Healthy, Happy Holidays

The holiday season is upon us.   Filled with excitement, fun, family, friends and delicious foods.  But sometimes also stress and overindulgence. Here are some pointers for enjoying a healthy holiday season.

Enjoy, but keep the overall balance.  Diet has a tremendous impact on health.  The way we eat has significant impacts on how we feel now and our risk for illness in the future.  However, food plays a significant role in many traditions and celebrations.  My advice to patients is to give yourself the opportunity to enjoy some of those special meals while still maintaining the overall balance as much as possible.  Have the mashed potatoes and gravy but include some vegetables too.  And if you know there will be a special dinner, try to stick to your normal breakfast and lunch and get back to your normal diet the next day.  If food sensitivities are a challenge for you there are lots of great recipes online to help you make treats that you’ll feel good eating (see my gingerbread recipe in the previous post!)

Secondly, take time to pause and soak it all in.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season.  See if you can find the occasional 30 seconds to pause for some deep breaths while last-minute shopping or completing preparations.  This helps us to step out of autopilot and interrupts the stress response.  And during those special holiday moments – gathering around the table with family or watching others open gifts – see if you can bring your full attention to the present moment.  Our minds are likely to wander to the things we need to do or reflecting on things that have happened, but see if you can gently guide it back to observing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of our present holiday experiences.  This gives us the opportunity to fully enjoy those special moments.  If these exercises have you interested, learn more about mindfulness. 

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year.  Give yourself the chance to enjoy and be sure to pause and soak it all in. Happy and Healthy Holidays to you and your loved ones!

Photo Credit:

Hypoallergenic Gingerbread Recipe

I have a cherished holiday tradition that involves something sweet, some creativity and some fun.  Every year some of my friends from Natruopathic Medicial School gather and bake gingerbread cookies.  There are some food sensitivities within the group so these hypoallergenic gingerbread cookies are our staple.  They taste so terrific that you could bring them to any holiday gathering without anyone suspecting that they are hypoallergenic! Enjoy :)

Dry Ingredients:
1+1/2 cups rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch (NOT potato flour)
1/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1+1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/8 tsp cloves (ground)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (ground)
3/4 tsp ginger (ground)
1/8 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 egg whites (cold)
1/2 cup gluten-free molasses

Other Ingredients
1/2 cup non-dairy margarine
3 tbsp olive oil

Thoroughly combine the dry ingredients. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut in the non-dairy margarine and olive oil until the mixture is crumbly.  In a small bowl, beat the wet ingredients together well. Add the wet mixture to the dry and combine until it forms a heavy dough. Form a flat ball, cover and refrigerate one hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with baking parchment. Sprinkle a little tapioca flour on a sheet of baking parchment and roll out 1/4 of the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Use extra tapioca flour if the dough is sticky. Cut out the shapes as desired and place on lined baking sheets. Repeat for the remaining dough. If the dough becomes difficult to work with, chill it again for 15-20 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes and cool on a wire rack

Decorate with allergy-free icing and enjoy!

Recipe from:


Fall Butt-Blasting Outdoor Workout

Although we aren’t sporting shorts and bikinis anymore, it doesn’t mean that we have to neglect our fitness. Autumn is one of my favorite times of year to be exercising outdoors – the air is crisp and the scenery is stunning with the leaves changing color. One area of the body that is often neglected with pant wearing and stretchy tights is the booty, aka your butt. Here is an effective, body weight outdoor workout I devised to help sculpt your tushy and keep things in check this fall.

