By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
“Health is wealth” as the saying goes. Why not give healthful gifts this season? While giving something as obvious as a diet book or a tower fan is likely a great idea, gifts to promote good health come in many forms.
1. Fruit basket. Most grocers sell beautiful arrangements of fruits. Or, you can make your own with a large basket or other festive container. I like to cushion the interior with a new kitchen towel or shredded red and green paper and fill it with a variety of fruit to about 1/3 above the container’s capacity. Placing firmer fruit on the bottom, like apples, helps ensure it will last longer, as will cradling softer fruit in a few layers of tissue paper. For the lack of a nicer container, I’ve even wrapped a sturdy cardboard box with Christmas paper. Include more exotic fruits and also favorites like apples and oranges so if feels more special. Party stores and dollar stores cell cellophane shrink wrap bags that will keep the goodies inside. Then top with a bow. Fruit baskets make great thank-you gifts to a family hosting your celebration. Also consider people who may seldom have fresh fruit, like a relative living in a nursing home. An elderly person who has enough “stuff” may also enjoy an edible gift.
2. Chocolate. Select a high-quality dark chocolate. Despite its decadence, chocolate’s antioxidants can provide a boost to the immune system. Skip milk chocolate, which contains a much lower level of antioxidants, and white chocolate, which isn’t really chocolate at all. Whether it’s a stack of bars wrapped and tied off with a ribbon (children especially love this), a fancy holiday gift package or a seasonal box of candies, chocolate is always welcomed and when eaten in moderation, a treat that provides some health benefits.
3. Nuts. Providing allergies aren’t an issue, fancy nuts represent a terrific present, as they’re delicious sources of minerals, protein and healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid the glazed varieties, as they’re high in sugar. Nuts roasted and sprinkled with sea salt offer a better option. Or just plain nuts are good, too. Grocery stores usually provide containers of nuts in the shell this time of year in the produce section. Add a nutcracker and pick and you’re all set. Or peruse the store for shelled nut gift sets.
4. Maple syrup. Most people love it but consider it a special treat because of its price. With its bevy of minerals (even calcium!) as an all-natural sweetener, maple syrup represents a very healthful food. I’ve found that shopping at a maple farm’s store can offer a wider variety of decorative glass bottles and even seasonal containers instead of the taupe plastic jug or plain glass bottle.
5. Tea or coffee. Both beverages offer antioxidants. But among teas, white tea has the most, followed by green and then black. Fruit tea is usually made with a black tea base. Some herbal teas purport to support the immune system’s health. Many stores sell coffee or wholesale iced tea packaged nicely. Or, as with the fruit, choose a few varieties and package them up yourself. As a nice touch, include a set of nice mugs in a style appealing to the recipient or accessories like a tea cozy or a French press and grinder.
6. Community supported agriculture membership. Also known as a CSA, this membership gives your recipient a share of a local farmer’s freshly harvested crops all summer and fall. Some also offer winter shares, which tend to include more root crops. That should expand the recipient’s produce consumption, since most CSAs offer a vast array of fruits and vegetables. Some CSAs include items like eggs, honey and meat. Before you purchase, make sure that the pick-up location — which may or may not be on the farm — is close enough to your recipient.
7. Healthful gift cards. Support your recipients’ interest in a new activity, whether it’s dance lessons, martial arts school membership, golf club membership or anything else that gets them moving. But as with the aforementioned diet book, don’t make it as obvious as a gym membership unless they have explicitly stated that kind of gift would be welcomed. Along with the membership certificate, package up an accessory such as a vacuum-sealing, stainless steel insulated water bottle.