This article shares part 2 of Healthy and Meaningful Holiday Gift Ideas. If you missed part 1, we covered personal care products as gifts. In this part 2, we will cover another gift idea that can enhance wellbeing, this being food products.
The great 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. Always keep in mind that touching someone’s heart and making them smile and happy is not due to big and outrageous gifts, but most often due to the personal touch we put into a gift. When a gift comes from the heart, it has a way of positively lighting up the receiver’s heart.
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.
Top Healthy Food Gift Ideas
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.
Whole Food Snack Bars – Instead of any over-processed and over-sweetened chocolate or granola bars, try wholesome dry fruit and nut bars. There are so many options to choose from today, just be sure to read the ingredients to make sure that isolated sweeteners are minimal (if present at all), and that there are no GMO ingredients, artificial ingredients, synthetic additives or preservatives. Excellent choices come from LaraBars and Pure Organic Bars. They can be used individually as stocking stuffers, or you can make a creatively packaged gift out of them by using a decorative holding container and wrapping it in cello foil with ribbons, or you can simply wrap a Multi-Flavored Gift Set.
Condiments – Although most condiments have a bad reputation as they are full of sodium, oils, sugars, modified ingredients, additives and preservatives, there are some great options that are both pure and delicious. Consider pure, organic mustards, which are amongst the healthiest of condiments, as well as high quality organic balsamic or other vinegars. Aim to stay away from oils, which are isolated (non-whole) foods, which are increasingly not being consumed by health-conscious people, and definitely stay away from all conventional condiments.
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 or any of Bob’s Red Mill whole grains, Organic Cacao in powdered or nib form, Organic Nut Butters, and the many amazing Organic and Raw Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit. Just be sure to stay away from typical and processed items.
Food Gift Certificate – Although this gift may not seem as unique or personal, you might be surprised by how many people would actually really enjoy and appreciate a food gift certificate, especially around the holidays and in these economic times.
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, but other excellent options are also available from Food to Live.
Manuka Honey – This is a unique honey produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native manuka bush. It has potent healing properties and medicinal benefits that can help many areas of our health. It is available in a pure, high quality form from Wedderspoon, who offers it in various varieties, raw, organic and non-GMO options.
Organic Herbs and Spices – You can choose small or large bag packages or glass jars and create a combination of several that you think your gift receiver would most enjoy. Herbs and spices are always useful and very healthy as long as they are pure, without any additives or preservatives. A brand you can trust for high quality, fresh and organic herbs and spices is Simply Organic. You can mix and match amongst their huge selection of individual herbs and spices, or take advantage of their Gourmet Starter 12 Spices Gift Set. Whatever herbs and spices you choose, be sure to avoid conventional mixed spice formulations that are high in sodium, artificial additives 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 Organic Teas or Numi Organic Tea, which offers a beautiful Gift Set of Assorted Teas.
Chocolate — If you are going to buy any kind of chocolate gift, be sure to choose from brands that offer raw and organic cacao products that are minimally sweetened. This will be the healthiest way for your gift receiver to indulge in high quality chocolate. A great company that offers numerous raw, organic chocolate bar options is Raw Rev.
Food Product Gifts to Avoid
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.
Food & Nutrition Book Gifts
Along with your food gift, you can also consider including a book about food, like a recipe book, or nutrition. Here are a few great choices that focus on the most optimal way of eating for us as humans, this being whole-food, plant-based eating:
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 as visiting your local grocery or heath food store for the food and a paper products store for decorative wraps or containers. A big fun part of this gift is putting in your personal creative touch on 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. It also helps to reduce the focus on material items, and stop being such a materialistic culture. Remember also to liberate yourself from any “have to’s” or “should’s” when it comes to the Holidays or the act of gift giving. Instead, give from the heart, give mindfully and give for the pleasure of giving.
And don’t stop with the gift giving portion either! Start your own family traditions whether it comes to the foods you will serve or the gifts you will exchange, and most importantly find ways to truly enjoy yourself. Many of us have forgotten how to do this, especially when shopping for gifts or preparing holidays meals because we put so much stress and pressure on ourselves about making it “perfect”. 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.