The workout:

1. Hill Sprints

Find a hill, any hill will do! St. Pietersburg hill here in Maastricht, Netherlands has a HUGE hill with a steep incline, which is where I decided to do this workout. While I didn’t sprint the entire hill, I picked a distance (approximately 50m) and timed myself. Try 5 sets x 30 seconds all out effort, with 90seconds rest between sets. This is sure to get the heart rate up and the booty burning! 10min

2. Stair Running

The Chedoke 298 step outdoor staircase in Hamilton is a great spot, but any stairs will do the trick. Since I used a smaller flight, I kept my rest intervals short, about 30 seconds, and I completed 8 sets up and down. For safety reasons make sure not to sprint down the steps! 9 min

3. Unilateral Bench Reverse Lunges

This exercise really creates a deep stretch in the hip extensors, ie the butt and hamstrings, and adds a stability component since you are working one leg at a time. Try 3 sets of 25 reps per leg, with 1 minute of rest between sets.

Execution: Start by standing on a bench (or if there isn’t one you can use the 2nd or 3rd step of a staircase), lunge down with the right leg making sure you get a long stride. Then step back up onto the bench, and repeat. Finish reps on one leg, then move on to the other leg to complete the set. 9 min

4. Walking lunges

So simple, yet so effective! Find a 50-100 meter flat area and get going. I did 3 sets of 25 lunges per leg, with 1 minute rest between sets. 9 min

5. Jump Squats

Using the same flat area from exercise 4, jump squat the length of the area, focusing on explosive movement with the help of your arms. I did 20 standing squat jumps for 3 sets, with 90 seconds between sets. 6 min

The whole workout takes around 45 minutes to complete, and it will leave you feeling bootylicious! A foolproof workout to maximize your assets ;)

Here’s to building better behinds!

- Dr. Crystal

Learn more about Dr. Crystal Ceh ND at

Crystal is licensed Naturopathic Doctor who is passionate about helping people reclaim their health and transform their lives through Naturopathic medicine. She is the owner of Core Essentials Health, and provides convenient, concierge Naturopathic and fitness services to her clients in the comfort of their own homes. While there are many tools in her toolkit, she focuses on the fundamental healing modalities: nutrition, movement and mindfulness. Crystal welcomes all clients to her practice, but she has a special interest in weight/fat loss, digestive health, stress management and hormonal health. Crystal actively engages the community by hosting health seminars, corporate lunch-and-learns, and contributes articles and health blogs regularly to local organizations and online journals. Crystal is a member of the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapies-Naturopathy (BDDT-n) and the Association for Natural Medicine in Europe (ANME).

The “F-word” in Nutrition... Fats

I know, I know, it’s a bad word in a lot of peoples’ books. There are many patients who cringe when I suggest increasing it in their diet.  But the truth is, it shouldn’t be a bad word.  Dietary fats have been given a really bad rap for a long time but they actually don’t deserve it.  Scientific research is showing the BENEFITS of many type of fat and the down sides of having too little and, thankfully, public opinion is starting to shift too.

Let’s look at some misconceptions:

All fats are bad for you.  There are many kinds of fat in the diet and their effects on the body range significantly.  Trans fats, found in deep fried foods, processed foods and commercial baked goods are really bad.  They dramatically increase inflammation and our risk of heart disease. However, omega 3 fats, found in fish, flax, walnuts and hemp, and omega 9 fats, found in olive oil and avocados, decrease inflammation and risk of heart disease.  Less well-know is the fact that omega 6 fats (found in all the other plant oils) also increase inflammation.  The ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 in the historic human diet was about 1 to 1 but the current North American diet contains a 1 to 15 ratio favouring the pro-inflammatory fat. The effects of all this inflammation are showing up in a range of chronic diseases that plague our modern civilization.  Bottom line: the type of fat really makes a big difference!

Eating fat makes you fat. Fats got this reputation because they contain more calories per gram.  That means that a gram of olive oil has more calories than a gram of white sugar.  However, it has been demonstrated that eating low-fat does not decrease calorie intake – likely because low-fat foods are less filling and people end up eating larger quantities. A low fat diet tends to be higher in carbohydrates which have a number of effects on weight management. When we eat a meal high in sugar it triggers a huge cascade of reactions in the body.  We release larger amounts of the hormone insulin, resulting in more belly fat, increased inflammation, increased cholesterol and blood pressure.  It also affects the appetite-control hormone leptin which helps the body tell you that you’re full.

