Interview with Bobby and Jamie Deen–Seeing Diabetes in a New Light


Paula Deen has become a household name, thanks to her savory recipes. However, since her diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes last year, Paula has seen the effect that unhealthy eating habits can have on a person’s life.

There to always assist her with diabetes management and with her business are her two sons: Bobby and Jamie Deen. They started out helping their mother in their teenage years with her home cooking business, “The Bag Lady,” and now have gained popularity in their own right.

Both sons have their own Cooking Channel shows, Bobby with “Not My Mama’s Meals” and Jamie with “Home for Dinner with Jamie Deen”, which focus on healthy, yet still delicious, meal options.

We had the opportunity to speak with Bobby and Jamie Deen about Type 2 Diabetes management, as well as their new partnership with Novo Nordisk and Diabetes in a New Light®, which includes healthy, diabetes-friendly recipes and tips, as well as a chance to meet Paula Deen in Savannah, Georgia.

Your mother announced her Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis last year. What was your reaction?

Jamie: You know, we were surprised at first. This isn’t something our family was familiar with, but we just want mama to be happy and healthy, so we got together as a family and just dealt with it in our own time.

Bobby: We support each other in everything we do, so when Novo Nordisk and Diabetes in a New Light® came along, we all agreed that this was a good opportunity to help other people facing the same struggles as our mama and as our family.

Was your mother’s Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis the biggest factor in your decision to break off from your mother's business and launch healthier versions of her recipes?

Bobby: Living a healthier lifestyle has always been important to me. What people sometimes don’t understand is just because they see our mama cooking these decadent recipes on TV doesn’t mean that she’s eating that way every day, all the time. She’s not. Working out and eating healthier has always been important to me, and that’s why Diabetes in a New Light® has been such a great fit. These recipes taste good and are good for you, and are really the way we all should be eating.

With helping your mother with her Type 2 Diabetes, what would you say is the biggest struggle she goes through with managing it?

Jamie: I think one of the challenges mama faced at first, like most people with Type 2 Diabetes, is she thought her whole life was going to change. She thought she had to give up all the foods she’s always loved, but that just isn’t the case.

Bobby: That’s definitely true. And that’s what Diabetes in a New Light® is all about – showing people that you can still enjoy everything there is to love about life while still managing Type 2 Diabetes. So mama’s made a bunch of small changes to do that. She has changed the design of her plate, by cutting down on carbs and doubling up on vegetables. She works really closely with her doctor to make sure she’s on the right medication, too.

Jamie: I know one thing that was difficult for mama was incorporating exercise into her busy schedule, but she’s done it! She tries to walk a couple times a week and just do little things to stay active.

Can you tell me about your process for converting her recipes? What are the biggest changes to the recipes?

Bobby: As part of Diabetes in a New Light®, we’ve been working closely with nutritionists and diabetes educators to take some of our favorite recipes and lighten them up to be diabetes-friendly. We look to cut saturated fats by reducing the amount of meats and dairy products. One thing I love to cook with is Greek yogurt – it’s a great substitute for sour cream! We also try to watch the carbs and make our recipes lower in sodium. I do cook healthy regularly, and I know how to lighten dishes up, but we do work with a team of experts to ensure these campaign recipes are truly diabetes-friendly.

Out of the new light recipes you have created, what are your favorites?

Jamie: Man, there are a bunch of great ones to choose from. One of my favorites, and it’s been a real crowd favorite as well, is the Vegetarian Gumbo in a new light. It’s a traditional Southern gumbo with a delicious vegetarian sausage. It’s really good.
Bobby: That is a good one. We have a bunch of great recipes on www.DiabetesinaNewLight.com.

You both have shows on the Cooking Channel, Bobby with "Not My Mama's Meals" and Jamie with "Home For Dinner with Jamie Deen", what type of meals and cooking do you focus on in these shows?

Bobby: The premise of “Not My Mama’s Meals” is that I take mama’s recipes and lighten them up without losing the flavor. I just released a new cookbook called “From Mama’s Table to Mine” and it features these lighter recipes - all of them are under 350 calories.

Jamie: “Home For Dinner” also offers healthier recipes and follows the same premise of lighter cooking. It’s got a family focus though. We believe that it’s so important to spend time in the kitchen together, cooking and enjoying meals and sharing stories. “Home for Dinner” tries to encourage that.

You are now joining your mother to partner with Novo Nordisk on Diabetes in a New Light®. Can you tell me about this contest and what spurred your decision to be a part of it?

Bobby: You know, being a part of Diabetes in a New Light® really was a very natural fit for us, because mama is facing the same struggles as everyone else with Type 2 Diabetes. We want to do whatever we can to share our experience and help others.

Jamie: Through the Seeing Diabetes in a New Light® contest, we’re asking people with Type 2 Diabetes and their loved ones to share their diabetes management story and also commit to one more small change. You can enter on the website, www.DiabetesinaNewLight.com, and tell us your story there.

Bobby: It’s really cool. We’re going to be picking six winners and they’re going to get to come down to Savannah with a loved one and have lunch with mama and me at our restaurant Lady & Sons.

What are some of the diabetes-focused awareness activities that you will be a part of for Diabetes in a New Light®?

Bobby: We’ve been traveling all over the country, going to diabetes expos with organizations like the American Diabetes Association and Taking Control of Your Diabetes. We cook up our Diabetes in a New Light® recipes and share some tips for diabetes-friendly cooking, and give out samples so people with Type 2 Diabetes can see that they can still enjoy the food they love.

What are you hoping that people will take away from your own family's story?

Jamie: You know, as a family, we have faced some serious struggles, but we don’t let those struggles define us. Our mama always says she wants to inspire people and give them hope, and I think that’s what we want people to take away from our story.

To learn more about the Diabetes in a New Light® contest, check it out by clicking here.

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