06/27/2012 at 11:00 AM EDT
Paula Deen knew it was time for a change.
Nearly six months after announcing she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes
, the Food Network star, 65, opened up her Savannah home – and fridge – to PEOPLE, and revealed how she devised a slim-down strategy that has worked for her.
"I do think differently now" about food, Deen says in this week's cover story. "I'm more aware."
So instead of regular meals with her favorite trigger foods (so long, mashed potatoes), the Southern chef has developed a new-found love for Greek salads and baked fish.
Her focus has paid off: So far, she's dropped 30 lbs. – and counting.
"It took me a couple of years to get to this point," says Deen, who learned she had diabetes almost three years ago and faced harsh criticism when she finally announced her diagnosis in January. "If you make a few small changes, they can add up to big results."
For all the details about Paula Deen's weight-loss plan, plus some of her new guilt-free recipes, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday