Episode 41: Our new plant-based proteins cookbook is here! Interview with Katherine Eckert

To introduce you to the cookbook, we have a great interview with Katherine Eckert on the Healthy Habits Happy Homes podcast. Kat is a PhD Candidate with the GFHS and was involved in the development of the cookbook. Tune in to hear more details about the approach to plant-based foods in the cookbook, some of Kat’s favourite recipes, and tips on how to incorporate more plant-based proteins into your family’s routine.





Lisa Tang  0:05 

Hello, and welcome to the Healthy Habits, Happy Homes podcast hosted by the Guelph Family Health Study.


Sabrina Douglas  0:11 

If you’re interested in the most recent research and helpful tips for a healthy, balanced living for you and your family, then this podcast is for you. In each episode, we will bring you topics that are important to your growing family, and guests who will share their expertise and experience with you.


Lisa Tang  0:27 

Our quick tips will help your family build healthy habits for a happy home.


Sabrina Douglas  0:38 

Welcome back to the Healthy Habits Happy Homes podcast. I’m Sabrina,


Lisa Tang  0:41 

And I’m Lisa, and on today’s podcast, we are excited to have Katherine Eckert join us. Kat is a registered dietitian and a PhD student in Family Relations and Applied Nutrition whose research is focused on healthy and sustainable eating. And today Kat is here to speak to us about the new Guelph Family Health Study cookbook, which is focused on plant-based eating. So welcome, Kat.


Kat Eckert  1:05 

Hi there. Thanks for having me.


Lisa Tang  1:07 

It’s so great to have you on. So, I thought maybe we could start today by, perhaps, you telling us a little bit about your research and your role with the Guelph Family Health Study?


Kat Eckert  1:15 

For sure. Yeah. So, as you mentioned, I’m a first-year PhD student and a registered dietician. And, I’m working with Dr. Jess Haynes and the Guelph Family Health Study. The aim of my research is to foster healthy and sustainable eating. So, specifically, past research has shown that increasing dietary intake of plant-based protein foods is helpful for both healthy people and a healthy planet. So, my research will focus on how to best support families with young kids, increasing their intake of plant-based protein foods.


Sabrina Douglas  1:46 

Great. Thanks for that intro. And before we talk more about the cookbook, could you please explain what plant-based proteins are and maybe give a couple examples?


Kat Eckert  1:55 

Yeah, for sure. So, as the name suggests, plant-based proteins are protein foods and products that come from plants. So, if you think of things like legumes, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils and split peas, nuts and seeds, and soy products such as tofu.


Sabrina Douglas  2:12 

Okay, thank you. That’s helpful. So, we’re all really excited about the new cookbook. Could you please tell us a bit about what inspired the plant-based proteins’ theme?


Kat Eckert  2:22 

Yeah, for sure. So, as you mentioned, the theme of the cookbook is plant-based proteins, but the cookbook is not solely plant-based or vegetarian, and it still includes meats and other animal products. Our hope is to meet families where they are and help people add more plant-based foods to their diet. We know that increasing plant-based food intake can be helpful for both individuals and the planet. As I mentioned, my research shows that incorporating more plant-based foods can be difficult for families. So, we designed this cookbook to be a tool for families to learn about plant-based proteins and how to incorporate them in simple and delicious meals.


Lisa Tang  2:58 

That’s so great, Kat. I’m excited to start working on some of these recipes. Can you tell me a little bit about what makes this cookbook different from other cookbooks put out by the Guelph Family Health Study?


Kat Eckert  3:09 

So, what’s different about this cookbook is our focus on plant-based proteins. So, it’s a good place to start your journey with plant-based eating if you aren’t familiar. And, it’s similar to the other cookbooks in that the meals and recipes are all family oriented.


Sabrina Douglas  3:25 

Great. And you mentioned that plant-based foods can be helpful for health and sustainability. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?


Kat Eckert  3:34 

Yeah, for sure. So that’s a great question. In terms of health, enjoying plant-based proteins can be good for your heart health, as they typically have more fiber and less saturated fat compared to animal proteins. Research shows that when you introduce behaviours in childhood, these habits tend to track into adulthood. So, introducing plant-based proteins earlier in life may help promote your child’s health as they grow up. And, to elaborate on environmental sustainability, production of plant-based proteins tends to use less planetary resources, such as water and land, compared to animal-based food production. Production of plant-based proteins also tends to create less carbon emissions compared to animal-protein production.


Sabrina Douglas  4:16 

Thank you for that, Kat. I know listeners will appreciate that because I’m sure you’ve noticed plant-based is kind of a buzzword, especially in the media, currently. So,  it’s helpful to understand the science and research behind the, like, “quote/unquote” trend. And, can you tell us more about the process of creating the cookbook and maybe who was involved in the collaboration?


Kat Eckert  4:37 

Yeah, for sure. So this cookbook was a collaboration between the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph, with Health Canada, George Brown College, and the Canadian Nutrition Society. And, we worked really closely with our partners over the past year, and consider ourselves very fortunate to have collaborated with such a wonderful team to create this cookbook. The George Brown College culinary team developed 30 super-creative, delicious and family-friendly recipes. They also made the recipes and coordinated the photography of all 30, which was no small feat as you can imagine. And, the team at Health Canada assessed recipes by conducting an in-depth nutritional analysis to make sure that they were both tasty and healthy. And, they also helped to develop the educational content and tips at the start of the cookbook and supported George Brown in the food photography. The Canadian Nutrition Society held an infographic contest earlier this year, and the winning poster was incorporated into the cookbook. And so, it’s really been a privilege to work with all of our partners, and just a really great experience overall.


