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EXCLUSIVE: Patti LaBelle Tells Us Her Secret To Diabetic-Friendly Holiday Staples, Plus What She’s Most Thankful For!

The soulful singer opened up to BET.com about her type 2 diabetes diagnosis, along with how she handles holiday menus without depriving herself.

Patti LaBelle will be on tour the day after Thanksgiving. Naturally, the soulful singer is extremely thankful for the opportunity to step foot on stage and flex her vocals during the festive season. She’s looking forward to enjoying quality time with her loved ones this year.

“I'm thankful that my close members, my family, and friends, have not been affected in the last two years with COVID,” she tells BET Lifestyle. “I'm also thankful that I have a job and that I'm working again. I wake up every day and say God has totally touched me in so many ways. And I’m healthy.”

For those who are not aware, almost 25 years ago, Ms. Labelle was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She learned the scary news while she was performing onstage in Albany, NY and suddenly passed out. “I thought it was from being exhausted because we're on a heavy tour. They rushed me to the hospital and the doctor came out and told me what was up. I was a type 2 diabetic,” she recounted.

Troubled by the diagnosis, everyone’s favorite chef insisted on a lifestyle change that began in her kitchen. “I started cooking differently,” she explained, highlighting her past diet, which included fried foods. “Instead of fried chicken, I sautéed it with grapeseed oil or just water and let it steam—but I made sure habanero peppers, fresh garlic, and oregano were in there to take away the urge of wanting fried foods.”

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She went on to explain that whenever she cooks collard greens, a soul food staple during the holidays, she turns to a smoked turkey. That’s only if she decides she doesn’t want collard greens decorated with the flavors of onions, habanero peppers, grapeseed oil, and diabetic chicken broth. “I learned to cook [diabetic-friendly meals] and it was fun. I enjoyed having to change my diet because it was more healthy for me anyway. I can make anything great without all the extras.”

While she can still throw down in the kitchen for anyone’s diet (just ask the many celebrities who constantly praise her cooking), she does encourage all those who pull up a chair to her table to try healthier options.

During this National Diabetes Awareness Month, Ms. LaBelle is also using her platform to advocate for a change and bring attention to the health disparities in the underserved Black neighborhoods, where there’s an increased prevalence of diabetes.

“Anything that I put my name on, I totally believe in. Partnering with Dexcom was one of the best things for me,” she explains about her decision to partner with the diabetes tech company to spotlight the need for equality in diabetes care. She personally feels that underserved communities should have access to technology, like continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), which she uses daily.

“It’s like my lifesaver,” she reveals about the Dexcom G6 CGM System, which features a slim sensor that continuously measures glucose levels and sends data wirelessly to a display device. “I take it on stage with me and check it while I'm singing. I love talking about it,” she reassures us.

As for how she handles holiday menus, she keeps it simple. “I know how to do things within reason. If I'm going to take a piece of my good cobbler, I'll have a spoonful. Always within moderation,” she reminds us. “I don’t deprive myself.”

** Editor’s Note: This story/interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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