A huge number of my patient report that eating more carbohydrates causes them to crave more and eating less causes them to crave less.  On the other hand, fats are satisfying and tell the body that it’s had enough.  A study of children given whole milk or fat-free milk found that those drinking the fat-free variety were MORE LIKELY to be overweight at the end of the study! 

Adding more of the right kind of fat to your diet can be tremendously helpful for helping you reach your goals.  The brain is 60% fat and nerves depend of proper fats to function properly - there are connections between low levels of certain fats and mood disorders.  Fats serve as precursors to all kinds of hormones and signalling molecules in the body.  They are necessary for healthy skin and hair.  I could keep going but I think you get the point! Fats have many benefits, if you choose the right ones, and avoiding them can cause harm. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about making sure your dietary fats are in balance and supporting you in achieving your optimal health.


Recipe of the Month: Home-made Saucy Chicken Wings

chicken wings

Chicken wings can be a fun finger-food to enjoy but the ones in the box are often deep fried and have all kinds of additives. Making your own is easy and this recipe tastes great!


½ cup ketchup

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup rice vinegar

3 Tbsp soy sauce (gluten-free if needed)

2 Tbsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp minced garlic

3lb of chicken wings


Wash and dry wings.  Combine all other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add wings. Refrigerate for one hour.  Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 25 minutes.  Flip and bake for another 25 minutes.

Tips for a Healthy Summer


The warm weather is in full swing! Here are my tips for a healthy summer:

1. Get out doors! There is tons of research about the health benefits of spending time in nature – from better blood sugar and blood pressure to decreased stress and anxiety, improved mood, better energy and concentration and better immune function. There are parks and green spaces in every neighbourhood and tremendous provincial parks within a couple hour’s drive.

2. Eat what’s in season. Try farmers’ markets for a variety of fresh, local produce at the peak of its nutritional content.

3. Manage your sun exposure. Some is good – 20-30 minutes per day is enough to make your required vitamin D. But too much increases the risk of skin cancer. Avoid peak hours, wear a hat and choose a non-toxic sunscreen. Popular natural sunscreens include the Green Beaver line or DeVita which use zinc-oxide as the active ingredient rather than hormone-disrupting chemicals.

4. Stay hydrated. In the summer we need at least 2L per day of water. If it’s too plain for you, try adding lemon, cucumber or berries. Or make herbal iced tea.

5. Repel mosquitoes naturally. If you’re concerned about getting bitten, arm yourself with natural repellants like the homeopathic formula Mozi-Q or sprays that use essential oils like Citronella or Tea tree oil.

6.Take your vacation! Many people don’t and it’s so important for your overall health. Take some time to rest and relax.

Photo credit:

Recipe of the Month: Gluten-free Sweet Potato Gnocchi

sweet potato gnocchi

Hard to pronounce but delicious and fun to make!  Only 2 ingredients but limitless possibilities to dress them up.


  • 1-2 sweet potatoes
  • Rice flour


Peel and dice potatoes and boil until tender.  Drain very well and mash.  Measure your mashed sweet potato and add an equal amount of rice flour, mix thoroughly.  You may need to add extra flour to get a thick dough.

On a floured surface roll a piece of dough into a long rope and cut into 1 inch segments.  In small batches drop gnocchi into a pot of boiling water and keep an eye on them.  When they float, remove with a slotted spoon.

Once they’ve all been boiled, combine with your favourite ingredients to make a great meal.  Consider tomato sauce or pesto.  Don’t forget to add protein (meat or beans) and vegetables!

In my batch this week I added chicken, bacon, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, garlic, pine-nuts, fresh basil and lots of olive oil.

A Dose of Preventative Medicine

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”   ― Benjamin Franklin

He who cures a disease may be the skillfullest, but he who prevents it is the safest physician.  — Thomas Fuller

There are many quotes out there about preventing illness.  And while it can sometimes seem less impressive than a miraculous cure, most people would agree that they would prefer to never suffer from an illness at all.

