Vancouver Sun article: What does the nutrition facts label tell you?

Sun Run Training Week 7: The Truth Behind Nutrition Labels

nutrition labelThis week in the Vancouver Sun, I write about how food labels can tell you what foods are really candy in disguise. For example, did you know that Multigrain Cheerios has more sugar and less fibre than regular Cheerios? Read this article to find out which granola bars are no better than a Snickers chocolate bar!

Here's a teaser:

"What do you look for in a nutrition facts label?

"Between the fat, calories, sodium, sugar, fibre, and the long list of ingredients, one can get easily confused. Sometimes too much information makes us lose sight of the basics. Wholesome snacks like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole foods are always better than packaged, processed foods..."

Click here to keep reading!

Vancouver Sun article: Pre- and Post-Run Snacks

Sun Run Training Week 6: Pre- and Post-Run Snacks

bananasThis week's nutrition article for the Vancouver Sun Run focuses on the pre- and post-run snack - what to eat, when to eat it, and why!

Here's a teaser of the article - click the link below to read more!

“What should I eat before a run?”

“Is it bad to eat after a run in the evening?”

"These are the questions we ask when our training starts to boost our appetite. It’s important to fuel your exercise both before and after. However, what and when to eat can be tricky...."

Click here to keep reading!

Vancouver Sun article: How much sugar are you drinking?

Sun Run Training Week 5: How much sugar are you drinking?


In this week's nutrition article for the Vancouver Sun Run, I examine the (increasingly large) place of sugar in our diets!

Here's a teaser of the article - click the link below to read more!

"Whether you sip on a morning mocha, a smoothie, or you beat the afternoon lull with a soft drink or ice tea, many common beverages have 1/4 cup of sugar per serving. Research is clear that diets high in sugar raise our risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease."

"What about a “nutrient-enhanced water beverage,” or bubble tea, or coconut water? They are all sugar water. But surely, the freshly made juices packed with all that antioxidant goodness must be good for us? Well, it takes a lot of carrots to make one glass of carrot juice. Try it: Your compost pile will fill up and your body will miss all the roughage that helps digestion and makes your stomach feel full...

Click here to keep reading!

Vancouver Sun article: Restaurants uncovered!

Sun Run Training Week 4: The Do's and Don't's of Restaurant Ordering


In this week's nutrition article for the Vancouver Sun Run, I tackle one of the hardest challenges to diets in existence: the calorie-packed restaurant meal.

Here's a teaser of the article - click the link below to read more!

"We all know that restaurant meals are loaded with big portions and too much fat, but do you really know what’s in your takeout meals?

"Whether you go to a coffee shop for your daily coffee and banana bread, grab a panini for lunch or order Thai for takeout, you will most certainly blow any attempts at losing weight. If you enjoy an active social life and go out for dinner and drinks regularly, or if you travel for work and must eat at hotels and restaurants often, you may have noticed an expanding waistline..."

Click here to keep reading!

Vancouver Sun article: What you should know about carbs, glycemic index and gluten

Sun Run Training Week 3: A closer look at gluten


In this week's article in the Vancouver Sun, I explain the current trends in nutrition about gluten and gluten-free diets. The main message: unless you have celiac disease or diagnosed gluten sensitivity, don't be afraid of gluten!

Here's a taste of the new article:

"Never before has there been so much confusion and controversy about gluten, flour and carbs. We see so many foods labelled “gluten free” that it’s made us question whether this thing called “gluten” is something we should all be avoiding? Allow me to clarify..."

Click here to read more on the Vancouver Sun's website.


Doctors Warn Against the IgG Food Sensitivity Test

Doctors Warn Against the IgG Food Sensitivity Test

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about food sensitivities in today's culture of what-to-eat and what-not-to-eat.  Whether you suffer from migraines, infertility, weight or digestive issues, you may look to your diet for answers.  The Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology is warning against the ELISA IgG food sensitivity blood test that is promoted by many alternative practitioners as a cure all.  The scientific community has proven that IgG antibodies are unrelated to food intolerance or allergy symptoms.  In fact, studies have shown that IgG antibodies indicate quite the opposite: that a person has been exposed to a food. 
nurse blood FACT #1: IgG Antibodies Mean Your Body is Used to a Food

An excellent study published in the Allergy journal, demonstrated this many years ago by showing that people who worked in a bakery had high IgG levels for wheat and do not actually suffer from wheat sensitivity.  The IgG test could not identify the individuals who actually suffered from wheat sensitivity.  Interestingly, in this study the researchers also noticed that half the study participants also had high IgG antibodies to animals, but none of them were allergic to animals.  The researchers explained that if you own a pet, you will likely have high IgG antibodies to animals, because you are used to your pet, not because you are allergic to it. 

