With the holiday season upon us and shoppers busily attending to their shopping lists, today we embark on part 2 of Healthy and Meaningful Holiday Gifts Ideas.
If you missed part 1, we covered personal care products as gifts. Today in part 2, we will cover another popular gift idea and that is food products.
Remember again that sometimes, big and outrageous gifts are not needed. In fact many times, it is the personal touch, the meaningful gift, that really makes a difference to someone.
The really positive part of using food products as gifts is that for one, everybody could always use them, secondly you can get very creative in what you give and how you wrap it and thirdly as these are harder economic times for most, they can be one of the thriftiest gifts for you and very useful and appreciated for the receiving party.
Many times people overlook food ideas as gifts, because our minds, thanks to marketing of course, are set on overdrive where big, flashy and many times useless gifts are concerned. Think about how you feel when you get that certain “knick-knack” that you have no idea what to do with. There really are only so many materialistic items that we can have and enjoy at the same time. So if in need of a healthy and meaningful gift idea, consider food products.
Aside from royalty, food products were one of the first typically given gifts for any occasion throughout the ages. Not that long ago in fact, at the start of this century people would typically bake something themselves and offer it as a gift when going to another’s house.
It was also just recently, from about the 1950′s that the economy became the primary focus of pretty much every major country and the age of consumerism and materialism began. Today we are inundated with commercial after commercial and ad after ad for “stuff”. Not only that but we have put judgements and restrictions on ourselves as to what is “appropriate” to give and what isn’t – most of the time in terms of dollar value.
Today also, many of us buy gifts just for the sake of it and come January many of us not only end up in some kind of debt, but many of those gifts find themselves abandoned, broken or forgotten about. It is also today that we have developed a sneering eye for simple, healthy and meaningful gift ideas like food products. “What, you mean you got a fruit basket? That’s it?” are just one of the simple responses and reactions people in our society of the more affluent type would have for random food product scenario.
The truth is the simple and meaningful things in life stopped being important and stopped satisfying us. Well that is just how some people feel. The other side of the truth is that ever since the 1950′s the level of happiness for the average person in a developed country like the US or Canada, has only been falling. Makes one to think if all those big, fancy and colorful gifts are really as satisfying as they are hyped up to be.
So here are some DO’s and DON’TS in terms of gift ideas where food products are concerned and advice to make them truly meaningful and healthy gifts.
FOOD PRODUCT GIFT DO’S
Fruit Baskets – Although these may be greatly unappreciated by some, these are one of the healthiest and if personally prepared meaningful gift ideas. For a unique twist you can even try a vegetable basket. You can buy the person a neat container, like a decorative bowl or fancy wicker basket and arrange some fruits in it. Finishing touches include fancy foil wrapping, ribbons, bows or even live evergreens.
Real, whole and unsweetened Fruit and Nut Bars – Instead of the typical and very unhealthy chocolates, try real food fruit and nut bars. Top 3 amazing ones in terms of health and delicious tastes are: 1) LaraBars, 2) Weil Bars and 3) Salba Bars (no longer available). They can be used individually as stocking stuffers or you can make a fancy gift out of them, by again getting a decorative holding container and wrapping in fancy cello foil with personal ribbon and bow patterns.
Nuts – Healthy and always well liked, these can come pre-packaged or you can get creative with packaging them. Just make sure you are not buying salted or flavored ones, but raw and natural varieties. There are many neat containers in the kitchen sections of stores that you can purchase and then go to a bulk grocery store where you can pick what types the person would enjoy most and wrap up creatively – again cello foils and ribbons always look great.
General Food Basket – With this one you can go as big or as small as you like in terms of price and variety of items. This is a fully customizable gift to meet the needs and likes of that special someone. With that in mind, good items to include are unique grains like quinoa, any of Bob’s Red Mill products like pure grains and flours, Ryvita flat breads and crackers, Arthur’s Smoothies, Sunflower Kitchen hummus or pesto, nuts, seeds, etc. Just be sure to stay away from typical and processed items.
Food Gift Certificate – Although this gift may seem a little “blah”, you might be surprised by how many people would actually really enjoy and appreciate an extra food gift certificate around the holidays and especially during these economic times. For a more personal touch, try reputable health food stores like Whole Foods which is found in several countries around the world. In fact they are offering free shipping on their gift cards now.
Seed and Nut Gift Basket – You can create a beautiful, healthy and very tasty gift by combining several high quality, organic, raw nuts and seeds. My favorites come from Organic Traditions.
Manuka Honey – Both a delicious addition in small amounts to some dishes, but at the same time this honey is organic and has various healing properties. The jars can again be wrapped up in various creative and fancy ways. Wedderspoon sells various varieties of the Mauka honey depending on personal needs.
Herbs and Spices – These sometimes come in pre-packaged jars in decorative holders or you can make and combine your own. Herbs and spices are great and very healthy as long as they are the naturally occurring ones, such as pure basil or oregano leaves, black pepper, celery seeds, etc. Not the flavored spices that are high in sodium and preservatives.
Herbal Teas – Pre-packaged or personally selected and put together these are healthy and very enjoyable gifts to receive around the holidays, especially where it is cold. High quality brands include Choice Organics Fair Trade Teas, Traditional Medicinals Teas or herbal brands of Celestial Seasonings Teas.
If you are going to buy any kind of chocolate, it should be as pure as possible cocoa, dark chocolate like Lindt 99% Pure or even better one that is from a fair trade and sustainable source like Dagoba Organic chocolate.
