The Best Protein You Can Eat, According to Nutritionists

The Best Protein You Can Eat, According to Nutritionists

“Protein is the key to keeping cravings at bay, building lean muscle and dropping those last few pounds. But according to a new review published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, it’s not just how much protein you eat that’s important: It’s where you get your protein that also matters.”  This is the opening statement to a recent article in the Huffington Post.

The article goes on to explain that protein is made up of an assortment of amino acids, and each source of protein differs in the amino acid mix.  Some amino acids are ‘essential’, in other words, we can only get them from food so it’s important that we get enough of these particular amino acids.  Most plant-based proteins don’t have all the essential amino acids so it’s important to either combine them with other plant-based sources or to get your protein from animal sources, which are the most complete source of essential amino acids.  It also explains that each food ‘packages’ protein along with other important key nutrients such as vitamin B12 and iron. Eat a variety of protein rich foods to take advantage of their full value. The article lists some of the healthiest sources of protein – eggs, cottage cheese, chicken, whole grains, fish, legumes, Greek yogurt, nuts and leafy greens – and describes their particular benefits.  Click here for the complete article, which also has links to the scientific article.  You may also be interested in this post with high protein breakfast ideas.  It has simple, easy, fresh and tasty ideas.


Quick and Easy Peach Frozen Yogurt

Quick and Easy Peach Frozen Yogurt

Sweet juicy BC peaches are making their way into the stores these days.  They are delicious just as they are, but for an equally healthy and yummy treat, try peach frozen yogurt or frozen yogurt popsicles.  They could be made with any fresh seasonal fruit.  Freezing the fruit first before blending it with yogurt speeds up the process and makes the end product a bit creamier.


We tried frozen strawberry popsicles – they were a hit – as well as frozen peach yogurt.  The frozen peach yogurt was a bit soft.  Letting it freeze overnight probably would have made it a bit firmer, but it disappeared before we had a chance to test that out :)!

Peach Frozen Yogurt



Frozen Peach Yogurt adapted from

Peach Frozen Yogurt

Makes: 4 servings, 3/4 cup (188 mL) each

Active Time: 

Total Time: 


  • 4 cups  (1 L) coarsely chopped frozen peaches (about 16 ounces)
  • 3 Tbsp (45 mL) honey
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) lemon juice


  1. Place peaches in a blender or food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Combine yogurt, honey and lemon juice in a measuring cup; with the machine on, gradually pour the mixture through the feed tube. Process until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides once or twice. Serve immediately or pour into a container or popsicle trays and freeze overnight.


Per serving: 145 calories, 1 g fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 30 g carbohydrates, 0 g fibre, 3 g protein, 24 mg sodium.  Canada Food Guide Servings 1.7 Vegetables & Fruits, 0.2 Milk & Milk Alternatives.







Zucchini, anyone?

Zucchini, anyone?

Zucchini is one of those vegetables that is a prolific producer AND an adaptable ingredient suitable for everything from appetizers to desserts.  Chances are, if you haven’t got some in your garden then someone you know has some in theirs!  Recipes that include zucchini are just as abundant as the zucchini itself.  The Pure Prairie Eating Plan book has 14 recipes with zucchini in them including salads, soups, breakfast muffins and casseroles.  In addition, there are lots of great recipes available on line – here’s a site that claims to have “29 of most delicious things you can do to zucchini” , and they do look delicious!

Here’s one of our favourites adapted from that site.  Savour the sweetness of the corn complimented by the spicy jalapeño and lime.  Serve as a salsa or a side dish.  In the photo we paired it with a basic guacamole (Easy Guacamole pg 154, PPEP) and a simple chicken stir fry with lime, garlic, pepper flakes, red onion and red and yellow peppers (adapted from Three-Way Chicken Kabobs, pg 130 PPEP).  Leftovers are great for lunches.


