Alberta Food Fight Against Diabetes

  • By Twyla McGann
  • 18 Nov, 2016

1 Million People in Alberta Have Diabetes or Prediabetes

The Alberta Diabetes Foundation is launching a 13-month social media campaign to make more people aware of the growing problem of diabetes in our province and how they can use Alberta foods as a tool for preventing or managing this disease.

As November is Diabetes Awareness Month, the campaign will run from November 2016 – November 2017.

One million people in Alberta have diabetes or prediabetes. This means that 1 in 4 people are at a much higher risk of reduced lifespan and quality of life. This number will continue to rise and is projected to reach 1.3 million by 2026.

It is important that people with an increased risk of diabetes or that already have diabetes take action to manage this chronic disease. People with prediabetes can delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by making changes in their diet and by increasing their level of physical activity.

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are serious conditions and can lead to the same complications. If left untreated or improperly managed, diabetes can result in a variety of complications, including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation.

With the growing shadow of diabetes looming over our province, the Alberta Diabetes Foundation is taking action to share information that will arm Albertans with the tools they need to create a healthy lifestyle, including using the rich tapestry of products that are available right here.

Share the Message – Enter to Win

You can help support the Alberta Food Fight Against Diabetes by sharing our social media posts with #ABfoodfight, we also want to hear your stories/recipes/ideas, how you use Alberta food to fight diabetes.

Start by liking us on facebook (Alberta Diabetes Foundation) and following us on twitter (@ADFDiabetes). Comment/Share any #ABfoodfight post to be entered to win one of many prizes including Flaman Fitness equipment.

Draw Date: December 16, 2016


By Carmen Johnson 03 May, 2017

I don’t want to sound like an old hen here, but it’s a shame how eggs have been exiled from our plates for the last couple of decades. Many have opted to ditch the yolk or shell out money for egg substitutes.

But scientists have worked hard to unscramble the facts about dietary  cholesterol  and heart disease. What they found is that eggs are far from the dietary demons they're cracked up to be.

Egg-cellent News

It’s true: whole eggs  and egg yolks are high in cholesterol. But what we didn’t know when we started clucking about eggs is that cholesterol from food has relatively little impact on blood cholesterol ( 3 ). In fact, most of the cholesterol in our blood is made by our liver, not by our lunch.

Studies show that, for healthy people, eating an egg a day does not increase the risk of heart disease ( 24 ). It’s actually saturated and trans fats that are the real culprits that can do harm to  heart health . So it's likely not the eggs, but more their wing men (think bacon, sausage, biscuits and butter) that we need to watch out for.

One more important piece of information to shell out: If you have heart disease or diabetes, speak to your Doctor or Dietitian about cholesterol and fat intake recommendations based on your specific needs.  

The Sunny Side of Eggs

When it comes to nutrition, eggs are hard to beat. One large egg packs in 14 essential vitamins and minerals, all for just 70 calories ( 1 ). Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain  vitamin D , along with  ironzinc , vitamins  AE  and  B-vitamins .

They’re also loaded with disease-fighting nutrients like  cholinelutein and zeaxanthin . The latter two help ward off age-related eye disease while choline is a key ingredient in brain function.

Another good reason to put eggs back in your breakfast is that each egg serves up 6 grams of high-quality  protein , making 2 eggs equal to a  serving of meat . Protein not only helps keep you full and energized all day long, it also helps regulate our blood sugars and staves off muscle loss as we age.

Get Cracking

There’s no shortage of local eggs with 179 registered  egg farmers  in Alberta. And there’s no such thing as a bad egg. Whether they’re white or brown, organic or conventional, all eggs have a similar nutrition profile. The only exception is eggs that come from hens fed a diet enriched in flax seeds, which has more  omega-3 fatty acids.

At around 20 cents each, eggs are an affordable way to get high-quality protein into any meal. Try some of these easy and convenient ways to add eggs to your diet.

