10/02/2014 01:41 EDT | Updated 12/02/2014 05:59 EST

Breakfast bars, frittata and roasted chickpeas show eating healthy is also easy

Desiree Nielsen wants people to realize that eating plenty of plant-based foods "will transform your life, transform how you feel when you wake up in the morning, transform what you see when you look in the mirror and transform the quality of your life."

Yet the author of "Un-Junk Your Diet" says people often think such a diet will make them feel deprived of tasty food and they are intimidated by the prospect of cooking at home.

"We so devour all these wonderful food magazines and food shows, but I think it can make us feel that all food must be fine dining quality and if we can't do that we can't cook for ourselves. Everyone can put together a pasta with some fresh tomatoes," she says.

To comments that it takes too long to cook, the Vancouver-based dietitian says "we have the time. I think we've been sold into this cult of convenience. We all work very hard, we work longer hours, we have more family commitments, but we still find time to do the things we truly want, whether it's a couple of hours of TV at night, so there's a way to multi-task. You can throw a pot of beans on the stove while watching your favourite show and put them into the freezer.

"It's just about reprioritizing the place of food in our lives, knowing that it's worth it. It's more delicious and it's going to ensure that you have a long, healthy life."

Here are some recipes from "Un-Junk Your Diet."


Brilliant Breakfast BarsNeilsen suggests making a big batch of these breakfast cookies and freezing them. "When people say they don't have time for breakfast, just pull one out, grab your latte on the way to work and you're done."

The bars will keep for one to two months in the freezer.

If you can't find oat flour, make it yourself by pulsing oats in a food processor until they are fine as flour. A few small pieces of oats in the flour are OK.

175 ml (3/4 cup) oat flour

175 ml (3/4 cup) large-flake oats

175 ml (3/4 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut

15 ml (1 tbsp) ground flaxseed

125 ml (1/2 cup) hemp seeds

2 ml (1/2 tsp) cinnamon

2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt

50 ml (1/4 cup) chopped walnuts

125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped dried apricots

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

50 ml (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

15 ml (1 tbsp) honey

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

Heat oven to 180 C (350 F).

In a large bowl, whisk together oat flour, oats, coconut, flax, hemp, cinnamon and salt. Stir in walnuts and dried apricots.

In another bowl, mash bananas with a fork and stir in olive oil, honey and vanilla. Add banana mixture to flour mixture and fold until combined. (The dough for these bars is pretty easy to handle so don't be afraid to get in there with your hands for a more thorough mix.)

Line a 33-by-23-cm (13-by-9-inch) baking dish or a 30-by-20-cm (12-by-8-inch) small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Press cookie mixture evenly into pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes. Score into 12 bars and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. (Alternately, you can form 12 bars or cookies by hand and bake on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet for 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown.)

Makes 12 cookies or bars.


Eat Your Greens Frittata

Frittata is the ultimate quick dinner when time is short. "We eat frittata at least once a week in my house," says Neilsen, who lives with her husband and four-year-old son.

Serve with a side salad or roasted yams.

15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil

1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bunch kale, washed, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces

1 yellow sweet pepper, diced

Pinch each of salt and freshly ground pepper

8 eggs

50 ml (1/4 cup) pesto (vegan or regular)

In a large heavy skillet or cast-iron frying pan, saute onion in oil over medium-high heat until soft and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, stir through for 1 minute and add kale. Cover with a lid for 3 minutes to steam. Remove lid and continue to saute until totally wilted, about 3 more minutes. Add yellow pepper and saute for 1 minute. Season vegetable mixture with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat broiler.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with pesto. Mix in vegetable mixture and return to skillet. Cook, undisturbed, on medium heat until top is almost set, about 10 minutes. Finish under broiler until top is golden.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


The Amazing Roasted Chickpea

These make a protein-rich snack. Try different flavourings such as 15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh rosemary and 5 ml (1 tsp) crushed garlic, 5 ml (1 tsp) each cinnamon and honey or 15 ml (1 tbsp) curry powder.

To cook chickpeas, soak dried chickpeas in lots of cold water overnight (250 ml/1 cup of dried chickpeas equals about 750 ml/3 cups cooked chickpeas). Drain soaked chickpeas and rinse well under cold water. Discard any shrivelled chickpeas or those that did not swell. Place soaked chickpeas in a saucepot and cover with a large amount of fresh water, about 7.5 cm (3 inches) above chickpeas. Bring to a boil; simmer until tender, about 80 minutes. Drain and they are ready to use.

2 cans (each 398 ml/14 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 750 ml (3 cups) cooked chickpeas

30 ml (2 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste or your favourite seasonings

Heat oven to 190 C (375 F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, combine chickpeas with flavouring ingredients and toss to coat well.

Spread chickpeas on prepared baking sheet and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cool slightly before eating. Store in an airtight container and enjoy within 2 weeks.

Makes 750 ml (3 cups).