12 ideas for healthful holiday gifts

Whether your holiday gift recipient is a close family member or distant friend, gifts that encourage health are always an appropriate choice, especially these days. If you’ve got the time, put together a fun gift basket with choices from several of these categories. Or pack some small items into a Christmas stocking.

  1. Boxed grapefruit. I’m partial to Texas red grapefruit, but you can certainly find other options. Just be sure the gift recipient (1) likes grapefruit and (2) can use up a whole box in a timely fashion before quality deteriorates.
  2. Nut assortments. Nuts are good sources of protein, healthy fats and many vitamins and minerals. They make great snacks and are very useful in meatless recipes. You can order pre-packaged assortments, but these tend to be overly salted and sweetened. Put your own together, using cute gift tins. Emphasize raw or unsalted varieties, with maybe one or two that are flavored. Just be sure the gift recipient (1) isn’t allergic to nuts and (2) won’t have any issues chewing them and (3) can use them up in a timely fashion.
  3. Dried fruit assortment. Again you can use gift tins or holiday gift bags to create your own assortment. Find unusual kinds, like dried berries or dried topical fruits. One of my favorites is dried pears, which are not widely available. Another idea: a combined fruit/nut gift basket, to encourage healthy snacking.
  4. Outdoor Exercise-friendly gear. Considering the never-ending lock down, encouraging people to get out and walk during the dark/cold winter months is a good plan. Headlamps and reflective clothing are good options. I’ve seen winter hats with built-in lights. Walking poles, warm mittens, scarves and warm athletic pants are good choices. My winter walks are much less chilling thanks to fleece-lined athletic pants.
  5. Teas and Coffees. Encourage people to sit back and take a break from the stress with a soothing warm drink. Put together a collection of herbal and caffeinated teas, and perhaps include one or two really cute mugs, or even a tea pot. Speciality coffee beans are a great option for coffee lovers, but be sure your gift recipient uses beans, not coffee pods.
  6. Gift card or gift certificate for meal delivery or take out. You can find these for specific restaurants, or for order and delivery services. Perhaps designate the gift for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary.
  7. Cooking tools for newly enthusiastic home cooks. People who have spent the last several months experimenting in the kitchen may now have a list of tools and equipment they would enjoy using. Really good quality pots or pans, knives, cool aprons, measuring tools, casserole dishes, baking pans, cutting board and mixing bowls. Willing to spend more? Food processors, immersions blenders, slow cookers and stand mixers are great for serious cooks. Just don’t give fancy cooking equipment to someone who really isn’t that interested in cooking.
  8. Cookbooks. Again, only for someone who is clearly interested in cooking. The best options for encouraging healthy eating are books that focus on vegetables, meatless meals and whole grains. My preference would be a focus on vegetables, since all food intake data indicates people do not eat enough vegetables.
  9. Boutique olive oils (or other speciality oils). Olive oil that comes in giant bottles isn’t generally the best for flavor, despite an extra virgin or first cold pressed designation. They’re usually blends of whatever oil was inexpensive. Single origin oils have surprisingly distinctive flavors and are worth a try. Other interesting oils: toasted sesame, truffle, almond, walnut, avocado. These are not good choices for cooking, so they’re a good choice for someone who loves salads or will use a bit of oil to flavor a meat or vegetable dish after it’s cooked.
  10. Food or cooking wall calendar. I’m a fan of pretty calendars, and you can find plenty of food-themed calendars. Just looking at lovely fruit or vegetables or delicious healthful food might help to reinforce healthy eating habits all year long.
  11. Interesting grains, beans or pasta. My top picks would be farro, pearl couscous (Israeli) and Beluga or French green lentils.
  12. Cool condiments. You can find plenty of options in the average grocery store: interesting pickled vegetables, pure fruit preserves, seasonings and sauces for different cuisines like Asian, Indian curry, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, BBQ, Mexican, Cajun and Creole.

It doesn’t all have to be about health perfection. If you’re doing a gift basket, you can include a bottle or wine, nice chocolate or craft beer when appropriate.

Here are some items I would not give as a holiday gift, unless the person actually asked for it specifically. Even then, I’d be thinking of an alternative. While some of these ideas may seem well-meaning, they could end up being insulting. Or worse, could be really inappropriate, depending on a person’s health status.

  • Diet books
  • Vitamin supplements.
  • Weight loss or body building supplements
  • Low fat, low sodium or sugar-free anything. Don’t give a gift that encourages fake food.

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