04/19/2016 03:02 EDT | Updated 04/20/2017 05:12 EDT

Theresa Nicassio's Plant-Based Recipes Are All About 'Inclusive Cooking'

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Mother and daughters hugging in kitchen

Dr. Theresa Nicassio has done a great service for healthy eating with her cookbook YUM, which may surprise those who have not experienced plant-based recipes for a gluten-free diet. It all started for Dr. Nicassio when she typed her recipes into a compilation. Voila, YUM was launched and she worked on it for five-plus years before it went to press.

Here is our Q&A interview:

You have incorporated a host of wonderful photos into YUM. What prompted you to do that?

There are several contributing factors to my decision to make YUM into a coffee table art book, as well as a delicious healthy lifestyle book that even the "hard to feed" could enjoy. Initially, I was taking photos of my recipes just as a memory tool. Many years of gluten exposure wreaked havoc on my nervous system, including my memory, as many folks with celiac disease or other gluten intolerance similarly experience. Because of this, I discovered that when I was trying to cook food that I could eat, I could better remember what my options were if I had photos in my iPhone of my previous successes. Enjoying art and beauty, I would enjoy setting up the food photos in beautiful ways, with different lighting, etc., just because it was fun.

The other reason is I want to share with readers how incredibly delicious and beautiful healthy whole food-based food can be!

What is your favourite recipe?

The recipe I'm most proud of is my lemon butter cream frosting invention. With about 50 per cent of the population now finding themselves with diabetes or pre-diabetes, with a frightening increase in childhood obesity and diabetes rates as well, something needs to change. The North American tradition of cake with butter cream frosting to celebrate birthdays is so damaging, given this health epidemic. I was obsessed with creating an alternative that had no sugar, butter, margarine, shortening or lard.

What inspired you to write YUM?

While I'd always been a great cook, I really didn't like cooking, so it's really funny that I am now the author of this award-winning book! Growing up in an Italian home, I learned that cooking was largely "women's work" and wasn't how I wanted to be spending my time. However, when I realized after a dozen years of debilitating illness that food could be a source of healing, suddenly cooking became a tool for empowerment!

Is your cookbook for everyone?

YES! When people see the book, their first thought is (it's) for those with gluten problems and/or for those who are vegetarians and vegans. YUM is about "inclusive cooking" -- creating food that everyone can enjoy, even those with special diets. As the medical research continues to support, we can all benefit from reducing our sugar intake and by eating more fruits and vegetables. Clean whole food is good for everyone.

Tell us about your award?

As a cookbook author, the biggest award competition you can enter is the Gourmand World Cookbook Award. It's been likened to the Academy Awards or Olympics for cookbooks. There are 209 countries in this year's competition, competing in 82 categories before an international jury of judges. YUM has won the Canadian Title as the "Best Diet Book, for the Public" in English. I've been blown away -- never did I imagine winning such a prestigious award. And now, it's been announced that it has been short-listed as one of the "Best in the World!" I feel deeply humbled by the opportunity to be flying to China for the big awards event in May (29th) to represent Canada in the competition -- truly a once in a lifetime experience.

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