Have a Foodie on Your List? Treat ‘em Right

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

If you want to give a food gift this holiday season, skip the sugary baked goods and candy and give food gifts that are both decadent and healthful.

“If we can give things like a fruit basket, that’s great,” said Piek L. Tan, registered dietitian at CNY Family Care in East Syracuse. “But if it is going to be a fruit basket, make it more fun than oranges and clementines. Find something less common. Maybe a fig and nuts platter, along with some cheeses. Dried fruit, nuts and cheese platter is always enjoyed during the holidays. Some combinations like that is always enjoyable.”

Fruit is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and in most cases fiber. Nuts provide minerals, fiber and in some cases, omega-3 fatty acids.

A variety of colorful fruits can provide a wide array of nutrients. Lay a tea towel or other padding in the basket to cushion the fruit and arrange the fruit so it piles above the rim of the basket. Tuck in a few small items among the pieces of fruit, like English walnuts. Consider securing the fruit in place with cellophane if you need to transport the basket and top with a large bow.

Give local goods, like New York state apples, maple syrup, cheese or honey. Many people enjoy these as treats.

Dark chocolate has long been touted for its antioxidant properties. Give dark chocolates that have at least 70% cacao. For a DIY dark chocolate gift, create healthful dark chocolate bark by pouring a layer of melted chocolate over broken nuts arranged on waxed paper. Allow the chocolate to harden in the refrigerator before breaking into pieces and packaging.

Create chocolate raspberries by washing raspberries to completely dry. Gently place a dark chocolate chip inside the berry with the flat side at the bottom and arrange on a glass tray.

Coffee and tea are also rich in antioxidants. Find a few “fancy” flavors to nestle in a basket with mugs, a tea towel and flavoring agents like honey.

Kimberly V. Higgins, registered dietitian in private practice in Manlius, likes making and giving DIY food gifts like seasonings.

“Custom spice blends whether your favorite meat rub, a Tex Mex rub or taco spice blend that could go into dipping oils,” are good gifts, she said. “Another is flavored vinegars and oils where you infuse it with herbs, spices and in a beautiful jar. Or a custom vinaigrette. Make it up and jar it. As long as there’s no dairy it, it’s shelf stable. It encourages people to eat salads and put it on roasted vegetables.”

Meal preparation delivery helps people save time on fixing meals. Give a similar type of gift by creating one yourself. Higgins recommended making soup mix with beans, spices and dried pasta in a Mason jar with a custom recipe card. https://masonjarrecipe.com/34-mason-jar-dry-soup-mixes-recipes offers numerous healthful mixes.

“I find even though we live in an age of constant access to recipes, people want new things and things they know will work,” Higgins said. “Food gifts that do some of the work like the recipe and assembling the ingredients, people appreciate it. People don’t want more stuff to find a place for.”

It also enables givers to create a wholesome soup with whole grain pasta or brown rice.

Higgins likes giving mini herb growing kits.

“People can grow little herb gardens in pots in the kitchen in the winter months,” she said. “Wegmans and Tops offer rosemary plants shaped as trees that are live and people can keep it in their kitchens. It will last a few months. It’s also decorative and smells delicious.”

Herbs add flavor without additional salt or fat.

Giving coffee or tea baskets promotes healthful eating also, as these “are the biggest sources of antioxidants in the American diet,” Higgins said. “Package specialty coffees with mugs, tea towels and accessories. Or you could do a chai tea mix with the spices. Especially in the winter, people enjoy warm beverages.”