  • Beat a raw egg with a little non-fat milk, pour it into a microwave-safe mug and heat for 30 seconds. Voila! A perfectly cooked egg in a mere minute.
  • Chop up hard-boiled eggs into quarters and sprinkle them over mixed greens.
  • Egg custards are a delicious way to add a little nutrition to your dessert.
  • Stuff a whole wheat tortilla with scrambled eggs, black beans and diced peppers for a healthy option any time of the day. Add some grated cheese, salsa and cilantro for extra flavour.
  • Frittatas and omelets are fast and easy to assemble. For a quick and easy recipe check out the  Garden Fresh Frittata recipe from the  Pure Prairie Eating Plan  cookbook

Well, what are you waiting for? Get cracking!


1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Egg, chicken, whole, cooked, boiled in shell, hard-cooked . Accessed April 30, 2017 from .

2) Hu, F.B. et al (1999). A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA ; 281 (15): 1387 – 94.

3) Lecerf, J. & De Lorgeril, M. (2011). Dietary cholesterol: From physiology to cardiovascular risk. British Journal of Nutrition ; 106(1), 6-14. doi:10.1017/S0007114511000237

4) Qureshi, A.I. et al (2007). Regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Med Sci Monit ; 13 (1): CR1-8.

By Carmen Johnson 27 Mar, 2017

I know what you’re thinking: how is a Dietitian ever going to spout the benefits of the spud?

No question taters have gotten a bad wrap. Their M.O. has salty, fried snack written all over it. Plus, known associates include sour cream, bacon bits and melted cheese. That would put a blemish on anyone’s record!

But trust me when I say it’s guilt by association. When you strip away the oil, the salt and the condiments, you’re left with a tasty tuber that’s packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients. In other words: there’s gold in them thar spuds!

Nutrition Nugget

I understand the fear. Rumours abound that potatoes (and carbs in general) lead to weight gain and a slew of health problems.  But a small baked potato (128 g) has 3 grams of  fibre  and 3.5 grams of protein, all for just 128 calories ( 2 ). They are also low in sodium and have virtually no fat. That is, before we throw them in the deep fryer and douse them in salt and gravy.

Another misconception: In many cases, if a food lacks color, it also lacks nutrition. But don’t let the pale potato complexion fool you: spuds are chock full of vitamins and minerals. One small potato has more immune-boosting  vitamin C  than a medium tomato and double the amount of blood pressure-lowering  potassium  than a banana. They’re also a good source of  vitamin B6magnesium  and  iron .

Tater Time

If you’ve been avoiding potatoes because of their high  glycemic index  (GI), it’s time to update your grocery list.

When was the last time you ate a skinless baked potato with nothing else? Never! What the GI doesn’t tell you is that as soon as you combine carbohydrate with fat, fibre or protein, the GI drops. That means a slower and steadier release of sugar into the bloodstream. Just like any starchy food, it's important to have them as part of a balanced meal and watch your portions.

This Spud’s for You

In Canada, we grow more potatoes than any other vegetable ( 1 ).  Alberta farmers  plant over 50,000 acres of potatoes each year. That’s a whole lot of hash browns! From Russet Burbank to Yukon Gold, your local farmers harvest some of the best in the world.

Potatoes are one of the most versatile and budget-friendly veggies around. Boil ‘em, bake ‘em, nuke ‘em or toss ‘em on the grill. But for heaven’s sake, put the peeler away! More than half of the fibre is in the peel.

Some tasty ways to enjoy your ‘taters:

  1. Top a baked potato with baked beans, salsa, shredded cheese and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.
  2. Make "smashed” potatoes by mashing purple, red and yellow baby potatoes with their skins on.
  3. Ditch the deep fryer and make oven-baked fries instead. Add a small amount of canola oil and your favourite spices to sliced potatoes. Toss and then bake at 450° F for about 30 minutes, flipping once.
  4. Transform leftover mashed potatoes into quick and easy salmon cakes or tasty potato pancakes.
  5. If you do peel, save your skins! By adding just a little oil you can bake them up into healthy homemade potato chips.

And when you're in the mood for comfort-food, make sure to try the potato-packed  Stovetop Shepherd's Pie by the  Pure Prairie Eating Plan  Cookbook.


