Give the Gift of Health

— Written By Meghan Lassiter
en Español / em Português

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Many folks (me included) still need to find a few gifts for those hard people on their gift list. At this late date, sometimes it’s easier to fall back on cookies, candies, wine, and other food gifts (especially those already made packages at the grocery and big box stores) that are quick and easy. But do these items sabotage the recipients’ attempts to eat healthier? Maybe your friend has tried really hard this year to lose some weight. Perhaps they are diabetic or have had a new health issue and traditional food gifts may not be appropriate.

This year, think about sharing the gift of health by giving something that would promote healthy eating and an active lifestyle. I also know that many folks are quick to say….please don’t give me more “stuff.” They have all the “stuff” they really need. Perhaps they’re at the “downsizing” stage in their lives. Experiences, services, and more healthful foods can be appropriate gifts for these people.

It may take some thought to find these kinds of gifts. With only a couple of days left, here are a few suggestions that may put some ideas into your head and under your tree.

Fruit and Vegetable Basket or Bowl: this will encourage your friends and family to eat healthier. Select colorful fruits and vegetables. Perhaps some unique or expensive items that they may not have tried or wouldn’t purchase for themselves. To keep the fresh quality, assemble the baskets shortly before giving them.

Healthy Snack Jar: Select an appropriate container (maybe a decorated disposable box, basket, or unique reusable jar). Fill it with packages of healthy snacks such as little boxes of raisins, non-fat snack bars, trail mix, dried fruit, baked chips, or 100-calorie packs of various crackers.

Gift Certificate for Food from Your Kitchen: Give a homemade gift certificate for something fresh and healthy from your kitchen. You might promise to cook a complete meal for six people or to bake one loaf of bread per month for the next year. Give an elderly shut-in or a working mom a subscription to your very own soup or dinner-of-the-month club. Check with them to see if they are following a special diet or have any allergies. Give them a few days’ notice before delivering your gift each month.

Herbs and Spices: If you have a friend that’s trying to reduce the amount of salt or sodium they are eating, buy several small containers of no-salt seasonings to add new zest and taste to foods. Add some less common herbs and spices for a special treat.

Walk Someone’s Dog: This can be a gift for the dogs, the owners, and you
(the walker also gets the health benefits.) For older folks or those with disabilities, getting their dog out and about can be difficult. Offer to regularly walk or run a friend or neighbor’s dog and everyone wins. You’ve given someone a real gift, plus both you and the dog will be in better shape.

Play with Someone’s Kids: Children nearly always have more energy than busy parents, especially single parents. And, most American kids aren’t getting anywhere near the 60 minutes of daily activity they need. Set up a
regular playdate for running, biking, Frisbee®, or shooting hoops – and you
will give your nieces, nephews, or neighbors (and their parents) a precious
gift and some exercise, too!

Give a Fitness Class: If you belong to a fitness center or gym or take regular dance or yoga classes, invite a friend to go with you. Many people just don’t want to take that first step alone. Most businesses offer free passes to potential new members and many offer a two-for-one package, especially around the holidays. You can offer courtesy ‘chauffeur’ services to get them there and back. It’s easier to go (and keep going) if you do it with a friend.

Give a Gift of Instruction: If you are good at a specific physical activity, you
can take your gift to the next level by helping someone improve their skills.
Give the gift of a few lessons on dancing, skating, tennis, golf, basketball, baseball, pickle ball, or whatever activity you would love to share with someone you love. A gift of instruction is a special treasure for children.

Avoid the stuff and the usual fare. Give the gift of health to those you love. Best wishes to each of you for a happy and healthy holiday from all of us at the N.C. Cooperative Extension in Brunswick County.

Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910-253-2610 or by email at