Zucchini and Corn

Serves 4 – Serving Size 1 cup


3 1/2 cups (875 mL) zucchini, cubed

1 cup (250 mL) fresh (approx 2 cobs), canned or frozen sweet corn

1/4 cup (63 mL)  red pepper, finely chopped

1 medium jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

2 tsp (10 mL) canola oil

Juice of 1 small lime

Salt and pepper to taste



1.  If you’re using fresh corn:   Husk and prep the sweet corn.  Boil in a large pot of boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain and cool so that it’s cool enough to cut from the cob.  Cut the corn from the cob and set aside.

2.  In a large frying pan, heat the canola oil over medium to high heat.  Add the zucchini and toast for 3-4 minutes.  Add red and jalapeño peppers, toast for another 2 minutes.  Add the corn and salt to taste (1/4 tsp).  Remove from heat and add lime juice. 

Nutritional Analysis (Per Serving):  86 kcal, 3 g fat, o.3 g saturated fat, 15 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fibre, 3 g protein, 298 mg sodium.

Fresh Sweet Corn!

Fresh Sweet Corn!

There’s nothing better or easier to prepare than fresh sweet corn…and now is the time that fresh corn is available in abundance on the prairies.  We usually boil it in a nice big pot of water for 5-8 minutes until it has reached the desired ‘doneness’, dust it with a bit of butter and sprinkle it with salt and pepper to taste.  Leftover corn can be added to salads or salsas.  If you’re looking for something a little different for your next BBQ, try this Mexican style corn recipe.   Serve with Pulse Canada’s  Black Bean Burgers (with or without the buns).




Elote (Mexican Grilled Corn)


Vegetable oil, for brushing

1 teaspoon chile powder

½ teaspoon cayenne powder

8 ears of corn, husked

¼ cup mayonnaise or unsalted butter

½ cup crumbled cotija cheese, Parmesan, or ricotta salata

1 lime, cut into 8 wedges



Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to high. Brush grill grate with oil. Combine chile powder and cayenne in a small bowl.

Grill corn, turning occasionally with tongs, until cooked through and lightly charred, about 10 minutes. Remove from grill and immediately brush each ear with 1½ tsp. mayonnaise. Sprinkle each with 1 Tbsp. cheese and a pinch of chile powder mixture. Squeeze 1 lime wedge over each ear and serve.

Nutritional analysis (per cob): 160 kcal, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 18 g carbohydrates, 2 g fibre, 6 g protein.  Canada’s Food Guide Servings:  1.1 Vegetables & Fruit, 0.3 Milk and Alternatives.

Experiencing the Mediterranean Diet firsthand, part 3!

Experiencing the Mediterranean Diet firsthand, part 3!

People are interested in the Mediterranean Diet pattern because of studies dating to the 1950’s that countries around the Mediterranean (Italy but also Spain, Greece, France) had lower levels of heart disease than European countries with different dietary patterns.  More recent research has upheld the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for preventing not only heart disease but also diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, even dementias like Alzheimer’s Disease.  Why this is true is not known for sure, and everyone has a favourite theory but what is probably true is that it’s not just one food but rather the whole pattern of foods, along with other aspects of lifestyle such as physical activity, the social aspects of eating and so on.

The Mediterreanean diet pyramid shows the types of foods included in the traditional diet pattern, underpinned by physical activity and social interactions. Plant-based foods are grouped together and the recommendation is that some of these foods be eaten at every meal.  This is different from Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, which separates Vegetables and Fruits from Grains, but similar in that both recommend the most amount of food servings come from plant-based foods.  Another difference is that the legumes (dried peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas) are included here, whereas in Canada’s Food Guide they are placed in Meat and Alternatives because of their high protein content.  Next up the pyramid comes fish and seafood, which makes total sense when you live next to the Mediterranean Sea (and perhaps next to the Atlantic, Pacific or Arctic Oceans in Canada) but not so much sense in Saskatchewan!  This is followed by poultry, eggs and dairy (mainly cheese and yogurt), recommended daily to weekly.  The top of the pyramid has meats and sweets, which are recommended “less often”, implying less than once per week.  Fluid intake centres on drinking water, with wine in moderation.