1) Edmonton Potato Growers Ltd. (2017). Fresh Potatoes. Accessed March 21, 2017 from

2) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Potato, flesh and skin, baked. Accessed March 21, 2017 from

By Carmen Johnson 16 Mar, 2017

St. Paddy's Day is just around the corner—and that means it's time to go green! If you're looking for a festive and delicious way to avoid getting pinched one fatty fruit will have you dancing a jig for joy.

When it comes to nutrition, the avocado is definitely a pot full of gold. Bright green, lusciously creamy, and full of vitamins and minerals, avocados are satisfying and good for your health.


If you grew up in the era of "fat makes you fat," you might still get a little squeamish when you see a bowl of the green stuff. Of course, avocados are called "nature’s butter" for a reason; they are loaded with fat. But don't let that scare you away. These babies are bursting with nutritional benefits!

Gram for gram, avocados have more blood pressure lowering potassium than bananas, are bursting with immune-boosting vitamin C and are an excellent source of folate—a B-vitamin that keeps the DNA in your cells working well ( 1 ). They also deliver lutein and zeaxanthin , two phytochemicals that keep your eyes healthy .

Unlike butter, their high fat content comes mainly from healthy monounsaturated fats  (the same type found in olive oil). Replacing foods high in saturated fats with mono- and polyunsaturated-rich foods can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase your HDL (good) cholesterol ( 2 ). If you have diabetes you're already at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, so it's especially important to make heart healthy choices ( 3 ).

Avocados also boast an exceptional amount of fibre . One avocado packs in a whopping 13.5 grams ( 1 ). For women, that’s half of your daily requirement! The fibre/healthy fat combo not only helps keep blood sugars in a healthy range, but it also keeps you feeling full for longer, which helps reduce overeating.

Go Green

If you're celebrating St. Patrick's Day and want to celebrate in style, you’ve got the luck of the Irish with this green food. Just remember, since the calories from avocado can add up quickly, it’s best to swap them in for less healthy items on your plate and watch your portions.

Try these tasty ideas to green-ify your St. Paddy’s Day menu:

1.    Start your day off with an energizing avocado smoothie.

2.    Spread mashed avocado on whole-wheat toast instead of butter.

3.    Replace the mayonnaise in chicken or egg salad with mashed avocado.

4.    Mash potatoes with avocado instead of sour cream or butter.

5.    Boost the fibre in your baking by using mashed avocado in place of butter.

There's a million ways to enjoy this lovable fruit. But in my opinion, none are quite as delicious—or as easy—as guacamole. For a quick and simple way to serve some green to your guests, try the Easy Guacamole  recipe from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan  Cookbook.



1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Avocado, raw, all commercial varieties . Accessed March 7, 2017 from

2) Heart and Stroke Foundation (2017). Dietary fat, oils and cholesterol . Accessed March 7, 2017 from

3) Public Health Agency of Canada (2011). Diabetes in Canada: Facts and figures from a public health perspective . Accessed March 7, 2017.

By Twyla McGann 03 Mar, 2017

There are a lot of foods trying to reel you in with claims about their supposed health benefits. The problem with these so-called superfoods is it muddies the water when it comes to other foods that are readily available and swimming in nutrition.  

But there’s nothing fishy when it comes to salmon’s health claims. Not only is it delicious; it's also full of potent heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus it's quick and easy to cook, making it a reel winner for busy families.

A Total Catch

When it comes to fish, salmon it truly the catch of the day. Its juicy pink flesh is brimming with protein and energy-boosting B-vitamins . It's also loaded with important minerals like potassium , selenium  and phosphorus .

But that’s not all: salmon is one of the few foods that naturally contains vitamin D,  which is very important for bone health if you're living in the north, since it helps with the absorption of calcium.  

It's not a small amount, either! A three-ounce serving can contain as much as 500 international units (IU) of this superstar vitamin ( 1 ). That's more than 80% of the daily-recommended amount  for children and adults under 70.