FACT#2: Sometimes the IgG Tests Guess it Right, by Chance

One  study that is often quoted by supporters of the IgG test, gave an IgG food elimination diet to patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which resulted in up to 26% improvement in symptoms.  However, this study was flawed because they eliminated dairy and wheat in the IgG test diet, which are well known triggers for people suffering from IBS.  The IgG test identified dairy and wheat because they are common foods that everyone has been exposed to.  In this way, when the IgG test identifies these two known IBS trigger foods, it can identify food sensitivities correctly by chance.  Keep in mind, that the low FODMAP diet, the recommended diet for people with IBS, effectively reduces symptoms in 75% of people with IBS.

FACT #3:  IgG Food Elimination Diets are Unnecessary and Unhealthy

Most IgG elimination diets would have you remove key staples from your diet like wheat, dairy, egg and certain fruits and vegetables.   This makes it difficult to get enough food and nutrients and difficult to follow such a restrictive diet.   This is a particular concern for growing children.

FACT #4:  There is Only One Way to Identify Food Sensitivities

Doctors, allergists and immunologists do recognize that food sensitivities do exist; however, they explain that there is no medical test that can identify food sensitivities.   Allergists remind us that the only way to identify and diagnose a food sensitivity is through the long and difficult process of a food elimination and challenge diet.  In a nutshell, this involves cutting out all suspected foods for several weeks until symptoms improve, followed by a phase of reintroducing each new food one-at-a-time to look for symptoms to come back.  Only in this way, under the guidance of an experienced health professional can a person correctly identify their food sensitivities.  Perhaps it is this daunting task that has opened the market up to a quick fix. 

It can be extremely frustrating to find answers to complex food sensitivities.   A thorough food and symptom journal and careful elimination of suspected foods under the guidance of an experienced registered dietitian, can be the beginning of the journey to feeling better.

Vancouver Sun article: Eat More to Shed Weight

Sun Run Training Week 2: Eating Small Meals, More Often Helps Shed Pounds

eat moreIn this week's Nutrition article for the Vancouver Sun Run, I talk about how a well planned diet can help you feel fuller and more satisfied, and get you to your ideal weight at the same time.

"My clients are always surprised when they see their meal plan.  “This is a lot of food! It feels like I am eating more than I was before,” they say.  

People often expect they will be hungry on a diet. However, when done correctly, a healthy meal plan should keep you satisfied all day long..."

Click here to Keep Reading.

Vancouver Sun article: If Its Not Planned, Its Takeout!

Sun Run Training Week 1 Article: Planning Meals Ahead is the Key to Healthy Eating

takeoutIn this first article, I invite you to take the first step towards eating better, by preparing your own meals.  

"...the fast food drive-thru is paved with good intentions, so how can we stay on track with our nutrition goals?  The single most powerful impact we can have on our diet is a commitment to cooking our own meals..."

Click here to Keep Reading



Honoured to have been selected as the Vancouver Sun Run SportMed Dietitian

Excited to support the Vancouver Sun Run.


I was thrilled when I found out that I had been chosen as this year's Official SportMed Nutrition Specialist for the Vancouver Sun Run.

Over the next few months, I am going to be writing articles in the Vancouver Sun every Monday that will provide practical nutrition advice for everyone who signed up for the SportMed InTraining Program.

But you don't have to be training for the Sun Run to get something out of the articles I'll be writing! If you want to make small steps towards a healthier diet, check back here on the blog for links to my weekly articles.

Wishing you all the best with your health and fitness goals.

Dr Oz Said It, So It Must Be True?


Is Garcinia Cambogia really a miracle weight loss pill?  This supplement has enjoyed huge sales after Dr. Oz introduced it as "The newest, fastest fat buster" on his show.  Does it really work?  Hardly.

Garcinia Cambogia is a small tropical fruit that grows in Indonesia and has long been used in traditional recipes as a curry condiment.  The active ingredient in this fruit extract is called Hydroxycitric Acid, or HCA.  HCA supplements supposedly act as an appetite suppressant and block fat synthesis, which Dr. Oz claimed can "bust your body fat for good".

In 2011, The Journal of Obesity published a scientific review of the studies on HCA as a weight loss supplement. Many studies had to be excluded because they didn't meet scientific criteria, but the review was able to pull together the results from 9 randomised clinical trials. The results showed that taking a dose of 1000-2800mg of HCA daily, for about 8 weeks produced an average 2 pound weight loss after 8 weeks.  Ok so it might work a little, but it is hardly a noticeable result.

The Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection stated that the scientific community does not support Dr Oz's miracle weight loss claims at a hearing in 2014.  Dr. Oz admitted that he has to be “passionate” to engage his audience. “When we write a script, we need to generate enthusiasm and engage the viewer” Oz explained.  So if we hear about it on TV, it's going to be a little more colourful, ok that's honest. 

Keep in mind that dietary supplements are not regulated like food and medications, which means that no one actually checks that supplements actually contain what they say they contain.  When Consumer Labs checked 13 major brands of Garcinia Cambogia, they found that only half of them actually contained the stated dose on the label.  Buyer beware, what you see is not what you get at health stores and online supplement sites. 

So, even if HCA did work, how do you know that your supplement actually contains any or enough HCA?  How do you even know if your supplement isn't tainted with another ingredient that could be harmful or even illegal?  Unfortunately, we don't know.  This is why athletes in particular need to be very cautious about taking any supplements, or run the risk of inadvertently testing positive for doping. 

It should come as no surprise to us, that there is no quick and easy diet pill.  In fact, I would argue that by taking a diet pill we might be inclined to eat more freely because subconsciously we might lean on the diet pill to do all the hard work. 

Agave Syrup: Natural Sweetener Raises Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes

Is sugar by another name, still sugar?  New natural sweeteners are hitting the shelves, each claiming to have health benefits, but are they really better than regular sugar?  Agave syrup is the latest in a long line of natural sweeteners like brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, honey, and stevia that would have us believe that they are good for us.

agavesyrupAgave Syrup comes from the agave cactus, the same plant that makes tequila.  This sweet nectar has a low glycemic index, so it doesn't spike your blood sugar, making it diabetic friendly.  But agave syrup is very high in fructose, much more so that even high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  You probably already know that HFCS is the cheap sweetener added to processed foods like pop, bars and junk cereals and it is thought to be responsible for the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes.  What?  Yes you heard right, fructose is the key ingredient in HFCS that is implicated in disease and agave syrup is loaded with it.  

Sweeteners with high fructose content like Agave Syrup, HFCS and fruit juice concentrate raise our cholesterol more than regular sugar and may even build up insulin resistance, a stepping stone on the path towards type 2 diabetes. These high fructose sweeteners do not signal normal fullness through the hormones insulin and leptin, which can lead to overeating and eventually packing on more pounds.  To add insult to injury, they store the extra fat near your vital organs, instead of under the skin, and this internal or “visceral fat” puts us at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.  This is why having large amounts of sugars that are high in fructose, like agave and high-fructose corn syrup can be so harmful.

Sweeteners low in fructose like honey, coconut sugar and brown rice syrup may be better choices.  Honey is less processed than table sugar and it does have vitamin C, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components.  Beware, honey does have more calories than table sugar and it is way sweeter, so a little goes a long way.  Coconut sugar also has some vitamins and minerals, like phosphorus, calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin C and B and has small amounts of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Looking next at brown rice syrup, it is also less refined than table sugar so it has some fiber. While honey, coconut sugar and brown rice syrup may have some nutrients that sugar doesn't, they still add extra Calories that most of us cannot afford. 

Stevia is a natural sweetener that has zero calories and does not cause a spike in your blood glucose. This makes it attractive for people with diabetes and those of us watching our weight.  However, since it is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, it trains your taste buds to crave sweet foods.  And a word of caution: It was only approved by Health Canada to be added to some foods in November 2012, so we do not know all of its long-term health effects yet.

At the end of the day, keep in mind that sugar is addictive and most of us have too much of it.  If you find yourself snacking on sweet yogurt, granola bars and muffins, you are probably hooked.  The more you have, the more you want.  Try to limit added sugars and sweeteners and retrain your tastebuds, so that your body can recognize the natural sweetness in foods. Although some natural sweeteners may have a few extra vitamins, all sugars and sweeteners should be consumed in moderation. Watch out for added sugars disguised under different names on an ingredient list such as corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, glucose-fructose, invert sugar, malt, rice syrup, sucrose etc.   Sweetened foods are usually high in Calories, low in nutrients and if they replace healthy meals and snacks, we end up missing important foods that we need to stay healthy.  

To Gel or Not to Gel for Your Run?

...that is the question

gel-fullSo you’re training for your first half marathon and you’re going to need some fuel on your long runs. Gone are the days of just grabbing a swig of Gatorade at the rest stops. Now there are gels, gummies and bars alongside the sport drinks. What’s a runner to choose?

