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12 Ideas for Healthy Holiday Gifts

Thinking of giving cookies, fudge or a box of chocolates as a holiday gift? That's so 2005.

This year, think about giving something healthy to your loved ones, co-workers, neighbors and friends. Dr. Caroline R. Richardson, a family medicine specialist at the University of Michigan Medical School, offers these ideas:

For healthier eating:

  Olive oil and vinegar. Richardson is a big fan of giving high-quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil as a gift. If someone is trying to lose weight by eating salads, some aged balsamic vinegar and a dash or two of good olive oil can make the difference between a boring salad and a nice treat.

•  Sessions with a nutritionist. Lots of people have tried to go low-fat or low-carb, or have ridden the wave of the latest fad diet, but what works for individual people can vary dramatically.

A nutritionist can help tailor a weight-loss and healthy-eating plan to a person's individual likes and dislikes, and can come up with something the person is more likely to stick to, Richardson says.

•  A healthy cooking class. Stores, such as Whole Foods, and community organizations offer classes on how to cook healthy foods.

•  A healthy-eating book. One option is Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating by Walter C. Willett and P. J. Skerrett. And given the popularity of the book You: On a Diet, it seems some people are already following this advice.

•  A crock pot, rice cooker or steamer. These will help the gift recipient prepare food in a healthier way. Throw in a few recipes for a tasty soup or a meal that includes steamed vegetables.

For getting  and staying  active:

•  Clothes for winter outdoor sports. Get someone silk long underwear or furry, soft gloves or a good hat, and they will be more inclined to get outside and exercise. This not only helps with physical health, but also can improve people's mental well-being and reduce cabin fever.

•  A massage gift certificate. Relaxation and stress relief are important for overall good health, Richardson notes.

•  A fun exercise class. Will the gift recipients get bored easily and have trouble sticking to some types of fitness routines? Try signing them up for a dance class or yoga, Tae Kwon Do, water aerobics, indoor rock-climbing or spinning.
•  A pass to the local park system. Then, the gift recipients can go bicycling through the trails in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. Other areas of the country also have excellent park systems that can encourage people to exercise in the great outdoors.

•  A session with a personal trainer. Do you know someone who can't stay motivated to exercise? A personal trainer is a great way to get people on track with workouts that help them build muscle tone and endurance, Richardson says.

•  A tune-up for a bicycle. That bicycle with the broken chain isn't doing anybody any good rusting away in the garage. Pay for the tune-up of a friend's bike, and throw in an offer to go on some rides together.

•  A pedometer. Richardson is a huge fan of pedometers and often gives them to people as presents. Make sure it's a good one because some pedometers don't count steps accurately, she says.

Richardson says during this time of year, people fear weight gain the most, but they're tempted with plates of fudge and cookies at their offices.

"Food is everywhere, and most of it is not good for you," she says. "Everyone thinks it is their own personal struggle to stay healthy, and that it is their own failure that they can't keep their weight under control or stay fit.

"But this is something almost everyone struggles with. Helping out by getting people gifts that will help them eat healthier or become more active is a wonderful thing to do during the holidays."



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