Plus, canned salmon—with the soft edible bones—provides a generous amount of calcium. The calcium/vitamin D combo gives you a double-dose of bone-building benefits.

Mega Health Benefits

If that wasn’t bait enough, salmon is also loaded with heart-healthy, brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids . They're good for your ticker in a few ways, improving blood vessel function, reducing the risk of stroke and helping to lower triglycerides, a blood fat linked to heart disease ( 2 ). That's just the beginning. They also reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.

Omega-3 fatty acids may also guard against type-2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's disease ( 3 ). Plus, they promote healthy nerve, eye and brain development. If that isn't enough to send you straight to the fish aisle, I don't know what is!


From (Fish) Farm to Fork

Chinook or Sockeye, farm-raised or wild-caught, all salmon is a healthy choice. To reel in all the benefits, Health Canada  recommends you consume fish like salmon at least twice a week. Thanks to flash freezing and air deliveries, it’s easy for even land-locked salmon lovers to enjoy this delish fish all year round.

Baked, broiled, grilled or poached—the possibilities are endless when it comes to cooking salmon. Just keep in mind although salmon is healthy, eating it battered and deep-fried isn’t going to do any wonders for your heart or your waistline.

Still not hooked? Try these tasty ways to enjoy salmon:

  • Grill salmon on the barbecue with lemon and dill for a healthy and tasty dinner.
  • Top a green salad with leftover salmon for an easy lunch on the go.
  • Make a salmon salad sandwich with canned salmon, a little mayo, diced green onions and celery.
  • Whip up some baked salmon cakes and serve with creamy dill sauce.
  • Toss flakes of baked salmon with cooked pasta and alfredo sauce for rich and creamy dish.

For a recipe that never flounders, try the Orange-Glazed Salmon over Sautéed Spinach  from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan  Cookbook. It's o-fish-ally delicious!


1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Fish, salmon, pink (humpback), baked or broiled. Retrieved from:

2) Heart and Stroke Foundation (2017). Healthy Eating: Dietary Fats, Oils and Cholesterol . Retrieved from:

3) Mayo Clinic (2013). Drugs and Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid . Retrieved from:

By Twyla McGann 03 Mar, 2017

The intent of #ABfoodfight is to share research from experts in Alberta and around the world when it pertains to Alberta based-food products as well. In light of that, new research from Ireland sheds light on the fact that consumption of cheese in 1500 people aged 18-90 demonstrated no effect on body fat or LDL cholesterol. #ABfoodfight encourages you to click the link for the full article.

Irish study says people with highest dairy consumption have lower BMI

By  Jim Cornall+ , 23-Feb-2017

By Twyla McGann 22 Feb, 2017

There’s nothing quite like a hearty bowl of oatmeal to warm you up on a chilly February morning. And since oats are famous for keeping blood cholesterol in check, it seems only fitting to celebrate them during Heart Month .

But oats are no one-trick pony. There are many reasons why oatmeal was your Grandma’s favourite breakfast – and should be yours too!

The Heart of the Matter

Most comfort foods aren’t exactly known for their health benefits – but oats are an exception to the rule!

Research shows that oats help lower elevated blood cholesterol thanks to a special type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan. Just one bowl of cooked oatmeal serves up the 3 grams of beta-glucan shown to trigger a 5 - 7% drop in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol ( 2 ). Studies also show that replacing refined grains with oats can help lower blood pressure ( 3 ).

But wait, there’s more: Large flake and steel-cut oats are low glycemic  foods, meaning they're slowly digested and gradually released as sugar into the bloodstream. This makes oats especially useful for people with diabetes who need to control their blood sugars.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the fibre  in oatmeal is also good for our waistlines. Whole grain oats are high in complex carbohydrates and fibre, which help you feel full for longer and eat less during the day. So oats in the morning may be the perfect way to end late night nibbling.

A Heart of Gold

What makes oats so oatstanding ? One serving of cooked oats (¾ cup) fills you up with a satisfying 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fibre – all for just 166 calories ( 1 ).

