Make your own healthy food gift baskets

Food gift baskets are a great solution for holiday giving, and it’s easy to make them yourself.  Added bonus: you control the quality and selection.  So if gift shopping is on your to-do list this weekend, or in the coming weeks, here are some ideas for putting together healthy food gift baskets for family and friends who appreciate good food.  My picks are based on a gift basket that doesn’t contain perishable items, and are easy to organize well ahead of time (and I’m not paid to mention any of these products; I just like them):

  1. Find some nice inexpensive baskets or other containers, like decorated boxes, a big salad bowl or other large mixing bowls (preferably made of lightweight material like melamine).
  2. Olive oil: go for a small bottle of boutique olive oil.  Whether imported, or from California, these oils taste much better than the cheap generic oils, from mixed sources, in big cans.  In fact, treat yourself to one of these.  You can find product reviews in major cooking magazines.  For example, Fine Cooking had a review of olive oils in the August/September 2008 issue.  NOTE: don’t give expensive olive oil to someone who never cooks, never eats at home or hates salad.
  3. Nuts: find some unsalted natural nuts and put them in a decorative can or small gift bag.  NOTE: don’t give nuts to someone who has difficulty chewing.  A jar of nut butter is another option, and you can find many alternative nut butters in the grocery store now.
  4. Dried Fruit: there are so many different dried fruits available now, it’s hard to recommend any particular one for nutritional purposes.  Mix your own variety, or if just buy one of those snack-sized dried fruit mixes available in grocery stores.  One word of caution: many dried fruits are treated with chemicals to prevent browning, and many also are sweetened and even flavored (?).  Buying at a “natural” foods store guarantees nothing about naturalness of dried fruits.  Read the labels.
  5. Whole grain crackers: include a couple of interesting selections, like Dr. Kracker (my favorite) and Mary’s Gone Crackers, which is gluten free.  But that shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying them.  They’re made with an interesting blend of other grains and seasonings and are very flavorful.  Kashi also makes some good choices, and you can certainly find other options at your local markets.
  6. Low sodium spice mix.  You could also go for a sea salt blend, although honestly, sea salt isn’t actually healthier than regular table salt.
  7. Whole grain cereal: Steel cut oats or Irish Oatmeal, Swiss Muesli, a boutique granola or other whole grain cereal. Kretschmer’s Wheat Germ would be great, although it doesn’t sound so festive.
  8. Dark chocolate, or 2-3 less-candy-like snack bars like Kind, Lara Bars or BoraBora.
  9. Wasabi peas for spicy food lovers
  10. Tea and/or coffee beans, or a bottle of imported mineral water to wash down the wasabi peas.
  11. Soup.  I know … soup?  You can find healthier gourmet varieties in cans, or a dry mix package.  Pick one full of vegetables.
  12. Red wine, or micro-brew beer for the adults on your list.

    Add some holiday cheer with ribbons, greenery, decorated cookies (go ahead, it’s the holidays) or a few fresh fruits that keep well, as long as you believe those will be eaten rather quickly: oranges, tangerines, clementines.

    My basket would include Tassos Greek Olive oil, a can of unsalted almonds, a jar of tahini, a box of Dr. Krackers, dried pears, red wine, a bar of dark chocolate, Irish Oatmeal in a can, 2-3 Kind bars, 3-4 clementines and assorted homemade cookies (not made with margarine).  Whatever combination you choose, you can feel good about giving a personalized gift that reflects your own healthy lifestyle.

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