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Charity Curley Mathews Headshot

Are Celebrity Chefs Making Us Fat?

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In a word, no. But from Paula Deen, whose battle with diabetes has become very public and at least a little controversial when paired with an estimated net worth of $14 million, to my beloved Ina Garten, another wealthy woman of the kitchen with seven cookbooks, a line of signature products and numerous TV shows boosting her bottom line, adding buckets of butter to every recipe isn't exactly a straight shot to healthy living.

And isn't that the point of cooking at home, at least in part? To prepare a healthy meal, on a budget, and enjoy it together? (Particularly when our own Huffington Post reports this week that most restaurant entrees contain more than a full day's worth of sodium and nearly as much sugar and fat.) And who cares anyway? There are some, including a particularly outspoken Swiss chef I met at a barbeque this weekend, who'll say, "just eat everything in moderation. All this bird food is silly". To this I say, hmm.

The fact is, I have very small children. One is turning 3 at the end of this month, the other is 15 months old and we've got one more coming soon. (So far, he's subjected to whatever I eat, and I can assure you that's not exactly bird food. Unless pigeons enjoy lots of chocolate.) My young girls however, have the rest of their lives to become hooked on junk food, but for now I don't WANT them to develop a taste for extreme sweetness, saltiness and fried foods. And I'd also prefer that they not develop type 2 diabetes, a threat steadily on the rise everywhere. Earlier this week USA Today reported a massive increase in pre-teens and teens who've developed the deadly disease, shooting up from 8 percent to 23 percent from 2000 to 2008, and 90 percent of those cases were type 2. This is not okay.

On a lighter note, I have my own issues. As someone who's been pregnant three times in as many years, you can imagine the revolving waistline I'm dealing with here. So I make an effort to prepare meals with a little less of all three. Instead, we eat a lot of veggies, fruit, whole grains, yogurt and in many cases, white beans. Yep, sometimes I "sneak" it in, sometimes I substitute and sometimes I simply serve the healthier fare straight up on a plate. Not everything is a win, not even close, but more often than not, these little guys gobble it up.

And it's not weird stuff. We're eating pasta (whole wheat), pizza (homemade, with white bean crust), quesadillas and every other tasty, kid-friendly option out there. And there's dessert too. But I usually cut the sugar, always substitute applesauce for oil and add at least a little fruit to any batter. Do the kids have regular brownies sometimes? Ice cream? French fries? Yes, yes and yes. Everyone enjoys a treat now and then but for everyday eating, it just won't work. Not if we want to be happy and healthy in the long run.

Let's not pick on these TV personalities though. Their main job is to entertain. You've also got hardworking heroes like Jamie Oliver who aren't cooking up so much decadence with every dish but just begging Americans to dust off a few pots and pans instead of heading to the Golden Arches so often. He knows it's healthier to have a working relationship with food in your own kitchen, though I'd argue that it's just as easy to take it one step further.

With that said, I've updated a few of my favorite recipes ripped straight from the celebrity cookbooks and TV shows that I, along with many a dinner guest, have thoroughly enjoyed over the years. These have been made over for reasons of health and happiness, especially with the little ones in mind. Here's to raising healthy, happy eaters... with just a little less butter.