Chocolate Pudding

Vitamin D and Muscle Strength

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which acts functionally as a hormone.¹ It promotes calcium absorption in the gut and helps to maintain adequate serum calcium levels in the blood. Vitamin D also plays a role in neuromuscular and immune function as well as in reducing inflammation.²

The main source of active vitamin D comes from exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sun exposure.¹ However, age, latitude, time of day, time of the year and skin pigmentation can impact the production of vitamin D in the skin.³ Recreational athletes at risk for vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency include those who exercise mostly indoors, have dark skin pigmentation, wear clothing that covers most or all of their body, live at latitudes >35 degrees north or south of the equator, often use sunscreen and/or suffer from disorders causing gastrointestinal malabsorption.¹

Inadequate levels of vitamin D may have significant long-term health impacts (i.e. may increase risk of colon cancer, diabetes) as well as more immediate effects on musculoskeletal health (i.e. increasing risk of injuries like stress fractures).⁴ Vitamin D deficiency has also been found to negatively impact muscle strength³

Over the past several years, it has been suggested that insufficient vitamin D levels may negatively affect performance in deficient athletes. Supplementing vitamin D in athletes with insufficient levels or encouraging higher intakes of vitamin D rich foods may have beneficial effects on an athlete’s strength, power, reaction time and balance.¹ʼ⁴ Vitamin D supplementation in deficient adults has been shown to improve tests of muscle performance and may have possible impacts on muscle fibre composition and morphology.² See below for vitamin D recommendations as well as the vitamin D content of common foods.

* It is not recommended that individuals over expose themselves to UVB radiation in an attempt to increase vitamin D levels as this can lead to sunburn and melanoma.


Vitamin D Recommendations:

Age in years Aim for an intake of Stay below
Men and Women 19-50 600 IU 4000 IU
Men and Women 51-70 600 IU 4000 IU
Men and Women 71 and older 800 IU 4000 IU

                                                                                                                             Tables from Dietitians of Canada⁵

Vitamin D Content of Some Common Foods

Food Serving Size Vitamin D (IU)
Orange juice, fortified with vitamin D 125 mL 50
Soy beverage, fortified with vitamin D 250 mL 123
Milk 250 mL 103
Skim milk powdered 60 mL 103
Rice, oat, almond beverage, fortified with vitamin D 250 mL 88-90
Yogurt, fortified with vitamin D 175 mL 58-71
Egg yolk, cooked 2 large 57-88


Chocolate Pudding

Makes 6 servings.


1/2 cup white sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup skim milk powder
1 1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 15oz can evaporated fat-free milk
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
* In place of vanilla extract, try adding 1 tsp mint extract or 1 tsp coconut extract or 1 tbsp grated orange rind.



  1. Combine white sugar, corn starch, cocoa, salt and skim milk powder in a medium, heavy saucepan; stir with a whisk.
  2. Gradually add low-fat milk and evaporated milk, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute or until thick.
  4. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until melted and mixture is smooth.
  5. Stir in vanilla.
  6. Chill at least 4 hours before serving. Add garnish if desired.

Recipe adapted from:


1) Vitamin D. Australian Institute of Sports Website. Updated May 2014. Accessed March 13, 2016.
2) Ceglia L. Vitamin D and Its Role in Skeletal Muscle. Curr Opin CLin Nutr Metab Care. 2009;12(6):628-633.
3) Pfeifer M, Begerow B, Minne HW. Vitamin D and Muscle Function. Osteoporos Int. 2002;13(3):187-194.
4) Hamilton B. Vitamin D and Athletic Performance: The Potential Role of Muscle. Asian J Sports Med. 2011;2(4):211-219.
5) Food Sources of Vitamin D. Dietitians of Canada Website. Published March 20, 2012. Updated 2014. Accessed March 8, 2016.


Vegan Date Squares

Dietary fibre includes parts of plant foods that your body cannot absorb.¹ Fibre is resistant to digestion in the small intestine and requires bacterial fermentation in the large intestine. There are two types of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. It has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol and assist in moderating blood sugar levels.¹ Good food sources include oats, peas, beans, apples, barley and psyllium. Insoluble fibre helps to promote the movement of material through the digestive system and increases stool bulk.¹ Consuming more insoluble fibre may be beneficial to individuals prone to constipation. Good food sources include whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables.


Ingestion of adequate amounts of dietary fibre is important as it may have a protective role against certain gastrointestinal diseases, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.¹ In addition, foods higher in fibre provide more nutrition to the intestinal microflora. It has been reported that a lack of nutrients in the intestinal lumen following starvation leads to significant intestinal atrophy. However, this can be reversed by the addition of fibre to the diet.²

For athletes and active individuals, increasing intakes of dietary fibre may help with weight loss or weight maintenance as well as improve overall health.³ Lower energy density diets high in fibre containing foods like whole fruits, vegetables

, grains and legumes can help individuals decrease the calorie content of their meal while still helping them to feel satiated after eating. ³

How much dietary fibre do you need?

