Cranberry Orange Muffins

Supporting Immune Function during Training


Increasing physical activity is generally associated with improved immune function and a decreased risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI’s). However, during times of intense training or increased stress, greater amounts of exercise can temporarily impair immune function and place athletes at higher risk for URTI’s and other illnesses.¹ It is not uncommon for athletes to experience symptoms of illness or infection around times of physical stress such as competitions.² This is a major concern as even minor illnesses can impact performance.

To maintain optimum immune competence, athletes are encouraged to eat balanced meals that are adequate in protein and energy. Diets should also have sufficient amounts of iron, zinc, and vitamins A, D, E, B6, and B12 as these micronutrients have been identified as being of particular importance in the maintenance of good immune function.³ Athletes should also consider introducing foods that contain plant polyphenols like fruits, whole grains, and legumes as well as foods that contain probiotics, such as yogurt, as they might have positive effects on immune function.²

In addition to the nutritional strategies already mentioned athletes should also practice good hand hygiene, follow basic food safe principles, avoid sharing equipment and personal items such as water bottles, get adequate sleep, and try to minimize stress.² Additional information for food safety can be found at:

Vegetarian Food Sources Of…

Iron: Spinach, Tomato puree, Edamame, Hot/Cold Cereals, Tofu, Lentils, Legumes, Molasses, Pumpkin seeds, Raisins, Dates

Zinc: Wheat germ, Bran, Pumpkin seeds, Baked beans, Oats

Vitamin A: Sweet potato, Pumpkin, Carrots, Winter squash

Vitamin D: Fortified juice and dairy or dairy alternative products

Vitamin E: Spinach, Wheat germ, Egg,  Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Hazelnuts

Vitamin B6: Banana, Sweet potato, Avocado, Wheat bran, Chickpeas, Soybeans, Pistachios, Sunflower seeds

Vitamin B12: Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, Soy beverage, Nutritional yeast


 Cranberry Orange Muffins

Makes 12


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 1 cup whole grain flour
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons fortified orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons low fat milk
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen, do not thaw)


  1.  Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease a 12-count muffin pan. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl mix oil with the granulated and brown sugars. Beat on high until creamed, about 2 full minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, then turn up to high speed until the mixture is combined and uniform in texture.
  4. Beat in the orange zest until combined.
  5. In  large bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  6. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined.
  7. Fold in cranberries.
  8. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Recipe adapted from:


  1. Couto, M., Silva, D., Delgado, L., & Moreira, A. (2013). Exercise and airway injury in athletes.Acta Medica Portuguesa, 26(1), 56-60.
  2. Gleeson, M. (2013). Nutritional support to maintain proper immune status during intense training. Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop series, 75, 85-97. doi: 10.1159/000345822.
  3. Gleeson, M., & Williams, C. (2013). Intense exercise training and immune function. Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series, 76, 39-50. doi: 10.1159/000350254.


Chocolate Beet Cupcakes


Many individuals might feel that eating healthfully means that there isn’t any room in your diet for treats or desserts. Unfortunately, when people follow very restrictive diets it can often be counter productive. Overly limited meal plans can cause individuals to become preoccupied with food and increases the likely-hood of binge eating (which may lead to weight gain). When I talk to individuals about healthy eating, I often suggest that they try the 80/20 diet guideline. Following an 80/20 diet means that you choose healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low fat dairy products 80 percent of the time, but you are allowed to indulge in a few favorite treats 20 percent of the time.

That being said, there is no reason you can’t try and make your treats as healthy as possible. Using sweeter vegetables like beets and carrots is a great way to increase quality nutrients in your desserts while reducing fat and added sugars. These chocolate beet cupcakes, although denser than your average cupcake, are moist and delicious. Options for topping them could be icing sugar (as shown in the picture above), frozen yogurt and fruit, or a small amount of whipping cream or icing (there are recipes for beet icing!).

So let them eat cake…. in moderation.


