking cues from for years, has revealed she has type-2 diabetes. We understand how upsetting any diagnosis can be, but health events can also serve as a signpost for making important lifestyle changes — for the better.
Deen says she has always encouraged her viewers to indulge in moderation, but you would be forgiven for missing that part of her message: Her recipes are so mouth-wateringly tempting that portion-control is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re digging into her Southern Fried Chicken or Macaroni and Cheese with Potato Chip Crust. Unfortunately, research shows that a healthy diet is one of the most important aspects of preventing and managing type-2 diabetes.
But while diabetics in the past may have thought they were doomed to a life of deprivation, we now know that’s just not the case—you just have to be smart about it. That’s why we took 5 classic comfort-food favorites and came up with healthier versions that would be right at home in Deen’s kitchen, but sans the high-glycemic carbohydrates and saturated fat that can wreak havoc on your blood sugar—and your heart. Here, 5 ways Deen—and the rest of us—can indulge with diabetes-friendly decadence.
1. Chicken and Dumplings
Classic dumpling recipes often call for heavy cream or a high-fat cream-based soup as a broth, not to mention immoderate amounts of butter and all-purpose white flour. In other words, they’re anything but appropriate for a diabetic trying to keep their blood sugar in check.
Making our sauce with reduced-fat sour cream instead of heavy cream slashes the saturated fat in this all-in-one main dish, and we recommend using the leanest (and skinless) meat from the chicken. Add the gnocchi-like dumplings—think small and pillowy—to the simmering broth at the last minute to preserve their light, tender texture.
2. Mac and Cheese With Potato Chip Crust
It’s not news to anyone how rich—read: fatty—macaroni and cheese can be, and with this particular recipe, the name says it all. It packs calorie- and cholesterol-rich full-fat cheese, milk, butter, white pasta, bacon, and potato chips—which alone can wreak havoc on blood sugar.
Follow this maxim and you’ll never be left wanting: When you’re cutting fat, add flavor. Here, we’ve tossed in some chipotle chile pepper, which lends an unexpected but enticing kick to this classic comfort food made heart-healthier with a combination of reduced-fat dairy products. Swap in whole wheat pasta for an even healthier version.
3. Oven Fried Chicken
This sounds deceptively healthy, but soaking chicken in high-fat buttermilk and yogurt for 8 hours before cooking it packs in an unbelievable amount of fat—and that’s before you’ve even breaded the bird in white flour.
Remember that anything you would fry can also be baked for a more moist—and far healthier—dish. When you’re breading, use Dijon instead of whole eggs, and opt for heart-healthy whole-wheat crumbs instead of the traditional white. Cook it in the oven and serve it with a vinegar—not mayonnaise—slaw.
4. Avocado Chicken Salad
The real reason most of us love this sandwich staple is the generous serving of mayonnaise that goes in it—sometimes up to a quarter of a cup per serving! And while a little mayo in moderation can be just fine, it still packs a hefty dose of saturated fat. This salad also calls for sour cream, avocado and more mayo in the dressing! Spoon it onto a high-glycemic white bread and you’re looking at a diabetic’s nightmare.
This salad, unlike the one above, is, is actually a salad…with vegetables. Each serving packs a whole cup of fiber-filled greens and a smattering of grape tomatoes. The breading—which adds a satisfying crunch to the chicken—is kept to a minimum, and mixed with just one egg white for four servings, it’s low-cholesterol, too.
5. Chocolate Bread Pudding With Rum Toffee Sauce
Any desert that isn’t automatically portion-controlled can spell trouble for a diabetic—or anyone watching their fat and sugar intake. This recipe is especially decadent, calling for heavy whipping cream, whole milk, two and a half sticks of butter, white bread, white and brown sugar—you get the picture.
Join the cupcake craze! These are a cute, no-deprivation way to keep portions in check and sugar intake under control. Plus, using dark cocoa instead of chocolate slashes fat for just 9 g of fat per serving. Some bread puddings, meanwhile, can pack up to 30 g per serving.
More from Prevention:
6 Healthy Foods You Turn Into Diet Disasters