But that’s not all: Oats are also loaded with heart-healthy minerals like magnesium , which helps control blood pressure, and iron , which helps deliver oxygen-rich blood to your heart and body.

Eat to Your Heart’s Content

Okay, so you’ve hopped off the gravy train and onto the oat boat. But with so many options it can be hard to choose the right oats to satisfy your craving.

A good rule of thumb is that the slower your oatmeal cooks, the better it is for you. Although instant and quick-cooking oats are easy to prepare, you’ll pay for that convenience with less nutrients and more added salt and sugar.

Whenever possible, choose regular, slow-cooking oats. They can be used in baking and cooking and are ready on the stovetop in just 10 minutes. Steel-cut oats are an even healthier choice. They take about 20 minutes to cook; but since none of the nutrients are removed in the processing they're well worth the wait.

Oats can be enjoyed any time of the day in many different ways:

  • Start your day with a bowl of hearty oatmeal. Instead of sugar, sweeten it by adding banana slices and cinnamon while the oats are cooking.
  • Make your own granola by mixing oats with dried fruit, nuts and honey. Bake until golden and crunchy.
  • Boost the fibre in your baking by adding oats into muffin, loaf or pancake batters.
  • Mix oats with lean ground meat or beans when making burgers, meatballs or meatloaf.

For a delicious and heart-warming start the day try the Fruity Breakfast Oats  from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan .


1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Cereal, hot, oats, large flakes, dry, Quaker. Retrieved from:

2) Othman RA, Moghadasian MH, Jones PJ (2011). Cholesterol-lowering effect of oat β-glucan. Nutrition Reviews, 69 (6): 299-309. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00401.x

3) Tighe P et al (2010). Effect of increased consumption of whole-grain foods on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk markers in healthy middle-aged persons: a randomized-controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92 (4): 733-740. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29417

By Twyla McGann 16 Feb, 2017
As parents, we are often encouraged to model the best behavior in our children. I remind this myself every time I am about to yell "Who left the milk out"?

We can also do this with our exercise routines. While we may all be interested in sleeping-in this long Family Day weekend, or catching that new movie that just came out or that Netflix special, we could also leave our own comforts and couches, find our mitts and scarves and join the kids outside! The local toboggan hill is always the easiest and fun place to keep active and it's just a short walk home for home chocolate!

If you and the family are looking for more Family Day activities though, City of Edmonton has a few ideas to enjoy the day together whether it is inside or out.

Enjoy your Family Day!

Sincerely, the Alberta Diabetes Foundation
By Twyla McGann 16 Feb, 2017

Our determination to follow a healthy eating plan can be undone by the strategic layout of our favorite grocery stores.

Supermarkets are in the business of making money, so they use proven psychological tactics that influence people to make unplanned purchases—and it’s impulsive food buys that often end up raising our  glucose levels , and packing on unwanted pounds.

Supermarket Strategies

To avoid getting caught in a grocery store’s logistical web, we can take four common sense steps. First, plan each week’s meals. Second, create a shopping list for the meal plan. Third, only buy what’s on our list. Finally, go shopping with a basic understanding of supermarket layout strategies:

  • Delighting the Eye. The produce section is usually at the front of a grocery store. Though it's illogical to place easily bruised produce at the bottom of a shopping cart, the colorful cornucopia of fresh garden delights is perfectly positioned to draw us into the market. This is partly helpful since we should be eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; however, people shopping without a list frequently buy appealing produce that never gets eaten.
  • Enchanting the Nose. Also at the front of many supermarkets are the aromatic offerings of bakeries, coffee, and flower shops. These areas are inviting, awaken our senses, trigger our salivary glands, and account for many shoppers’ unplanned purchases. Not that we shouldn’t enjoy these products from time to time, but we need to be on guard for impulse buys that can undermine blood sugar or weight loss goals.
  • Some stores place their bakeries at the back wall, hoping customers follow their nose through store aisles, and pick up enticing products along the way.