If you are running for over an hour, you will need to eat, drink or suck fuel in the form of carbohydrate starting at the 45minute mark. Eat too early and your body starts burning more sugar instead of fat, eat too late and your legs turn to spaghetti as your blood sugar drops, otherwise known as “hitting the wall”.

Try to consume about 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, starting at the 45minute mark. Of course, goes without saying, we need to drink early and drink regularly, about ½-1 cup of water every 15-20minutes on our runs, to stay hydrated. Drink too little, or too late and your run will end abruptly with a muscle cramp or side stitch.

Gels, bars, gummies and sport drinks are all specially formulated for endurance sport, using an easily digestible form of carbohydrate. When we are running, our blood goes to our muscles leaving our digestive system on standby. Some stomachs are more sensitive than others, but this is not the time to try to digest a candy bar, slurpee or a pack of Skittles.  Regrettably, if you have tried this your run would have ended abruptly in a bathroom stall.

When we take a gel, bar or gummies, we must drink our water with it or we may need an urgent bathroom stop too... more on “runners trots” another day. Sport drinks are an easy solution since they cover our exact need for fluid and fuel together.

To be sure, it takes lots of trial and error to test our perfect fuel and fluid combination for those long runs. Fortunately, training for the long Sunday morning runs is quite the best part of running I think. Happy running.

FODMAP Diet Provides Relief for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

FODMAP Diet Treats IBS

bowelDo you suffer from frequent stomach cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea or sometimes constipation?  

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, is a common digestive disorder that causes these uncomfortable symptoms.  We don’t know what causes this functional disorder; there is no sign of any abnormality in the bowel of people with IBS, they just have a hypersensitive gut.  Until recently, the treatment for IBS has been a lot of sensible, albeit somewhat vague, lifestyle and diet recommendations with more than a fair bit of trial and error to figure out what foods are not well tolerated.   

A study of the low FODMAP diet published in The Journal of Gastroenterology last month, provided strong evidence that 70% of people with IBS felt better on the low FODMAP diet, compared with a typical Western diet.  The study proved that the FODMAP diet reduced digestive symptoms by 50% in people living with IBS.

Of course, the general lifestyle recommendations for IBS are still important: stress, alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, greasy foods, chocolate and fizzy drinks are all triggers for a sensitive gut.  Also, you may need to focus on foods with soluble or insoluble fibre, depending on whether you tend to have IBS with diarrhea or constipation.  Once you’ve figured out these basics and you want to go the extra mile to get significant relief, you can try the FODMAP diet for IBS, which takes the guesswork out of finding the “safe” and “offending” foods.

FODMAP stands for the names of five fermentable sugars that are poorly absorbed by people with IBS, causing abdominal pain, gas, bloating and diarrhea.  Foods high in FODMAP include certain fruits and vegetables, rye, wheat, dairy, legumes, fructose and sugar alcohols. The FODMAP diet explains the somewhat arbitrary nature of IBS food sensitivities, such as why bananas and oranges are fine, but apples and cherries wreak havoc on the IBS gut.  The idea is that you only eat foods that are low in FODMAP and must avoid the foods that contain these fermentable sugars and the result is: symptom relief within a matter of weeks.

Unfortunately, this diet is not simple and not necessarily nutritious because many ‘forbidden’ high FODMAP foods happen to be common, healthy foods like apples for example.  For these reasons, it is important to work with a dietitian when starting the FODMAP diet, you will appreciate a diet coach to make your diet nutritious and keep you motivated.

Latest News

  • Now Offering Online Sport Nutrition Courses and Resources!

    Cristina is now offering Elite Dietitians, a virtual library of Online Sport Nutrition Courses for young athletes, sports clubs and teams including soccer, hockey and swimming! 

    Each course has short videos that are easy to follow with key messages for young audiences.  Her courses are focused on everyday foods and practical suggestions to fuel young athletes for training and performance.  

    If your young athlete is open to learning from an expert in a casual way, check out her courses here:

    U16 BC CUP 2023 GAME7 5697 KBPb









    Included are free downloads including:

    • Sport Nutrition Summary
    • Sport Nutrition Tips and Checklist
    • Quiz
    • Goal setting worksheet
    • Recovery snack ideas
    • Lunch ideas
    • Meal plans for practices and games

Book an Appointment with Cristina today


Want to book an appointment with Cristina immediately? Call 604-987-4060 during business hours. 8AM - 6PM, Monday - Friday or book online today:


Questions before getting started? Please feel free to use the form below to get in contact with Cristina for any questions you may have, or to schedule your next individual or group consultation or writing project.