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New cookbook by Guelph Family Health Study offers families plant-based protein recipes

'We hope that families will try them out and enjoy them,' said director of the Guelph Family Health study, David Ma

Helping families is the reason behind researchers from the University of Guelph and the Guelph Family Health Study (GFHS) releasing a new cookbook on plant-based proteins.

Plant-Based Proteins: Recipes Made Easy-Peasy features 30 recipes using different types of plant-based proteins, like curried chickpea salad or chicken and lima bean stew. All the recipes included in the book are nutritious, affordable and made with only a few ingredients. 

David Ma, director of the GFHS, said this is the sixth cookbook released by the team and partners. It is also the first cookbook available for download in both English and French.

“Some of these recipes are framed as such that they introduce these potentially novel sources of protein, but then we also have some that are a little more unfamiliar,” Ma said about this cookbook. “We hope that families will try them out and enjoy them.”

To help come up with the recipes for their latest cookbook, GFHS teamed up with the George Brown Food Innovation & Research Studio and The Helderleigh Foundation. Other sponsors who contributed include Our Food Future, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, The Canadian Nutrition Society, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance and Health Canada.

Ma adds this cookbook is not strictly for vegans or vegetarians, but instead offers a way to help families follow the Canada Food Guide, which was updated in 2019 to include more plant-based options. Ma explains the cookbook has been vetted by Health Canada, and along with recipes, also contains information about different types of plant-based proteins, and the benefits of incorporating them into your diet.

“This cookbook has been in the works now for a year and a bit, it got a little bit delayed because of the pandemic, but we are very happy to work with all these different groups and different levels of expertise.”

By producing cookbooks like this, GFHS hopes to also promote nutritional literacy and food literacy grounded within research. Currently, Ma said they have a PhD student working with GFHS who is looking into plant-based proteins.

“Over time, we’re developed a number of cookbooks and each of the themes of the cookbooks are based, in some way, on our research,” said Ma. “They not only provide interesting recipes, useful recipes, but they’re also grounded in some of the research activities that we do.”

Since starting the study back in 2014, Ma explains researchers have been producing cookbooks for families participating in the study, based upon their request for family-friendly recipes.

“Families are busy, they’re doing a lot of things, running around, going from activity to activity, so families were asking, ‘Oh, do you have any family-friendly recipes that are simple, quick and affordable?’” said Ma. “A very simple criteria, and they asked, ‘Could you make some recommendations?’

“We took that idea and did something a little bit more than just curated recipes, and we actually created one of our first cookbooks that way, based on that inspiration and that ask from us from our families.”

Besides offering simple, quick and affordable meal ideas, the cookbook is designed in a way that kids can also follow along or become involved.

“We make them simple so that families with young children can engage the children in food preparation in meals,” said Ma. “Kids are amazing and they can do a lot of things in an age-appropriate manner.”

Prior to publishing the cookbook, Ma said some of the families in their study participated in a virtual cooking night, to get a sense of what these families thought about three of the recipes from the book.

"We got some really good feedback from them on whether they liked it or not, if it was easy or was it simple or all that, and that's another example of the multi-dimensional contribution of folks in these cookbooks," Ma said about all the parties involved in the process of this cookbook. 

Now that it is published, Ma said GFHS plans to follow up with the families involved in their study to get further feedback about the recipes. Ma adds the cookbook will also be launched nationally by Health Canada in March 2022 for nutrition month.

"It's a diversity of recipes that are grounded in important nutritional topics that are important to Canadians and Canadian families," said Ma.

Anyone who is interested in trying these recipes with their own family, can download the cookbook here.