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APG’s Community Cooking Grocery Cards Help Hundreds of Albertans Learn How to Cook With Pulses (PCN Winter 2017) JAN 4 2017 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Pulse Crop News.

A Calgary dietitian’s commitment to spreading the word about the goodness and versatility of pulses is changing how hundreds of Albertans eat one class at a time.

Food, Nutrition and Culinary Coach Kristyn Hall accesses the community cooking grocery gift card program offered by Alberta Pulse Growers (APG) to offset the expense of providing healthy cooking classes for adults who are looking for a way to improve their diets by cooking healthy meals with pulses.

“The opportunity to have access to the teaching materials and gift cards through Alberta Pulse Growers has a huge impact,” Hall said. “Cooking classes are a really great way to help people to see that pulses are nutritional gems that you should incorporate into your diet. Pulses have such a good message to get out to consumers: This is locally produced, this impacts our economy and it can impact your health.”

APG Food and Nutrition Coordinator Debra McLennan is thrilled to hear about programs like this that are utilizing the community cooking gift card program to its full potential. “I’m happy to see educators and health professionals like Kristyn using our community cooking gift card program to show people how easy, versatile and tasty pulses can be,” McLennan said. “Many people already know how nutritious pulses are, but it often takes tasting them and seeing how easy they are to prepare before they will actually try them at home, and that’s what the program is designed to do, and it’s working!”

Hall offers 10-12 classes each year including Vegetarian 101, Mediterranean, gluten-free eating, gluten-free baking for beginners, healthy cooking basics and techniques, and more. The classes are often held at the Alberta Health Services Wellness Kitchen of Calgary’s South Health Campus, as well as other locations. Some classes are demonstration classes and others are hands-on. Class registration is done through Hall’s website but the classes are often promoted through health care centres, her website and social media channels, the Canadian Celiac Association and word-of-mouth from past class participants.

The classes are usually filled with more women than men, but Hall said she is increasingly seeing more men attend with their partners or on their own.

“What they all have in common is that they’re taking their health more seriously,” Hall explained, noting that she has had participants who are taking her classes as part of their lifestyle plan for weight management, including one participant who attended a class prior to undergoing a major surgery. “Participants leave feeling confident to go home and cook the food again. Some participants follow up with me to ask for more meal ideas and individual health coaching.”

Hall led a class for after-school care leaders in which she included pulses specifically because they are inexpensive and some of the children they would be caring for may not have tried them.

Hall also leads a class exploring the popular Paleo diet, which is based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans and excludes pulses. “I do tell them what they’re missing out on with pulses,” she said.

Hall has worked in nutrition and public health teaching people to eat to feel better since 2000, but she really became a champion for pulses after a cooking class launch for Julie Van Rosendaal’s Spilling the Beans recipe book.

“That was where I learned about the various resources that Alberta Pulse offers,” Hall recalled. “At that point I had enjoyed lentil soup and black bean brownies, and then I went to Julie Van Rosendaal’s class and I was like, ‘wow, you can do that with pulses?’ All of these things got me more and more interested in pulses and it was like a groundswell.”

Hall sought out more pulse recipes and found Alberta Pulse Growers to be a valuable resource.

“The recipes that I have tried from Alberta Pulse Growers have all been excellent,” Hall said. “How I perceive APG’s recipes is that this is from the producers and so I trust it because the producers want me to enjoy their product. I have used these recipes as part of my class curricula and in my individual health coaching.”

Hall’s favourite pulse recipes are Lentil Carrot Spice Muffins made with a lentil puree and a barley, black bean and mango salad from Spilling the Beans. She shared another favourite recipe, Coconut Braised Chickpeas with Sun-Dried Tomatoes.

More information about Hall’s cooking classes and her blog is available at, or apply for sponsorship for a community cooking class.