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Healthy Gifts? Who Comes Up With These? Voldemort?

We know, we know. How dreary.  Tofu treats and bathroom scales for Christmas!  Another Hanukkah hamper brimming with exercise bands and sugar-free power bars!  Seriously!  Who wants healthy stuff for the holidays?  He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and the Grinch, maybe, and Scrooge.  Your cardiologist.  The guy who spots for you at the gym.  That’s it – right?  No one else could possibly want more sports gear, thermal lunch totes, pistachio treats and herbal tea assortments…right?

Actually, wrong.  Lots of us really do want (secretly, maybe) the support and inspiration of healthy and nutritionally sound gifts – they just need to be wrapped beautifully and accompanied by something wicked, dinner reservations or a spa treatment.  And here are some other ideas.  Don’t be alarmed.  Your kids, your friends and even some co-workers and seniors might be really happy with some of these suggestions.  They jump-start all those New Year’s resolutions, too!

  • Healthy Apps.  The ever-evolving world of technology comes to the rescue here with all sorts of addicting little applications that count calories, track your workouts, remind you to meditate or stretch, find recipes for a cauliflower and brown rice medley that is actually edible, update the shopping lists and so on.
  • Steamer insert and/or cooking basket.  Steamer inserts are those rather odd-looking gadgets that hold veggies (and other goodies, like Chinese dumplings) above simmering water and make the whole steaming thing really easy and pull-offable.  Some are metal; those made of silicon are much more fun and colorful.  The cooking basket part lets you immerse foods for boiling – potatoes, root veggies, sprouts.  The whole idea is to promote  healthier (that is, non-fried) ways to prepare food.
  • Soup tureen or pot.  Soup is wonderful, healthy, soothing, comforting, creative, economical, even mysterious….the list goes on.  Research has shown that those who eat vegetable-based soup at the beginning of a meal consume fewer calories overall.   Encouraging soup making and eating, then, is a good thing.  You might include a tasty soup recipe or two, or a cookbook dedicated to the art, to get them started.  And a big wooden spoon.
  • Oven baking stone.  This is simplicity itself.  A baking stone, made from stone, ceramic or clay, is a flat plate or tray that holds on to the heat of your oven.  In fact, it helps your oven create the effects of a brick oven.  You put it on the lowest shelf and leave it in there.  They work on grills, too.  When you use it as the surface for baking whole-grain breads and pizza crusts, everything gets browner and crisper and tastier.  No more take out pizza!  Just one word of caution, though.  These stones are heavy, really heavy, so wrap the gift with sturdy paper and maybe some twine.  No silly curly ribbon.  It’s more respectful.   Send along some whole-grain bread recipes.
  • Private cooking lessons.  While we’re on the healthy cooking techniques subject, maybe you know someone who would enjoy some cooking classes.  Check online for local offerings.  And you  might join them as well.  The better you cook, the better (and healthier) you eat.
  • Nutritional and weight control counseling.  Again, tact may be in order here, but many communities have great resources  for people who want to lose weight, gain fitness and cook and eat better.  A session or two with an expert might be really appreciated.
  • Private yoga or personal training sessions.  Check with local fitness centers, community centers, good gyms or other resources to see what’s available in your (or their) community.  Friends may have some good recommendations, too.
  • Small plates; narrow glasses.  The same researchers that found out about soup may be behind these findings as well.  It has been affirmed over and over again that people put more food on bigger plates – and they eat all that food – and they put more to drink into wider glasses – and they drink all those beverages.  More food, more drink, more calories.  So use smaller plates and skinnier glasses.  Absurd as it sounds, it’s a really painless way to cut calories.
  • Things to promote mindful eating.  If you’ve picked out a cute set of ten-inch plates and elegant, narrow glasses for someone, think about placemats  and some easy care cloth napkins, too.  Sitting down to a meal at an attractively set table promotes healthy eating  in a subtle, but very real, way.  It helps us slow down and stay mindful.  We are much more tuned in to how food looks and smells and tastes.  The whole experience is different.  Nourishing.  Nurturing.  Civilized.

See?  We’ve said this before, but that wasn’t so bad, was it?  And special thanks to nutritionists Jennifer Nelson and Katherine Zeratsky, Mayo Clinic staff, for their recent food-wise article. 

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