An image containing vegetables off different kind

Making room for plant-based proteins at the table

A portrait of Dr. David Ma

“We want to help families identify plant-based foods and then show them how to incorporate them into their diet through family-friendly recipes that are quick, easy, and affordable.”

– Dr. David Ma

Keep your eyes peeled this fall for a new cookbook designed for families that will make eating plant-based proteins a whole lot easier.

“Plant-Based Recipes Made Easy-Peasy” will be the sixth cookbook published by the Guelph Family Health Study (GFHS) as part of their collaboration with GFHS participant families, The Helderleigh Foundation, Health Canada, George Brown College – Food Innovation Research Studio (FIRSt), Canadian Nutrition Society and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). The cookbook includes 30 recipes ranging from appetizers to entrees. Plant-based proteins was a timely topic to choose, says GFHS director Dr. David Ma, which was a new addition to the 2019 Canada’s Food Guide. “We want to help families identify plant-based foods and then show them how to incorporate them into their diet through family-friendly recipes that are quick, easy, and affordable,” Ma says. Also, the cookbooks are more than just recipes but a resource for nutrition information, food skills and much more to help promote health and positive change.

In 2015, soon after the GFHS was established, GFHS faculty members asked families what they wanted from this partnership. They requested recipes that would make healthy meal preparation easier. This work was initially supported by a grant from The Helderleigh Foundation, which promotes family and child health through food literacy efforts. After releasing the first cookbook in 2016 about filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, more ideas kept coming for other topics and the establishment of a longer-term relationship with The Helderleigh Foundation who provided a $1.5M gift and Professorship in Food Literacy to the GFHS in support of continued food literacy work.

The GFHS works with families in and around the Guelph area to study and promote healthy habits for eating, sleeping, exercise, screen time in children and more. It’s a joint effort between eight faculty across University of Guelph departments and community partners, including 350 participant families, who work together to identify gaps in knowledge and collaborate on common research goals. They help families understand and prioritize the health issues on which they could improve. And with science communication and knowledge mobilization at the centre of the GFHS’s work, Ma and his colleagues have put significant effort into creating tangible and accessible resources for participants and the broader community.

Ma and the GFHS team are passionate about using research to inform the resources they create for families. By collaborating with experts in the food and health sectors they can offer evidence-based recipes and tips for families in a simple, easy-to-understand way.

Research within the GFHS takes a holistic approach to health, says Ma. It recognizes the importance of one’s environment and relationships in establishing healthy habits early in life while also recognizing the challenges that families face in achieving these habits.

It’s reminiscent of One Health, which recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health, where, in this case, the environment refers to the built environment and people’s living conditions.

“There’s no one size fits all recommendation for good health for any family or individual,” says Ma, “so it’s really important that we understand families’ life situations and tailor resources like our cookbooks to them.”

You can learn more about the GFHS and access the full collection of free cookbooks on their website:

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