  • Dairy Destiny Almost all shoppers have at least one dairy product to purchase, and quick trips to the grocery store are frequently for things such as milk, cream, or butter. Placing dairy departments at the back of a grocery store ensures most customers will walk the store’s length, past a dizzying array of tempting goods.
  • Time Warp. Playing background music, and a lack of external time cues (e.g., windows, clocks, skylights) are proven ways to keep grocery shoppers in the store longer. The longer we shop the more we see—and purchase.

  • Sensory Shock. The sheer volume of goods on supermarket shelves - 44,000 items on average - creates a sensory and information overload. Research indicates that after 40 minutes of quick decision making in this overwhelming environment we start shopping emotionally, tossing in half the cart items we never planned on purchasing.
  • Location, Location. End caps, or end of aisle displays, are customer traps set by companies willing to pay for prime product location. Goods sitting at end caps sell up to eight times faster than if they were shelved farther down an aisle.
  • Lure of Space. Just as we tend to fill a large plate with more food than we need, we tend to load up those deep-bellied shopping carts with unnecessary items. Since their inception in 1937, carts have tripled in size. It’s good for a store’s bottom line, but not necessarily good for our waistlines.

Understanding these supermarket strategies can help us avoid the discretionary buys that may sabotage our dietary goals. By adding to that understanding well thought out meal plans and shopping lists we can more easily ignore a store’s strategic temptations and stay the course of well being.

Sources:  Notre Dame CollegeNational Geographic

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By Twyla McGann 13 Feb, 2017

Do you steer clear of beets because they leave your kitchen looking like a crime scene? Don’t let the deep shade of red fool you; there’s nothing criminal about these root vegetables. Quite the opposite, in fact. So unless you’re wearing white, don’t fear the beet stain–it might just be a sign of good health.

Nutrition Knock-out

If you can’t beet ‘em, eat ‘em! Not only are beets a source of fibre and low in calories; they're also chock-full of essential nutrients like folate , potassium  and vitamin C .

One serving of raw beets (½ cup) contains 31 calories and 1.4 grams of fibre ( 1 ). Beets do contain more natural sugar than most vegetables (4.9 grams per serving), but overall, they have a low glycemic load , meaning they won’t cause rapid spikes in blood sugars .

And don’t forget about the greens! Beet greens are rich in calcium , iron  and vitamins A  and C. Cook them up like you would spinach or kale and enjoy!

Un-Beet-able Health Benefits

The same pigment that gives them their deep crimson colour is also responsible for their powerful health properties. This potent antioxidant , called Betalain , is known to battle free radical- and inflammation-related diseases like cancer  and heart disease  ( 3 ).

Beets also contain naturally occurring betaine , a compound that has been shown to protect the liver from damage ( 2 ). Betaine also helps lower homocysteine  levels in your blood, which could reduce your risk of heart disease.

Beets are also rich in nitrates, which, when converted to nitric oxide, relax and dilate blood vessels. That means better circulation , lower blood pressure  and it may also mean enhanced blood flow to muscles and improved athletic performance ( 4 , 5 ).

How to Eat your Beets

There are countless ways to enjoy beets. Whether you boil, blend or bake them, their sweet earthy flavour and vibrant red hue are guaranteed to jazz up any soup, salad or side dish.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of beets without staining your counters, you’re in luck. Although the purple-red variety is most common, you can also find yellow, white and red-white striped varieties. Plus, they’re available year-round, which makes them an easy and affordable addition to any diet. Just try one or more of the following tips:

  1. Beet the morning blues with a beetroot smoothie. Just blend leftover cooked beets with frozen blueberries, low fat milk and orange juice.
  2. Make your salad a rainbow by topping mixed greens with grated beets, grated carrots, sliced yellow peppers, edamame beans and a handful of dried cranberries.
  3. Treat yourself with these chocolate beet “love” muffins ! You won't taste the pureed beets, but they make the muffins extra moist and delicious (and perfect for Valentine's Day).
  4. Try a chip off the ol’ beet block with homemade beet chips! Toss thinly sliced beets with olive oil and salt and roast at 400°F for about 45 minutes, turning halfway through.

