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Fresh food, practical menus and a healthy way to eat

Two Alberta professors of nutrition designed a 
healthy diet based on our locally produced foods

One of the best steaks I ever ate was at a meal served on a Manitoba Forage Council pasture tour. We’d bounced around on a bus all day, looking at rotational grazing systems and winter feeding methods. Then it was time for supper. We were served these unbelievably tender and flavourful steaks, and baked potatoes and boiled corn on the cob. The crickets sang in the grass and the sun dipped into a hazy sky. I think there was pie.

It was a perfect Prairie evening and a pure Prairie meal. That sort of dinner, I’d learn later on, fits nicely into the Pure Prairie Eating Plan too.

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That’s a dietary eating pattern launched a couple of years ago by two nutrition professors at University of Alberta.

Rhonda Bell and Catherine Chan initially called it a ‘Mediterranean Diet for Alberta’ or the ‘Alberta Diet’ because they’d created it as part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition for Diabetes in Alberta (PANDA) project to help improve the diet and health of those with Type 2 diabetes.

But as they put their 28-day structured menu plan through clinical trials, proving that consuming foods like whole grains, heart-healthy canola oil and cold-hardy berries on a regular basis could help lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels, not to mention shed weight and shrink waist size, it became evident this was a healthy way for everyone to eat. Then they gave this expert-approved diet a distinctive Prairie twist, putting an emphasis on its many western Canadian-produced ingredients — from pulses and potatoes to dairy foods, eggs, and meat, and, of course, canola oil.

What Bell and Chan ultimately combined was sound nutritional science with all the foods we raise and grow on the Prairies, creating a truly pan-Prairie pattern of eating. Their aim was that eating this way become a ‘way of life’ just as the traditional Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on olive oil and wine is among southern Europeans.

The Pure Prairie Eating Plan presents these familiar foods in meal plans, with recipes and menus for food choices for three meals plus three snacks per day in portion sizes meeting the recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide. It offers cooking tips, and weekly shopping guides too.

Notably, it was launched at a time when many were conscientiously trying to shift their eating to more local foods too, but the Pure Prairie Eating Plan doesn’t focus on local-only. Rather, this is a ‘mostly local’ way of eating, emphasizing foods readily available, familiar and acceptable to those who live on the Prairies. It’s a way of eating that’s easy to sustain and embrace.

There’s a website — — where you can learn more about the Pure Prairie Eating Plan and/or purchase the plan ($29.50) if you wish.

Meanwhile, I hope you will continue to eat many more delicious — and memorable meals of pure Prairie foods.

Here are two recipes selected from and its featured cookbook Go Barley: Modern Recipes for An Ancient Grain. The Alberta Barley Commission was one of many sponsors supporting the development of the Pure Prairie Eating Plan.

Beer Braised Beef On A Bed Of Barley

  • 4 tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 lbs. boneless beef blade steak, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/3 c. whole barley flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 (341-ml) bottle or can of beer
  • 3/4 c. pot or pearl barley
  • 1 (284-ml) can lower-salt beef broth
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. oil. Add onion slices and brown lightly. Remove to a separate dish. Add 2 tbsp. oil and half of the meat; sprinkle with half of the salt and pepper and brown. Sprinkle with about half of the flour; stir and remove to a heavy Dutch oven or large saucepan. Repeat with the remaining meat, salt and pepper. Spoon into the Dutch oven and top with browned onions. Add bay leaf, thyme and beer. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat and simmer 1-1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat remaining oil. Stir in barley. Add beef broth and water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 40 to 45 minutes or until barley is tender. Spoon barley onto a serving plate and top with beef and onion mixture. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Makes 6 servings.

Prairie Streusel-Topped Cake

  • 3/4 c. whole barley flour
  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. butter or margarine
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 4 c. saskatoon berries
  • 1 c. sliced rhubarb

In a small bowl, combine the barley flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter and granulated sugar. Beat in eggs and milk. Gradually stir in dry ingredients. When mixed, pour into a greased 13×9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle saskatoon berries and rhubarb over top of batter. Cover with topping.


  • 3/4 c. whole barley flour
  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 c. butter or margarine

In a small bowl, combine the barley flour, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, butter or margarine and cinnamon using a pastry blender or fingertips. Sprinkle evenly over top of the base. Bake at 350 F for 40 to 45 minutes.

Note: For dessert, serve warm with ice cream. For a snack, serve with coffee or tea.

Makes 10 servings.

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About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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