One of the recipes we saw demonstrated for us was a delicious, creamy soup base, which we had eaten previously with white beans, possibly cannellini beans.  The amount of each ingredient is an approximation – have fun trying your own versions.

Creamy Soup Base with Beans a la Guiseppe 

Heat 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 mL) olive oil in a large saucepan. Add one coarsely chopped yellow onion and sauté until translucent but not browned. Pour in about 4 cups (1 litre) of water. Add 2 cubed white potatoes, half a dozen fully ripe cherry tomatoes cut in half and a stalk of celery, chopped. Salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the potatoes disintegrate.

At this point, add 1 cup (250 ml) cooked cannellini beans or, as Guiseppe says, whatever you like in your soup – some smoked provolone cheese, ham, fresh spinach or Swiss chard, grated carrots – the great thing about this soup base is that it’s infinitely flexible.  If you like a really smooth soup, put the base in the blender or food processor for a few seconds before returning to the pot and adding the other ingredients. Additional water can be added as needed to achieve the desired consistency.

Hot off the press! PPEP Summer Newsletter

Hot off the press! PPEP Summer Newsletter

Barbecuing is a favourite summer pastime – our summer newsletter tackles the question “Is BBQing healthy?” and features a simple Planked Salmon BBQ menu with fresh potatoes, veggies and dip and Rhubarb-Bumbleberry Pie.  We also identify some opportunities to participate in nutrition research for those of you in the Edmonton area.

Experiencing the Mediterranean Diet firsthand

Experiencing the Mediterranean Diet firsthand

Rhonda and Cathy both had the opportunity to travel to the island of Ischia off the coast of Italy earlier this year.  They participated in teaching a course that included a section on the effects of culture and environment on food and eating.  They experienced amazing hospitality staying at La Rotonda sul Mare and eating at La Caserecchia ( in the evenings.  We asked them to tell us a bit about their experiences.


PPEP:  What was the most amazing food experience you had while in Italy?

R:  The freshness of everything was truly amazing.  Although it was still spring when I arrived, there was local produce available or it was brought in from farmland around Naples, which is a one-hour ferry-ride away.  The Colella family, which owns the restaurant, has their own farm.  The bruschetta was so delicious because of the sweetness of the tomatoes and the flavor of the olive oil.

C:  Lemons are famous on Ischia because they are so large and much sweeter than the lemons we import to Canada.  The first night we arrived it was very late but we were taken to the restaurant before going to the hotel.  I was persuaded to try the house special, a linguine in cream sauce with lemon.  Later we had a cooking lesson and learned how to make it:  three ingredients – pasta, cream, lemon zest.

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PPEP:  What surprised you about the Mediterranean Diet as it was practiced where you were?

R:  Well, since we were eating in a restaurant it’s not easy to determine how families were eating in their homes on a day-to-day basis.  One thing that endures is the social aspect of the meal.  Typically we didn’t start dinner until 7:30 or later and would leave around 3 hours later.  Most Italian families didn’t start until later than we did.

C:  I wasn’t surprised by the bountiful seafood in the diet.  We had several kinds of fish like sardines and anchovies as well as mussels and shrimp.  I was surprised by the amount of meat because the Mediterranean Diet pyramid suggests meat once per week or less.  That could also have been because we were eating in a restaurant.  I was also surprised that most of the vegetables were cooked, even breaded and deep-fried.  I was also surprised by some differences in food handling.  For example, eggs in grocery stores weren’t refrigerated.


PPEP:  What lessons would you bring from the Mediterranean to the prairies?

R:  Take advantage of what’s fresh and in season.  That’s hard to do in the prairie provinces about 8 months of the year, but for the other 4 months, you can amaze your taste buds.  Many grocery stores do try to highlight local produce and there are lots of farmers markets and backyard gardens.