Chocolate Beet Cupcakes

Makes 12


2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
2 cups raw beetroots, grated finely
3 large eggs
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
5 tbsp unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare one muffin tin (either with muffin cups or by greasing the tin).
  2. Warm the oil in a medium size sauce pan on very low heat. Add honey and chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat.
  3. Add the grated beets. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and then add them to the sauce pan.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, cacao powder and salt together and stir into the beet mixture (be careful not to over mix).
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until slightly dark
  6. Serve with a small scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt or regular yogurt and fresh fruit.


Recipe adapted from:

Carrot Banana Muffins


This is another great nutrient dense muffin recipe. These carrot banana muffins contain about 180 kcal, 5 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fibre. They are perfect for a breakfast on the go or a snack before a workout. What I really like about them (besides the fact that they contain a two different fruits and a vegetable) is that a lot of the sweetness comes naturally from the raisins,  bananas, and carrots. To maximize the natural sweetness use very ripe bananas or defrosted, frozen bananas and flavourful carrots. ________________________________________________________________________________________

Carrot Banana Muffins

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen muffins


1 cup raisins

1 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground allspice

2 large eggs

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup mashed bananas, (2 medium bananas)

1/2 cup skim milk

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups shredded carrots, (4 medium carrots)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 18 standard-size muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water; let soak for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Beat eggs in a medium bowl until frothy. Add brown sugar and whisk until it has dissolved. Mix in bananas, milk, oil and vanilla.
  5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients; stir until just combined. Gently stir in carrots and the drained raisins. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with nuts.
  6. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

Recipe adapted from:


Double Chocolate Kale Muffins


This is another tasty muffin recipe that involves two of my favourite things: vegetables and chocolate. I wouldn’t normally think to combine kale with chocolate, but I am glad I found this recipe. These muffins are dense and moist with a rich chocolatey taste. If you want to try this recipe but don’t happen to have any kale, you could easily substitute with another leafy green vegetable like spinach or swiss chard.

Side-note: I was so excited for these muffins that I had to eat one before I could even take a picture of them. (Oops!)


Double Chocolate Kale Muffins


2 cups kale leaves, washed and chopped
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
1 ¼ cups buttermilk or sour-milk (1 cup low-fat milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice)
¼ cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and prepare a 12 cup muffin tin.
  2. Wash the kale and chop leaves into small pieces; discard the large stalks.
  3. Place the kale into a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water and cook for~  5-7 minutes or until the kale is wilted.
  4. Set aside kale until it is cool enough to handle.
  5. Place the kale into a food processor and pulse until the kale has been broken down into very small pieces. Set aside.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, oil and vanilla.
  8. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in the kale, chocolate chips, and nuts.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about three quarters full of batter.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Banana-Bran Muffins


These tasty banana muffins are a great nutrient dense choice for breakfast or for a snack. They are just under 200 kcals and contain about 4g of fibre and 5g of protein per muffin. Although North Americans usually manage to eat more than enough protein, fibre tends to be a nutrient that many people struggle to get enough of. Health Canada currently recommends that individuals try for about 14g/1000 kcal/day. What does this translate (approximately) to for you?

38 g/d for men 19-50,           30 g/d for men 51 and older

25 g/d for women 19-50,       21 g/d for women 51 and older.

DSC_0209What I liked about this recipe was that even though it contains wheat bran it still produced a relatively light tasting muffin. For extra fibre and omega 3’s you can add ground flax seeds.

* Remember that whenever you increase your fibre intake you always want to increase your fluid intake!


Banana-Bran Muffins


2 large eggs

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup mashed ripe bananas, (~2 medium)

1 cup buttermilk, or sour milk (1 cup milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice)

1 cup unprocessed wheat bran

1/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whole-wheat flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup chopped walnuts,


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a 12 cup muffin tray.
  2. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth.
  3. Whisk in bananas, buttermilk, wheat bran, canola oil and vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups (they’ll be quite full). Sprinkle with walnuts.
  6. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown ~ 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

Recipe adapted from