Lisa Tang  5:43 

Kat, thank-you so much for sharing all of that. And, I have to say the pictures are absolutely beautiful, as they are in all of our cookbooks in all the Guelph Family Health Study cookbooks. And, being that the pictures are so beautiful and all look delicious, I’m wondering, what is your favourite recipe in the book? What should I try first?


Kat Eckert  6:04 

Okay, I’m gonna give you my top three because I couldn’t just pick one. So, the first one I’ll mention is the beef and bean burger. I really love this recipe as it’s a great way to start adding plant-based proteins to your diet, especially if you typically haven’t eaten them in the past. I do try to eat a mostly plant-based diet, but I really love a good beef burger, especially during the summer months. And, these burgers have the best of both worlds with beef and beans included in the recipe. Another one that I’m really fond of is the miso ramen soup with marinated eggs. So, soup is actually my favourite food. And, I really enjoyed this recipe as it’s quick, easy and delicious. And, I used to often order this meal as takeout. And, I love that I can now make it at home myself. It’s a really great way to include lots of veggies in your meal, as well as both plant and animal-based proteins. And, the last one I’ll mention is the peach, halloumi cheese salad with roasted chickpeas. This is a really fresh and innovative salad. And, I’m always looking for creative salad recipes, especially in the warmer weather. And, this one’s really simple and provides a different option other than your, kind of,  typical side salad. It also pairs really well with a beef and bean burger. So, that’s another bonus.


Sabrina Douglas  7:23 

Wow, okay, well, it’s almost lunchtime. You’re making my mouth water a little bit. I’m so excited to try these recipes. Getting back to this being a family-focused podcast, do you have any recipes in mind that might be fun to include kids in the preparation?


Kat Eckert  7:38 

Yeah, for sure. So, one that I think would be really fun is the apple pie, quinoa breakfast bowl. So, for this one kids can be involved in this recipe from the very beginning, by selecting apples from the grocery store or market or even going apple picking. And kids could choose their favourite types of apples and then experiment to see which they like best in this particular recipe. This is also a great recipe where everyone can add their own toppings to their bowl. Another one that I really think would be fun would be the beef and bean burger. As a kid I have really fond memories of making homemade burgers with my dad, and so kids can help mix ingredients together to make the burgers and you can experiment with different-sized patties, making mini burgers in addition to regular size, or even sheets of patties. And, it can also be fun to have a make-your-own burger bar where everyone can add their preferred toppings.


Lisa Tang  8:34 

Kat, honestly, any recipe that has apple pie in it will be an easy sell with my kids. So, I think I think that sounds like a good one I should try with my three little bambinos.


Kat Eckert  8:46 

Yeah, I really enjoyed this one.


Lisa Tang  8:48 

This sounds like a really great way to introduce young children to the idea of plant-based eating.


Kat Eckert  8:55 

Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, I think it’s a great way to involve kids in the preparation and cleanup. First of all,  it’s a way to work together, I guess, as a family to create and share a meal and really touch base with each other and spend some time together. And, I would suggest starting small if your children aren’t familiar with plant-based protein, so, choosing recipes that are more familiar to you and your kids such as the bean and beef burger or the lentil, bolognese pasta.


Lisa Tang  9:27 

It’s funny, because every time we do a new recipe, sometimes we have really great experiences, sometimes we have not so great experiences, so I think it’s actually really great for kids — even if things don’t go 100% the way you expect them to — to, kind of, be involved in the kitchen.


Kat Eckert  9:45 

For sure. Exactly.


Lisa Tang  9:48 

I remember when I was feeling very energetic — because sometimes I don’t always feel energetic — and I had my kids trying a new recipe, and one kid dropped an egg on the floor right beside the kitchen table, and, then, before I had a chance to clean it up, my other kid dropped flour — we were doing some bake thing — and it was just like a slurry on the floor. And, at the time my dog was around and, then it just became a disaster. But, at the time I was exhausted, but to be honest, it’s probably one of my better memories cooking with the kids just because it’s such an adventure. And, but, then you know, the interesting thing is when you do create something with — or at least with my experience, when I have created something with the kids — they’re actually really excited to eat it. And, if it’s something new and, kind of, not in our norm, they seem more excited to, kind of, take that first bite. And, I don’t know whether it’s because they don’t, they, like, you know, they made it, so they’re really proud, and therefore they’re like, “Oh, yes, we love it.” Right? I don’t know whether they’re saying they love the food or the experience. But, either way they’re eating what we made, which is really great.


Kat Eckert  10:59 

Exactly, yeah. That sounds like a really fun way to, kind of, form some memories, even though it was a little stressful at the time, I’m glad that, looking back, it was actually really fun.


Lisa Tang  11:10 

Oh, it was so much fun. And like I said, it’s just, you know, introducing, this is such just such a great cookbook, because, you know, if I were to tell my son, Mateo, we’re going to have a burger or a bean burger, he’d be like, “Where’s the meat?” Whereas, if he made it, he’s probably more likely to be excited about taking that first bite. So, I’m excited to try the bean and beef burger with him for sure.


Kat Eckert  11:37 

That sounds great.


Sabrina Douglas  11:40 

So, Kat, can you tell our listeners where they can all find the cookbook?


Kat Eckert  11:44 

Yeah, for sure. So if you check out the Guelph Family Health Study website, you can download the cookbook for free there. And, there’s also some other really great family cookbooks that you can check out, as well, while you’re online.


Sabrina Douglas  11:58 

Great. Yeah, we’ll definitely put the link in the show notes for our listeners to find easily. So, thank you, Kat, for coming on to chat about this exciting new cookbook. We really appreciate you sharing the research and the behind-the-scenes of the cookbook and we can’t wait to try all the yummy plant-based recipes. And listeners, please let us know if you try any of the recipes and which are your favourite ones. Thanks Kat.


Kat Eckert  12:20 

Thanks so much. My pleasure.