C:  Enjoy eating with family and friends.  Try new recipes.  Anything with a vine-ripened tomato in it is twice as yummy.


La Caserecchia Bruschetta

For about 8 slices of Italian loaf:

½ cup (125 mL) balsamic vinegar

2 cups (500 mL) cherry tomatoes (halved/quartered)

8 fresh basil leaves, torn

2 cloves minced garlic (or to taste)

1 tsp. (5 mL) dried oregano

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Olive oil

8 slices of bread such as Italian loaf

To make a reduction, gently simmer ½ cup of balsamic vinegar in a small pot until reduced by half.  It should be thickened and syrupy.  Save the remainder for salad dressing or dipping strawberries.

Toast the bread lightly (in the toaster, under the broiler, or on the BBQ grill, making sure to flip it to brown both sides).  Brush each slice with olive oil.  Mix the basil leaves, minced garlic, oregano and 1 Tbsp. reduced balsamic vinegar with the diced tomatoes.  Top the bread with a generous scoop of tomato mixture.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Two slices makes an excellent lunch served with sparkling mineral water.

Note:  if the tomatoes are not as sweet as you would like, try oven-roasting them.  Place tomatoes cut side down on a glass dish (such as a pie plate).  Roast in 400 oF oven for about 15 minutes, until soft.  Mix with the other ingredients as described.


Nutritional analysis (per slice):  119 kcal, 1 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 22 g carbohydrate, 1.5 g fibre, 3.5 g protein.  Canada’s Food Guide Servings:  0.3 Vegetables & Fruit, 1.0 Grain Products.



We always look forward to fresh local strawberries.  They are another sign that summer has finally arrived.  They make a colourful addition to any meal and they have the benefit of being low in calories but relatively high in nutritional value.  From a nutritional standpoint, they are high in anthocyanin and ellagic acid, an excellent source of Vitamin C, a good source of vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and folic acid and contain vitamin-A, vitamin-E and health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin, and beta-carotene in small amounts as well as minerals like potassium, manganese, fluorine, copper, iron and iodine.

Pam Collacott, CTV News Ottawa’s Food Specialist, recently ran a feature on local strawberries and demonstrated the following Brown Rice and Strawberry Salad.  Click here to see the demo and other strawberry recipes.  The recipe is from Foodland Ontario  We added the Nutritional analysis.  Add a half a grilled chicken breast per person and a small green salad to complete the meal.


Serves 4 to 6.

  • 2 cups (500 mL) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup (250 mL) whole grain brown rice
  • 1/3 cup (83 mL) each: coarsely chopped pecans, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup (63 mL) each: cider vinegar and vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) liquid honey
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground or cracked pepper
  • 3 cups (750 mL) hulled quartered Ontario strawberries
  • 3 Ontario green onions, trimmed and sliced
  • ½ cup (125 mL) torn fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup (83 mL) slivered dried apricots
  • Garnish: Ontario lettuce leaves, fanned strawberries and basil leaves
  1. In medium saucepan, bring stock and rice to boil; cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until just tender. Drain off any liquid and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile in dry medium skillet, toast pecans, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds for 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool.
  3. In bowl or jar, mix or shake together vinegar, oil, honey and pepper.
  4. Five to 10 minutes before serving, pour dressing over berries and toss to coat. Add toasted nuts, seeds, green onions and basil to rice; stir in strawberry mixture and apricots.

Serve at room temperature on lettuce lined plates and garnish with fanned strawberries and basil leaves if desired.

Nutritional Analysis per serving, based on 6 servings (by PPEP using EATracker):  

Brown Rice and Strawberry Salad (alone): 360 kcal, 25 g fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 29 g carbohydrate, 5 g fibre, 10 g protein, 120 mg sodium. Canada’s Food Guide Servings: Vegetables and Fruits 1.3, Grain Products 0.3, Meat Alternatives  0.7.

