Paula Deen Serves Up Food Advice for Kids

paula deenThe queen of Southern cuisine has a new cookbook for kids:   Paula Deen’s Cookbook for the Lunch-Box Set. I must admit, Paula is not my favorite Food Network star. No doubt she’s charming and entertaining, but I don’t really embrace her deep-fried, fat-laden style of cooking.  So the thought of her cuisine translated to kids made me a bit nervous.  It seems as though Barbara Walters had a similar concern when Paula made a recent appearance on The View to promote her new book.

Paula dishes up an enormous spread of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, strawberry cake, chocolate fondue, cookies, muffins and other Southern comforts, licking off her fingers as she described these so-called kid-friendly foods in her cookbook. The View ladies are digging right in and then Barbara asks a rather serious question:

“This is a cookbook for kids. Obesity is the number one problem for kids today. Everything you have here is enormously fattening. You tell kids to have cheesecake for breakfast . . .you tell them to have chocolate cake, meatloaf and french fries for lunch.  Does it bother you that you’re adding to it? No? Not at all?”


Paula mumbles something about moderation — “you know, we don’t eat this every day” — to an unconvinced Walters. The awkward exchange has fueled a heated debate in the blogosphere, with people passionately taking both sides — criticizing Walters for her “attack” and Paula for promoting high-calorie, fatty recipes for kids.

Yes, Walters comes down hard on Paula during this light-hearted segment (ironically, the abrupt question came soon after Paula told Walters how she reminded her of her mom and Aunt Peggy because she was so lady-like).  Ha!  Guess she didn’t know what hit her.

But how could Walters not ask this question?  How could the issue be ignored?  The entire segment was over-the-top indulgent — it seemed like a logical topic to bring up.   So can you really blame Walters…or was it just the way she said it?   What’s disturbing to me is that so many people will be looking to Paula for advice on what’s good for kids to pack in a lunch or eat for breakfast before school.  She even tried to talk about nutrition mentioning the “protein” they need.  Yes, Paula is a celebrity chef and she has a devoted following, but that doesn’t automatically make her an expert on children’s nutrition. Well, at least she’s not talking about hiding broccoli in brownies.

No, Paula is not the reason we have a childhood obesity problem in this country.  But is this the type of cookbook parents really need right now?   Was Paula ambushed by Walters on The View?  Was it a fair question?  Or should we just all calm down and shut-up?  Watch the video and let me know your thoughts.

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  • I would hardly call Walter’s question an attack. I think it was a logical, honest question that needed to be asked (since I’m sure most viewers were thinking the same thing). Celebrity chefs like Paula Deen seem to automatically get great press for their books even if they’re mediocre. I’m siding with Barbara on this one.

  • Paula is what she is. Southern food is fried everything. At least Paula doesn’t try to say her food is 100% healthy. Yes, Paula is a bit over the top, but that’s her job–to entertain. And to cook. I think parents and caregivers know that Paula’s recipes aren’t going to promote weight loss. If looking for a healthier version of Southern fair, I say check out Holly Clegg.

  • WOW! Great debate here. I think that Barbara’s question was excellent. This cook book does not appear to be one I could recommend to families in my practice for healthy eating. Ironically the segment opens up with Paula exercising and having lost weight then quickly hones into a “food fest “of women “diving” (as Paula puts it) into pink cake, white bread tomato sandwiches and chocolate dipped pretzels as if they hadn’t eaten that kind of food in a while! This segment does not help parents and providers provide a quick healthy lunch to children. It hones in on emotional eating as “comfort food”, displays visually high salt, high sugar,high fat foods and forgets all about dairy, fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes and lean proteins.

  • Paula Deen will be Paula Deen. Since we don’t know exactly what’s in her recipes, it’s hard to say how healthy they are, or are not. What’s more disturbing to me is the reaction of everyone else (with the exception of Barbara). They ate like there was no tomorrow and most of their remarks had a devil-may-care quality to them; it was as if they were focusing only on themselves and their enjoyment of the food at the moment with little regard for the audience for the book. I agree with Liz – even mediocre (or worse) cookbook authors get press that they don’t often deserve. I am disappointed that The View gave her all that air time. Her book is probably selling like hot cakes!

  • The problem with so many “celebrity” chefs is that they try to be everything to everyone.

    The subject of nutrition for children is especially hot now, so these chefs jump on the bandwagon because they know that the book will sell because of their name.

    There are enough people who really don’t about proper nutrition and since they love Paula will buy the book and think of it as gospel. Don’t assume everyone will know the difference( believe me because I have them in my practice).

    To say something like, well its not food you do everyday, then what is point of your book? I am sure, that Paula wants her book to be used more than a few times a month.

    She does indeed do Southern food well, but does she ( and so many other “celebrity” chefs ) have to infiltrate every hot topic?

    What’s next: Paula does Southern Vegan??

  • Theresa Gilbertt

    It brings up the ongoing conflict that adults have… and children learn – there are “good foods” and ” bad foods” – notice the enthusiasm and excitement all the other hosts have for these foods. I think kids notice body language/actions more than the words. To me, it was obvious Barbara wasn’t that interested in eating any of the food or perhaps in exhibiting the non verbal behavior of – when high sugar, high fat foods is in front of you – people get excited and want it – but next breath talk about how they shouldn’t eat these “bad foods” Another point is that school lunches are basically the same options – at least Mom is making home cooked meal and sending it in – teaching their children about planning and meal prep! But, hopefully there are other options out there for this, too. Moderation, variety, balance…. and developing a healthy relationship with food should come first!

  • I recently visited your website and interested to read about Paula, and the other comments about kids healthy food. I thought this was a great debate.

    As a teacher and a working mother I understand the difficulties with providing your family with a healthy diet. I got frustrated enough with the conflicting information and the difficult to understand academic websites about nutrition I decided to do my own website http://www.kidshealthyrecipes.com to help other parents wanting to know more about healthy kids food and to get their children interested in cooking.

    Did you know a recent British study found that nine out of ten mothers admitted cooking the same meals repeatedly week after week, and three quarters of the mothers chose their meals based on how quick they were to make rather than based on how healthy the meals were.

    I agree with Emma’s comments above, it doesn’t appear to be a cook book to help promote the benefits of providing your family with healthy food and an appreciation of cooking with fresh healthy ingredients.

  • cyrell

    Wasn´t she the one who fried cheesecake, added lots of powdered sugar, caramel and chocolat sauce and ice cream?

    She even deep fried a whole thanksgiving meal including the cranberry sauce..as if food could only taste good with loads of sugar and fat..very sad.

    And so much more sad is that people will cook with her recipes, thinking they do something good because…it is homecooked

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