FOOD PRODUCT GIFT DON’TS
Let us begin with the obvious: AVOID SWEETS – this all too typical and traditional gift idea is not doing anyone’s health today any favors. This might be the hardest gift idea to avoid but it is also one of the most powerful where our health is concerned.
Candy canes – are a holiday symbol, but to our body they are nothing more than sugar, water, artificial colors, artificial flavors and chemical agents to mold the previous four together.
Chocolates – yes I know this will turn off a lot of people, but I do not write these articles to avoid the truth, but to face things for what they really are. Read Dr. Olson’s book Sugarettes if you think I am kidding myself about why and how much these really should be avoided. In fact the book itself makes a great gift. You cannot even imagine the impact you will have on a loved one’s health by avoiding these products. What we also have to realize is that the “chocolate” most of us eat on a regular basis is so far removed from the true origin and benefits of the cocoa bean that it is not even worthy of the name chocolate.
Jams and Jellies – and those fancy, pretty little pre-made packages that all the stores carry of those mini-jams with crackers, etc. packages. They are usually a cheap, easy and convenient gift, but far from healthy or meaningful. These are nothing more than sugared down and processed fruit.
Marshmallow Santas and the like – These are most commonly bought for kids and then we wonder why they have behavior issues or digestive, sleep or numerous other symptoms. Again if you love your kids or someone else’s as fun as these items may be and as great as that 5 minute reaction as they eat them is, the stress and pressure they put on the child’s body are much more trivial than one can imagine.
Any kind of candy – I know, I know you may be thinking “how unrealistic”, but I am writing from an optimal health perspective and out of compassion for those you love. None of us would give a loved one a gift that harms them in any way, thus when it comes to sugar why do we do it? Sadly only because most of society has not yet seen it for the health purportrator that it is.
Salted nuts – Nuts are fantastic in so many ways in terms of health benefits, but the benefits start turning into disadvantages when the nuts are salted or artificially flavored. It is not a secret that most in our society have blood pressure problems, hence we do not need to add to that or aggravate it with our gifts. Hence choose nuts that are as pure and raw as possible.
Alcoholic beverages – Okay so if I did not turn you off of this article at the chocolate part, this one might be even harder to get through. Don’t get me wrong I am not oblivious to what many people give each other over the holidays. But remember the point of this article is healthy and meaningful gift ideas and alcohol is neither healthy or meaningful.
Fruit Cake – Well many may agree with me here. Yes, the famous fruit cake should not be given. It is obvious that it is not meaningful (most people dread them) and far from healthy beleive it or not. Just because it has some fruit pieces and nuts in it, does not negate the gelatin based glaze, the processed fruits, the sugar, most likely white flour, unhealthy fats and yes even artificial colors and preservatives just to name a few.
Christmas Cakes – You know the ones I am talking about, the ones with all the colorful icing and decorations that you get on your way as an additional gift on your way to someone’s house for the holidays. With these I do not know what is worse the obscene amount of trans and saturated fat or the artificial colors and flavors. Either way these have to be some of the most unhealthiest sweets around.
Processed Food Baskets – As great as food baskets can be, making them out of unhealthy foods defeats the purpose. Hence avoid things like: cheeses (too high in saturated fat among other things), crackers (most are extremely high in sodium), canned items (including fish) and anything else that is heavily processed.
Gift Certificates to fast food or lower end restaurants – Although this is a very easy and convenient idea, think of the deeper premise. Unfortunately, based on health standards, I cannot agree with the food quality in most restaurants, only some, and very few in fact high end restaurants use truly fresh and high quality ingredients, where you will find some healthy choices. Most serve white breads and pastas, low quality or unhealthy cooking oils and/or fats, high sodium soups and dishes in general, fried items, iceberg lettuce salads and let’s not even get into the desserts.
Coffee and Caffeinated Tea – The fact that the gift receiver may be hooked on this stuff does not mean you need to enforce their habit. For the sake of their health, avoid giving coffee, instead try the herbal tea ideas mentioned above.
Alongside your gift, consider books like:
Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss (Paperback) by Joel Fuhrman
Truth About Food (Paperback) by Jill Fullerton-Smit
The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why (Paperback) by Jonny Bowden Ph.D. C.N.S.
The World’s Healthiest Foods, Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating (Paperback) by George Mateljan
The Organic Food Shopper’s Guide (Paperback) by Jeff Cox
So in conclusion many foods can make very healthy, meaningful, practical and useful gifts not just during the holidays but for any occasion really. It is as easy usually as visiting your local grocery or heath food store for the food and craft store for the decorative wraps or containers. Half the fun of this gift is putting in your personal creative side into it.
Using food as a gift also allows you to fit into any budget and you can be sure that the gift will be used.
Finally, for those of you who are still not convinced that food can make a great gift, try to step aside from what the mainstream says and all the ads that are thrown at us daily to make us crave material items and only find happiness, definition and worth in them and try to look at the spirit of giving and receiving brand new!
Remember too that there are no have to’s when it comes to the Holidays or when it comes to giving. Hence start your own family traditions whether it comes to the foods you will serve or the gifts you will exchange and most importantly enjoy yourself. So many of us have forgotten how to do this too when shopping for gifts because we put on ourselves this pressure of getting the “perfect” gift. What we forgot though in the hustle and bustle of things, is that the perfect gift comes from the heart, not the wallet and is usually much more simple than we make it!