Brown Rice and Strawberry Salad served with 1/2 grilled chicken breast and 1/3 cup of spring greens:  455 kcal, 26 g fat, 3.2 g saturated fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 6 g fibre, 29 g protein, 120 mg sodium. Canada’s Food Guide Servings: Vegetables and Fruits 1.7, Grain Products 0.3, Meat Alternatives  1.4.

Summer smoothies

Summer smoothies

Smoothies are great at any time of year…summer’s fresh bounty of fruits and veggies make them particularly great at this time of year.  There are lots of smoothie recipes on line (click here for some yummy ideas) and in cookbooks (Oh She Glows, for example).

Here’s a simple recipe made with fresh ingredients I had in my kitchen.   Kale, cucumber and lemon are the basis for it and then the secret is to add your favourite seasonal fruit(s) to sweeten it up just a little.

Creamy Kale and Pineapple Smoothie

Serves 2, Serving Size: 2 cups


1 cup (250 mL) fresh pineapple, diced

2 medium mandarine oranges

1 large lemon, peeled, seeded and diced

1 medium cucumber, diced

1 1in (2.5 cm) piece of ginger (optional)

1 cup (250 mL) chopped Kale, raw

1/2 cup (125 mL) water, or enough to make the desired consistency

Ice cubes (optional)


Layer the ingredients in the blender with the juiciest ones on the bottom, kale on the top.  Blend until smooth, divide and enjoy!


Nutritional analysis (per serving):  141 kcal, 1 g fat, 35 g carbohydrate, 5.8 g fibre, 4 g protein.



Nothing says ‘summer’ like barbecuing!

Nothing says ‘summer’ like barbecuing!

No matter what we barbecue, there’s something special about a summer barbecue.  We tend to eat outside on the deck and have friends over more often in summer.  Summer days are longer and life seems to take on a more relaxed pace…and food seems fresher and more flavourful.  Nancy Hughes developed a number of recipes for us for the Pure Prairie Eating Plan and one of our favourites is the Grilled Sirloin with Fresh Horseradish-Mint Relish on page 148.  Here it is again, just in time for the nice warm summer days.  Serve with fresh baby potatoes and asparagus.

Grilled Sirloin with Fresh Horseradish-Mint Relish

Serves 4  Serving Size: 4 oz (116 g) cooked steak, 1/2 cup (125 mL) relish


1/2 tsp (2 mL) coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) red pepper flakes

1 lb (450 g) boneless beef sirloin steak, trimmed of fat

1 Tbsp (15 mL) canola oil



1/2 medium poblano chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup (60 mL) diced cucumber

1 cup (250 mL) diced tomato

2 Tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh mint

3 Tbsp (45 mL) grated fresh horseradish

4 1/2 tsp (20 mL) cider vinegar

1 Tbsp (15 mL) canola oil

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt


1.  Preheat barbecue to medium heat

2.  Combine the black pepper, salt and pepper flakes in a small bowl.  Brush both sides of the beef with 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of canola oil and sprinkle both sides of the beef with the pepper mixture.

3.  Barbecue for 4 minutes on each side or until desired doneness. Use a food thermometer to check internal temperatures: 145oF (63oC) for medium rare; 160oF (71oC) for medium; 170oF (77oC) for well done. Place on cutting board and let stand for 3 minutes before thinly slicing.

4.  Meanwhile, combine relish ingredients in a medium bowl.  Serve beef with relish alongside.

About this recipe:  Not only tasty, this steak packs a nutritious punch with 34 g of protein plus iron, B vitamins and other valuable nutrients.  Nutritional Analysis (per serving): 265 kcal, 16 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 5 g carbohydrate, 2 g fibre, 34 g protein.

Chef’s tip:  You can substitute green bell peppers for poblano and add 1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) dried pepper flakes.