Age Group Recommended amount per day
14-18 38g/day
19-30 38g/day
31-50 38g/day
51-70 30g/day
>70 30g/day
14-18 26g/day
19-30 25g/day
31-50 25g/day
51-70 21g/day
>70 21g/day

                                                                                                              Recommendations as per Health Canada⁴

How can I get more fibre in my diet?

Below are strategies to help increase dietary fibre.


  • Choose bread and cereal products with at least 4 grams of fibre per serving.
  • Choose wholegrain products more often than processed grain products (For example: use whole wheat pasta or brown rice instead of white pasta or white rice for dinner)
  • When baking at home, substitute at least ½ of the white flour with whole grain flour.
  • Add 1-2 Tbsp. of bran or flax seed to baked goods, entrees, yogurt, hot/cold cereal, etc.

Vegetables and Fruit:

  • Choose whole vegetables and fruits instead of juice.
  • Add a small salad or vegetable soup to your lunch or dinner meal.
  • Prepare or purchase cut up vegetables for a snack at home, work or school.
  • Add fresh or frozen fruit such as berries to yogurt or hot/cold cereal.
  • Eat the peels of vegetables and fruits when possible.


  • Add lentils, beans or soybeans to soups, casseroles and salads.
  • Choose legume based spreads like hummus to eat with vegetables or on whole grain flat bread or crackers.
  • Roast chickpeas or steam edamame for easy snacks or salad toppings

Nuts and Seeds

  • Add roasted nuts, seeds or ground flaxseeds to cereal, cold/hot cereals or baked goods.
  • Pack small portions of almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds as snacks or add to homemade trail mix.
  • Sprinkle toasted nuts to pasta dishes, rice bowls or stir-fries.

* Remember to increase dietary fibre slowly to avoid gas, bloating or diarrhea, and to increase fluid intake as you increase your fibre intake for optimal gastrointestinal health.


Vegan Date Squares

Makes 16 squares


Filling –

1 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup (plus more as needed) boiling water

1 tbsp lemon juice

Crust –

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup ground flax seed

4 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease an 8×8″ square baking pan.
  3. In a food processor, combine the oats and flax, and process until the oats are slightly ground
  4. Add in olive oil, brown sugar and salt. Process until everything is combined.
  5. Remove mixture from the food processor into bowl, then take about ⅔ of the mixture press it down firmly into the baking pan to form the bottom crust.
  6. Clean out the food processor and add the Medjool dates and boiling water. Process until it is a soft, sticky paste. Add more or less water to achieve the desired consistency – spreadable but not too runny.
  7. When it is a good consistency, carefully spread it on top of the oat and flax crust.
  8. Take the remaining ⅓ of the crust mixture and sprinkle it evenly on top of the date layer, pressing it down lightly.
  9. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 30 minutes.
  10. Remove and let cool. Cut into 16 squares.

Recipe adapted from:


  1.  Otles S, Ozgoz S. Health effects of dietary fibre. Acta Sci Pol Technol Aliment. 2014;13(2):191-202.
  2. McCullough JS, Ratcliffe B, Mandir N, Carr KE, Goodlad RA. Dietary fibre and intestinal microflora: effects on intestinal morphometry and crypt branching. Gut. 1998;42(1):799-806.
  3. Manore M. Weight Management for Athletes and Active Individuals: A Brief Review. Sports Med. 2015;45(1):83-92.
  4. Dietary Reference Intakes. Health Canada Website. Updated January 23, 2006. Accessed March 1, 2016.


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:

Black Bean Brownies


These black bean brownies are chocolatey, moist, and so easy to make. All you have to do is throw the ingredients into a food processor, blend, and then bake. When the brownies come out of the oven they will appear light and cake like. Allow them time to cool and then refrigerate them. Placing the brownies in the fridge helps them to become more dense. If you are looking to add something  extra, you are welcome to mix in chopped walnuts, or you can also use a flavoured oil such as walnut or coconut oil instead of canola.

When the pan is divided into 16 portions, each brownie serves up approximately 120 Calories, 4 grams of protein, 2.3 grams of fibre, and 6 grams of sugar.

This dessert is suitable for individuals following a gluten free and/or dairy free diet.


Black Bean Brownies


1-19 oz can of black beans (no salt added), drained and rinsed well

3 eggs

1/3 cup of canola oil

1/2 cup sugar (can use honey)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup, sifted cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease an 8 ” inch square pan.
  3. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until it is smooth.
  4. Pour into the cake pan.
  5. Bake for 25-30  minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from pan, and cool completely.
  8. Cover and refrigerate.
  9. Serve with fresh fruit.