Want to treat your Valentine to a meal featuring the colour of love? Why not add borscht to the menu! This traditional Ukrainian soup is sure to make your heart and stomach happy. Check out the Healthy Borscht Soup  from Alberta’s very own Pure Prairie Eating Plan Cookbook.




1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Beets, raw. Retrieved from:


2) Craig, S. (2004). Betaine and Human Nutrition. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , 80 (3): 539-549. Retrieved from:


3) Gengatharan, A. et al (2015). Natural plant pigments with potential application in functional foods. LWT - Food Science and Technology , 64 (2): 645-649. doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2015.06.052


4) Jones, A. (2014). Dietary Nitrate Supplementation and Exercise Performance. Sports Medicine , 44 (1): 35–45. doi: 10.1007/s40279-014-0149-y


5) Siervo, M. et al (2013). Inorganic Nitrate and Beetroot Juice Supplementation Reduces Blood Pressure in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Nutrition , 143 (6): 818-882. doi: 10.3945/​jn.112.170233

By Twyla McGann 09 Feb, 2017

The 2016  Community Scholar Award  winners, Catherine Chan and Rhonda Bell, know a thing or two about the benefits of enjoying a fresh and healthy meal.

As nutrition researchers with the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, they spent a lot of time putting together menus and recipes for people with diabetes. Soon, those people began to encourage them to share those resources more widely, and the Pure Prairie Eating Plan was born.

Although it was originally developed to manage Type 2 diabetes, the plan offers a way of eating that’s good for almost everyone. The menu is based on a combination of the Mediterranean Diet and Canada’s Food Guide, with lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, balanced proteins (including meat, poultry, fish, dairy and pulses), and plenty of fibre, but without a lot of processed foods.

“Research shows that when people prepare foods themselves, they tend to eat a healthier diet,” says Chan.

Unlike other plans, which focus on excluding foods, one of the key features of Pure Prairie is a focus on including foods people eat regularly. Chan explains, “We think that if people are going to stick with healthy eating for a lifetime, the foods in the menus have to be culturally relevant, not too expensive, readily available and great-tasting.”

That element of availability and cultural relevance was also a factor in choosing a lot of locally produced foods in the menu. But unlike trends such as the 100-Mile Diet, Chan and Bell’s plan leaves some flexibility for more exotic choices to complement local options, with foods like coconut milk and tuna still making the shopping list. “While we focused on prairie-grown foods, it's not exclusively that,” Chan says.

“We think that if people are going to stick with healthy eating for a lifetime, the foods in the menus have to be culturally relevant, not too expensive, readily available and great-tasting.”

Two years after the team self-published the book, it’s had quite an impact. With support from agricultural groups, promotions by the Alberta Diabetes Foundation and Alberta Diabetes Institute, and even a nod from the U of A’s Tim Caulfield in The Cure for Everything, the plan is getting noticed. Alberta Health Services has picked up the book for a pilot project creating a community kitchen for seniors, and Health Canada has started using it in programming for Aboriginal communities in Alberta. It’s also been picked up for cooking classes offered through Sunterra Market.

The widespread community adoption of the plan has been rewarding for the team. Chan says, “A lot of our research is community-oriented, which means the community comes to us and says ‘yes, we'd like to participate and give to the university.’” The publication of the plan deepened those connections. “After publishing PPEP we had the opportunity to interact with the community in a whole new way. We met a lot of great people who supported our work on a whole different level. The whole goal of our original research was to develop something practical, and PPEP seems to have achieved that.”

The Community Scholar Award recognizes an individual or team of academic staff members who not only excel in their scholarship, but also readily and frequently bring that scholarship into the community, showing how their work affects people’s lives.

“Cultures all around the world incorporate food and eating together into celebrations. We want to have special foods for these occasions. The trick is to pick favourite recipes with a healthy twist, like in this menu—a yummy barbecued steak on a big plate of greens, super-fresh seasonal vegetables like asparagus, and for the dessert a combination of fruit and whole grains that satisfies our desire for something sweet but still delivers something nutritious. The main trick is to not go overboard on portions—everything in moderation!”

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