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Free-to-download cookbook boosts protein to help people beat cancer

Researchers serve up healthy recipes based on evidence that a diet high in animal-based protein helps maintain muscle during treatment.
Hillary Wilson, Carla Prado, and Anissa Armet with their new cookbook. Photo: U of A/Dawn Graves

A new cookbook to boost protein for patients with cancer--and everyone else--is being served up by University of Alberta nutrition experts.

Stuffed with healthy, easy recipes, the High Protein Cookbook for Muscle Health During Cancer Treatment is designed to help people with the disease get enough of the essential nutrient to maintain healthy muscle mass. 

“Cancer often leads to muscle loss at an accelerated rate, so we chose recipes that have a high percentage of calories from protein so people can optimize their diet,” said Carla Prado, nutrition expert and one of three authors of the non-profit, free cookbook.

“Higher protein intake benefit people interested in weight management, older adults who have higher protein needs, and very active individuals," said co-author Anissa Armet, a registered dietitian at the U of A. 

“Some patients need to gain muscle but not necessarily weight, so I thought, why not create a cookbook for them? It’s also a match for our research on increasing protein but not calories for patients with cancer.”

The book's 66 recipes all contain meat, poultry, fish, dairy or eggs, and are based on Canada's Food Guide. The recipes also reinforce eating animal-based protein, as opposed to just plant protein, to maximize muscle gain, Prado says.

“Animal proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, so they are considered a complete protein, and meat also contains creatine, a nutrient that helps promote muscle growth.” 

A team of volunteers, including other registered dietitians and community members, also helped design and test the recipes.

The book also reinforces the idea of “food as medicine,” Armet said: “Nutrition really matters.” 

The cookbook can be downloaded for free and printed, or ordered online from Amazon.

Article courtesy of University of Alberta folio

Try a recipe from the cookbook: Steak Rice Bowl

One of nutrition expert Carla Prado’s favourite recipes is the Steak Rice Bowl, a savoury, protein-rich creation of grilled beef strips nestled on vegetables and served up with rice and a fried egg — two staples from Brazil, her native country.


  • 3 oz (85 g) raw eye of round steak

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1 tsp ginger, grated

  • 2 medium button mushrooms, thinly sliced

  • 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) no-sodium-added beef broth

  • 1 tsp (5 mL) unseasoned rice wine vinegar

  • 1⁄4 tsp red bell pepper flakes

  • 2 tsp (10 mL) canola oil, divided

  • 1 cup fresh spinach

  • 1⁄2 cup brown rice, cooked

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 small carrot, grated

  • 1⁄4 small cucumber, thinly sliced into matchsticks

  • 1 medium green onion, thinly sliced


  • Add steak, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, beef broth, rice wine vinegar and red bell pepper flakes to a food storage bag and seal.

  • Mix ingredients in the bag and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour or leave overnight.

  • When ready to cook, heat 1 tsp oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

  • Remove the steak from the marinade and cook for 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare or as desired; set aside to rest.

  • Add the mushrooms and remaining marinade to the skillet; cook for 3-5 minutes or until softened.

  • When mushrooms have cooked, add the spinach and stir until the spinach is wilted.

  • Add the rice to a bowl and pour the mushrooms, spinach and sauce over one section of the rice.

  • In the same pan, heat the remaining tsp of oil over medium heat and fry the egg until the whites are set and the yolk is cooked to your liking.

  • Slice steak very thinly against the grain.

  • Place the steak, carrots and cucumber on different sections of the rice.

  • Top with egg and garnish with green onion.