The holidays don't have to be unhealthy. These guilt-free gift ideas can bring both health and cheer to your home for the holidays.
There’s nothing quite like seeing that expression of delight when one of your favorite people opens your gift. Many people like to give food items, but one disadvantage is that these items may be high in saturated fat, sugar and calories.
However, other options are available, so you can still make your loved ones happy — and just a bit healthier — for the holidays.
Cooking for Others
If you’re a cook, you might have a specialty that everyone loves to eat during the holidays. Look for ways to remodel that luxurious and decadent recipe to make it healthier.
Maybe it doesn’t really need all that butter. Or could you substitute fruit pulp for sugar in your cookie recipe? The American Academy of Family Practice notes that fruits are high in fiber but low in fat — a good choice for healthier eating.
Try a recipe that could start a new tradition. You could make a big pot of soup and freeze one-person servings for those single friends on your list. Choose soups that are high in vegetables to increase fiber and lower the calories per serving. The American Academy of Family Practice suggests you choose nonfat milk or buttermilk to decrease the saturated fat in soup recipes.
Flavoring vinegar with herbs is easy — and it makes a nice gift. Choose a pretty bottle and label and tie a glittery bow around the neck. Include a healthy recipe that uses your vinegar.
When you’re getting a gift for someone who likes to cook or wants to learn, consider kitchen utensils like a good knife or a healthy cookbook, recommends the Mayo Clinic.
Tina Marinaccio, MS, a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) from Morristown, New Jersey, offered some of her healthy holiday gift recommendations to dailyRx News.
"If you're buying for someone who likes to cook, expand their repertoire with some exotic spices, perhaps some saffron, juniper berries, different types of chilis, or hickory-smoked sea salt," Marinaccio said. "For something more festive, try an organic culinary herbal wreath from Organic Bouquet. It includes dried bay leaves, chili peppers, rosemary and thyme, formed into a beautiful wreath that you can hang and break off as needed."
And if someone does not feel confident in their cooking skills, you can help them learn, Marinaccio suggested.
"If cooking is not their bag, check your local adult school for some healthy cooking classes, or purchase a subscription to a healthy cooking magazine," she said.
You could also combine ideas to make a gift basket. For a coffee drinker, find some special coffee beans and add a pretty mug. Specialty teas can be packed in a delicate teacup for a healthy treat. Coffee and tea are low-calorie beverages when taken without sugar or cream.
"For food-based gifts, try a high quality dark chocolate (at least 72 percent cacao) in single serving packages, along with some packets of green tea. Both, in modest amounts, been found to be cardioprotective," Marinaccio said. "If the person on your list is a breakfast skipper, prepare an on-the-go breakfast basket with single serving steel cut oatmeal packets, sugar-free dried fruit, and ground flax seed, along with a microwavable bowl they can bring to work. Or, consider a fruit of the month club."
You could also put together a special dinner with pasta and your own special sauce — or a good store-bought version. Add a loaf of home-baked or artisan bread and a gift card for some seasonal greens or vegetables. Choose whole grains for the bread — the American Academy of Family Practice says whole-grain breads are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs can prevent overeating because they're higher in fiber and keep you feeling full longer than simple carbs like refined white flour.
Freeze-dried or dehydrated vegetables can become soup in a jar — add bouillon and seasonings, so the recipient needs only to boil water and heat the meal. You could layer the ingredients for visual appeal and add a circle of wrapping paper or fabric under the lid. The vegetables in soup contain dietary fiber, which aids in digestion.
Like food, exercise is an important part of being healthy. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that everyone benefits from regular exercise, which can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, keep you flexible, improve your mental health and help you sleep.
Give a loved one a gift membership to the nearest gym. If you’re gifting a person who is already a gym member, the Mayo Clinic says that person might enjoy a series of special lessons in a specialty fitness area like yoga, karate or Pilates. Someone who wants to work on strength training at home might appreciate a set of ankle weights or dumbbells.
"For the tech savvy people on your gift list who like to track progress, give an electronic device, such as the Fitbit One," Marinaccio said. "It tracks steps, stairs climbed and calories. It even rates your sleep, and most of us could use a few more zzz's. For the runners on your list, try an app like Tempo Run. This app categorizes music by tempo into ten speed categories, helping runners maintain cadence, whether they are sprinters or marathoners."
Show the Love
You can always give the gift of time — give personal gift certificates for a walk or other physical activity with a friend or relative. Or teach someone how to cook a new, heart-healthy dish and have dinner together. After all, the season is about friends and family, not just presents.