Recipe adapted from:


Black Forest Cake


So my brother has been asking for a black forest cake for his birthday for years, and this year I finally got around to making him one. The original recipe suggests using sour Morello cherries cherries (apparently you can find them in more specialty stores such as Whole Foods). Unfortunately, I did not have time to get to Whole Foods and had to settle for Save On Foods and Bing cherries. I found the Bing cherries to be an acceptable substitution, but next time I am going to try it with the Morello cherries.

When you are making this cake, ensure that you follow the suggested time for mixing the batter. As you may have noticed in the ingredients there is no baking soda or baking powder. This means that whether or not your cake rises is depending on how much air is incorporated into the batter. If you under mix the cake the result will still taste delicious, but it will be flat and you won’t be able to cut it in half. The batter should become lighter in colour as it thickens.

Overall this cake was moist, chocolatey, and delicious. It might look like a bit of work, but it is worth it for a special occasion!


Black Forest Cake



24 ounce (700 ml) jar of Morello Cherries in syrup

4 tbsp Kirsch or Cherry Brandy

Chocolate Genoise:

3 tbsp hot melted unsalted butter

1/2 cup white flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup unsweetened regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder

4 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated white sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Frosting

2 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp granulated white sugar



  1. Drain the cherries, reserving 1 cup of the liquid. Place the cherries in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons Kirsch. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. Add 2 tbsps of the Kirsch to the reserved cherry syrup.

Chocolate Genoise: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a non stick spray, a 9 inch round cake pan and line the bottom of pan with parchment or wax paper.
  2. In a bowl, sift the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
  3. In a heatproof bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. Place over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisking constantly, heat until lukewarm. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of your electric mixer. 
  4. Beat on high speed until the mixture is thick (about 5 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Then sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and gently fold in using a rubber spatula or whisk. Sift and fold in another third, and then fold in the rest. Take 1 cup of the batter and fold it into the melted butter (to lighten it). Then gently fold it into the egg batter. 
  5. Pour into your pan, smoothing the top. Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a metal rack before removing from pan.

Whipped Cream Frosting:

  1. In your mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and wire whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, then beat the mixture just until stiff peaks form.

Assemble Cake:

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the genoise, horizontally, into two layers. Turn over the top layer of the cake (top of cake becomes bottom) and place on your serving plate.
  2. Brush the cake layer with 1/4 cup cherry syrup. Take 1 cup of whipped cream and spread on the moistened genoise. Place the cherries evenly over the cream. Brush the cut-side of second genoise layer with 1/2 cup syrup. 
  3. Place cut-side down on top of the cherries, gently pressing to compact. Spread the remaining cream over top and sides of cake. 
  4. Cover and refrigerate the cake for several hours (or overnight) before serving. Decorate with fresh cherries and shaved chocolate.

Cranberry, Pear, and Apple Crumble

Joy of Baking is one of my favourite websites to find recipes for desserts and baked goods. I have yet to make something from this website that I didn’t love! Sometimes I find their recipes have a bit too much sugar for my liking, but sugar can easily be reduced in recipes such as a crumble where its main role is as a sweetener. I have already reduced the sugar in my adaption of their recipe below, but feel welcome to adjust to your own tastes.

Crumbles are a quick and easy dish that makes for a great lighter choice dessert. Crumbles are nice any time of the year because the versatility of the filling. I especially like the combination of cranberries, pears, and apples for a fall crumble as these are all in season in BC at this time. Crumbles are also great because they tend to be inexpensive to make. I will often use fruit that I already have at home, or I will check the discount shelves at produce stores for fruit that is just about past its best. For example Kin’s Farm Market will sell $1 bags of apples or pears.


Cranberry, Pear, and Apple Crumble


Crumble Topping:

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces


1 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch 

4-5 Firm, tart-tasting apple – peeled, cored, and sliced into 1 inch chunks

4-5 ripe Bartlett or Anjou Pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks

1/2 cup cranberries, cut in half


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F, and place rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Place all the topping ingredients (flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, oats, nuts, and butter) in a food processor and process just until the mixture has clumps the size of peas. (This can also be done in a large bowl with a pastry blender, two knives or your fingertips.) 
  3. In a large bowl combine the sugar and cornstarch. Peel, core, and slice the apples and pears and toss them with the cranberries, in the sugar mixture. Once combined transfer to the baking dish. Spread the topping evenly over the fruit.
  4. Bake for ~ 45 minutes or until the fruit is soft and the topping is golden brown and crisp. 
  5. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. 
  6. To reduce calories, try serving with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.

Recipe adapted from