Healthy eating is a key factor in preventing and treating chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes as well as related diseases. According to the World Health Organization, good nutrition is one of 4 key factors that could help postpone or avoid 90% of type 2 diabetes and 80% of coronary heart disease. The Mediterranean Diet has gained popularity as a healthy diet, but evidence gathered through research on products grown in the Canadian prairie provinces (canola, flax, barley, pulses, dairy and meats as well as fruits and vegetables) demonstrates that prairie-grown foods have similar nutritional qualities and would be more acceptable and accessible to prairie residents. There is also evidence that, in addition to adequate nutritional quality, food should be accessible, acceptable and available (the 4A Framework) to facilitate healthy eating. The objectives of the Pure Prairie Eating Plan project were to develop, test and demonstrate the potential health benefits of foods that are commonly grown and consumed in the prairie provinces in a “made in the prairies” menu plan and recipe book.
The Pure Prairie Eating Plan project was developed as 3-year plan aimed at improving diet quality for people living in the Canadian prairie provinces. The Alberta Meats and Livestock Agency (ALMA) provided funding for the first 2 years of the project. The Pure Prairie Eating Plan integrates knowledge gained through research related to consumer behavior, behavior change, and nutritional quality of dairy, meats, canola, pulses and grains. A Consensus Conference was held with diabetes experts and patients to exchange knowledge, identify issues, and collaboratively develop recommendations on programs to support improved diet quality for people with type 2 diabetes. This multi-disciplinary, multi-faceted, iterative approach provided knowledge that formed the basis of a 4-week menu plan with recipes, shopping lists and information about nutritional properties of foods that are grown and readily available in the Canadian prairie provinces. Funding was secured through the Alberta Diabetes Institute (ADI) to test the Pure Prairie Eating Plan in a 24-week program that measured both effects on health and how well people with Type 2 diabetes liked the Pure Prairie Eating Plan. Results from the initial pilot trial produced promising results with improvements in blood-sugar control, levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and acceptance of the menu plan.