By: Meagan Esler
I was a mixture of nerves and excitement as I met one of my favorite celebrity chefs at the American Diabetes Association’s Expo in Chicago on April 14th. Jamie Deen, Paula Deen’s adorable, blue-eyed, dimpled son, was there doing a food demonstration, meeting with fans, and extending a healthy dose of warm smiles and pure southern hospitality.
As a fan for many years of both the Deen brothers and their bubbly mother, I own many of their DVDs and have watched all of their Food Network shows. I also have a crazy big collection of cookbooks, one of which Jamie was happy to sign for me. When I approached him and shook his hand, I couldn’t help but blurt out “I love you, and Bobby, and your mom!” Jamie smiled wide and said, “We love you back!” as he put his arm around me and posed for several pictures. I couldn’t let the moment go without letting him know that Paula is not alone with her diabetes, although with the support she clearly has from her loving sons, she knows that already.
Jamie, his brother Bobby, and their mom have partnered with Novo Nordisk to give people with diabetes healthy tips, lighter recipes, and some much needed positivity. Paula notes on her “Diabetes in A New Light” website that she has made simple changes to her lifestyle since being diagnosed. They include giving up her beloved southern sweet tea, walking on the treadmill, and lightening up some of her recipes. To sign up for newsletters via email, including delicious comfort foods made lighter, like “The Lady and Son’s Lasagna,” simply register at www.diabetesinanewlight.com.
The time I got to spend chatting with Jamie was truly the highlight of the expo, but many other exciting things were offered. The event was completely free of charge and offered something for everyone. There were Zumba classes, blood sugar meter vendors offering help with insurance costs and free meter coupons, local grocery store chains giving away products, and free samples of everything imaginable: sugar-free gum, diabetes-friendly foot creams, sugar-free Werther’s candy, unsweetened Teas’ Tea, low-carb Dreamfields pasta, Open Nature granola bars, bags filled with fresh fruit, toothpaste, blood sugar logbooks, pedometers, recipes, artificial sweeteners, coupons, and diabetes magazines.
Several stages set up throughout the expo offered attendees a chance to listen to doctors speaking about the basics of diabetes, see cooking demonstrations, and learn about everything from diabetes complications to healthcare laws to foot care. Physician groups offered a variety of health screenings, including blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, foot, hearing, dental, and vision tests. Family and friends of people with diabetes could be tested for prediabetes because so many people have or are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
I highly recommend attending an American Diabetes Association expo if one should be available in your area. Visit www.diabetes.org to view their list of upcoming events.
Now I’ve got to run and stir up a batch of the mouthwatering vegetarian gumbo recipe that Jamie gave out at the expo. I’ve never been disappointed in a Deen recipe before, and I’m sure that this diabetes-friendly version won’t be any different.