patti labelle
Diana Levine

Patti LaBelle Doesn’t Let Diabetes Keep Her From Enjoying Mac and Cheese

She kicks up the flavor with two secret ingredients
patti labelle
Diana Levine

The Godmother of Soul is a wizard in the kitchen. 

Living with Type 2 diabetes, “Godmother of Soul” Patti LaBelle has had to give up some of her soul food. But harnessing her spunk and zest for cooking, she devised a crafty way to get her fill of one of her favorite carb-heavy dishes — without wreaking havoc on her blood sugar.

“Before I was diagnosed,” LaBelle told The Daily Meal, “I was eating everything that I shouldn’t have been eating. And that’s why I became a diabetic.”

Now, though, LaBelle puts a lot of thought into what she’s eating — almost as much as she puts into her rich, luscious recipes from her cookbook, Desserts LaBelle. She calls the profile of dessert recipes her “not for me cookbook,” since it’s not so diabetes-friendly. LaBelle has worked hard to cut the calories, sugar, and saturated fats from her diet so that she doesn’t endure the consequences her family members did from living with diabetes.

LaBelle’s relatives have lost eyesight and limbs from the incurable illness, and LaBelle does not intend to let that happen to her.

So when she makes mac and cheese, she makes a few simple swaps to her recipe.

“You know, I use the low-fat cheese,” she said, “and I use wheat pastas now instead of the pastas that I was using some time ago.” By using wheat pasta, LaBelle is helping her blood sugar to remain stable and healthy.

“I use a spreadable butter,” she continued, “and anything that’s less and less and less.” She also uses Hood Calorie Countdown, a processed, low-calorie dairy product, rather than real milk. Cutting the fat and calories is heavy on the singer’s brain.

“But what makes it taste great to me when I make it for myself?” she prompted. “I add fresh garlic and I use habanero peppers in everything.”

And that’s the secret. Low-fat, diet mac and cheese can leave the palate wanting more — but with her favorite flavorful additions, she never feels deprived.

The singer loves her spice. LaBelle’s spicy recipes are some of her best, and she professes to always keeping a container of hot sauce with her in her purse.

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We might have to start doing that, too — or at least try loading up a nice, creamy bowl of low-cal mac and cheese.