As the holidays approach, are you shopping for someone who has diabetes, cardiovascular disease, is trying to control their weight, or has all the above? Or maybe you are looking to treat yourself to something special in the spirit of the season but do not want to derail the healthy lifestyle you have been working hard to attain. The good news is that gifts that are food-centered do not have to be off limits for your family and friends and yourself in these situations. With a little planning and creativity, you can surprise your loved ones or even indulge yourself in delicious and nutritious delights for the holidays.  Check out these great ideas below: 


Specialty Nuts 


Who doesn’t love a handful of nuts as a snack? Not only are they tasty, but they are a powerhouse of nutrition too! Nuts are choked full of plant-based, “good” fat which plays a protective role in the prevention of heart disease.  Nuts contain primarily mono and polyunsaturated fats which help reduce LDL (aka bad cholesterol) and only minimal amounts of unhealthy saturated fat that increases heart disease risk.  Some nuts, like walnuts, contain a particular type of polyunsaturated fat called omega-3 fatty acids, which are important in fighting inflammation in the body and promoting heathy skin and brain cells. Choosing unsaturated fat from nuts (along with others like avocado and olive oil) in place of saturated fat from butter, cream sauces and lard is protective against cardiovascular disease.  In addition to being rich in unsaturated fat, nuts also contain a decent amount of protein and very little carbs which makes them a good choice when trying to control blood sugar.  The fat and protein in nuts, along with their fiber content helps keep you satisfied for appetite control and weight management, as long as they are eaten in reasonable portions.  You can gift nuts in an attractive reusable tin or a festive bag. There are various fun flavors of nuts available like chili and lime, cocoa dusted, or smoked to name a few, but you will want to watch sodium and sugar content and certainly check for any allergies before purchasing them for others. 


Fine Coffee and Teas 


A nice warm cup of coffee or tea is certainly a winter comfort, and they can offer many health benefits too! Coffee and tea contain polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants that decrease free radicals and cell damage, fight inflammation, and protect the immune system. They are also a great source of hydration and, assuming you do not add sugar and cream, will not raise blood sugar orcholesterol or add extra calories. There is even research that drinking coffee, as well as tea, is protective against type 2 diabetes. Not to mention there is so much to explore in the world of coffee and tea.! From fruity to spicy, bold to mild, sourced from all parts of the world,- there’s a whole variety of calorie-free, delicious teas and coffees to choose from. Ways to gift coffee and teas are endless. Package a unique selection in holiday themed box, or gift coffee and tea bags with a cute mug. You can also get a gift card from a local café or a subscription to a coffee or tea service/website.  


Fresh Fruit Baskets 


When you are craving something refreshing, crunchy and sweet, nothing beats fresh fruit. It is a great choice for a quick breakfast, a healthy snack or guilt-free dessert. Having a fruit basket around to grab from is a welcome addition during the busy holiday season. Eating a variety of fruit, in all shapes and sizes and in a rainbow of colors, is the best way to reap the bounty of nutritional benefits offered. Fruit is low in calories and sodium, as well as full of vitamins, minerals and water and fiber to help encourage hydration, boost the immune system and help with blood sugar, cholesterol and weight control. There are many fun ways to gift fruit, like pre-made beautiful baskets of assorted fruits or even shipping fancy fruits like pineapples, citrus or fancy pears and apples direct from farm distributors.  


Fancy vinegars and olive oil  


High quality olive oil and vinegars are all the rage right now, and with good reason!  A great olive oil or vinegar can add wonderful flavor to cooking along with some nutritious benefits too. 

Olive oil is a healthy plant-based fat source to have on hand as a pantry staple. Being an unsaturated fat, it will not increase cholesterol, it will add flavor to food and it will keep in the pantry for a while if stored in a cool dark place.  A tablespoon of olive oil  provides 100 calories, so use it sparingly if you are watching your weight. Just a small drizzle works for cooking, on salads and in homemade dressings and marinades. Vinegars are also a terrific staple to have around, they are low in calories and carbohydrates, and help add a healthy flavor boost to salads, sauces and marinades.  Some research has indicated that vinegar may even have a modest blood sugar lowering effect as well.  There are a variety of vinegars to choose from such as rice, balsamic, champagne, apple cider, red and white.   Apple cider, red wine and white vinegar are the lowest in calories and have the most sharp, acidic and intense flavor, whereas champagne, balsamic and rice vinegars are more fruity and floral. A nicely boxed olive oil and vinegar set is sure to impress or include them as part of gift basket. 


Savvy selections of Spices 


Keeping a nice selection of spices and herbs adds a variety of flavors to food and encourages healthy cooking. Using herbs and spices in cooking and food preparation helps create dishes that are low in sodium and big on taste! They replace excess sodium that can be harmful to health, as well as add flavor, color and aroma, and….herbs and spices can offer many benefits for our bodies too. Culinary herbs and spices have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, that can help with chronic pain, and some may even help lower blood glucose and cholesterol. Some great herbs and spices to gift are rosemary, thyme, chili powder, turmeric, cinnamon, dill and basil to name a few. They are great additions to gift baskets, there are subscriptions available for purchase, or you can even go big with a fully inclusive spice rack!