URBANA -- The holiday season brings many celebrations and traditions to enjoy, including gift-giving. Caitlin Huth, a University of Illinois Extension educator and registered dietitian, shares five healthy holiday food gifts this season.
Gift jars. “Instead of cookie and brownie mixes in jars, try healthier mixes as gifts this year. Noodle soup mix with whole-grain noodles and low-sodium bouillon makes for an easy meal one night for whoever receives the gift,” Huth says. “Another idea is giving seasonal oatmeal mixes, such as pecan pie flavored with cinnamon, brown sugar, and chopped pecans.” Her “Healthy Eats and Repeat” blog at web.extension.illinois.edu/dmp/eb306/ contains directions for these recipes with downloadable gift tags.
Seasonal fruit. From pre-made boxes or baskets to a bundle made at home, seasonal fruit like oranges and pears make delicious, healthy gifts. Huth suggests including recipe ideas or recipe cards with the gift for ways to use the fruit, such as slow-cooker orange cider and baked pear crisp. Adding unusual citrus fruits, such as blood oranges or ugli fruit, to a basket is a fun way to introduce new foods.
Seasoned nuts. “As a food that contains heart-healthy fats, nuts make a great addition to a holiday gift,” Huth says. During the holiday season, spiced nuts add a festive twist.
Gifts for military. Whether sending gifts to military friends or family, or sending a package as part of a service project, Huth suggests including healthy holiday foods that travel well. “Along with dried foods like dried fruit, lower-sodium jerky and unsalted nuts, try packing seasonal flavored tea and coffee,” she says.
Food bank and food pantry donations. Consider serving others this holiday season by donating to your local food bank or pantry. “While direct food donations are helpful, many food banks can get a lot more food per dollar donation,” Huth says. Consider making a monetary donation to your local food bank or pantry in honor of a family member or friend. Some food banks may send a card to that person as a thank you. Huth notes, “This gift idea is nice for anyone who says they do not want a gift this year.”