Last year the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine research department published an exciting study in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association.  They studied the addition of Naturopathic Medicine to standard treatment in 246 Canadian postal workers.  This included diet and lifestyle modifications, weight loss and supplement recommendations.  

After one year, the participants receiving Naturopathic care had a 17% reduction in a heart disease risk factor while the participants receiving standard care had an increase in their risk. 

Heart disease, diabetes and cancer are some of the most common causes of death in our society.  There is a genetic factor in these illness and this is well-known by the public.  As a result, I often have patients in my office tell me that they are doomed to have a heart attack or end up on insulin like their family members.  I love that I get to tell them that this is not necessarily true! There is a vast quantity of research demonstrating dramatic reductions in the risk of these illnesses with simple diet and lifestyle modifications. 

While less exciting than a dramatic cure, preventative medicine has the opportunity to contribute to our health in very significant ways and help us to avoid the suffering and expense of chronic disease.  If you are working with a Naturopathic Doctor, congratulate yourself for investing in your future health and keep up your efforts to stay healthy. If you’ve never worked with a Naturopathic Doctor, consider taking the step to invest in preventative care.  

Check out the study mentioned:

7 Minutes for Fitness

7 Minute Workout

No time to exercise?

Do you have 7 minutes?

When people say they don't exercise, the most common reasons are that they don't have the time or energy or interest. Now there’s a website and an App that can help you overcome these challenges!

The health benefits of exercise are staggering.  Regular physical activity decreases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and of dying from ANY cause! It is a potent tool for decreasing depression and stress and one of the best ways to increase energy. 

New research is being conducted on the use of short duration, high intensity workouts.  This new approach to fitness has shown excellent health outcomes while being more time efficient than traditional approaches to fitness.  For example, research at McMaster University has shown that a few minutes of exercise close to your maximum capacity can create changes in the muscles similar to long bouts of running or bike riding. 

A sequence of exercises was reported in a recent article in the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal based on this research.  There are 12 exercises that are each done for 30 seconds with a 10 second rest in between.

  1. Jumping jacks
  2. Wall sit
  3. Push-up
  4. Abdominal crunch
  5. Step-up onto chair
  6. Squat
  7. Triceps dip on chair
  8. Plank
  9. High knees/running in place
  10. Lunge
  11. Push-up and rotation
  12. Side plank

An online version and a downloadable App for your devices walks you through the routine with a visual guide and keeps track of time. You don’t need any equipment or special clothing - just a wall, a chair and some running shoes.  That means you can do it in your office or your home or anywhere. Click Here to give it a try! Even the busiest day can spare 7 minutes in the name of health and fitness!

Shaved Vegetable Salad Recipe

Shaved vegetable salad photo

This salad was inspired by a Summerlicious creation that I had at Quince Bistro a while back.  It is so colourful that it makes an impressive addition to a dinner party but it’s so PACKED with nutritious vegetables that you could enjoy it any day!  I used heritage carrots in my salad today – you might be able to see the purple and yellow ribbons.  Also when candy or golden beets are available in stores or farmers’ markets they add great colour too.  Oh and if you’ve never heard of kohl rabbi you’re not alone – feel free to leave it out but I challenge you to pick up this great veggie at your neighbourhood grocery store and give it a try!


  • 5 cups of baby arugula
  • 1-2 carrots
  • ½ bulb of fennel, cut top to bottom
  • 1/8th head of a red cabbage
  • ½ red onion
  • 6-8 radishes
  • ½ kohl rabbi, outer skin removed
  • 1-2 raw beets, skin removed
  • 1 avocado


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper


Trim, wash and thinly slice fennel, red cabbage, red onion, radishes and kohl rabbi using a mandolin.  Use a peeler to create long ribbons or carrot after peeling and trimming.  Dice avocado. Combine all vegetables.  Combine dressing ingredients and add the desired amount.  Toss well and enjoy.