Spoiling for gift ideas? Everybody eats, and these suggestions come with the bonus of good health —the gift that keeps on giving.
High-quality ingredients make these gifts better tasting and better for you.
Edible gifts may seem like a no-brainer when you’re not sure what else to get, but they tend not to be the healthiest. Chocolate and baked goods may not exactly be cherished by someone living with type 2 diabetes, for instance, and a premium bottle of bourbon or wine may not go over well with someone who has given up alcohol.
“If you are going to purchase a gift, it’s important to be mindful of the health goals of the person receiving it,” says Angel Planells, RDN, a Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist. It turns out there are plenty of great, giftworthy foods that fit into a healthy lifestyle. We went straight to the source and asked 10 registered dietitians for their favorite giftable food items. Their responses will make you forget all about fruitcake.
Hot Sauce of the Month Club
For the spice lover in your life, you can’t beat hot sauce, says Planells. “It can kick up the flavor of your favorite foods, it’s low in calories, and it does provide a small amount of vitamin C,” he says. A teaspoon of hot pepper sauce has a little more than 1 milligram (mg) of that all-important antioxidant, according to USDA data. Plus, he adds, hot peppers contain capsaicin, which a study in the June 2015 Open Heart suggests may have metabolic and cardiovascular benefits. Just keep an eye on the sodium, which can sometimes be high in bottled sauces.
Spicy Box of Awesome Hot Sauce gift set, $54.95, FuegoBox.com
A Better-Than-Chocolate Bar
Everyone loves chocolate, and the dark stuff has some benefits, thanks to its high concentration of heart-healthy flavonols, according to past research. A small study of 18 women published in April 2021 in the International Journal of Exercise Science even suggests that eating dark chocolate may increase resting metabolism slightly. Honey Mama’s chocolate has the benefits of cocoa powder without soy, eggs, dairy, gluten, or grains. It’s made with just five ingredients, none of which are refined sugar.
“Honey Mama’s are the most stunning bars of chocolate to hit the shelves, and once you get over how pretty they are and you bite into them, they taste even better than they look,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, MPH, a women’s health coach and the founder of BZ Nutrition. “A sampler pack is a great add-on for your friends or family member with a sweet tooth.”
Single Serve Variety Pack, $30, HoneyMamas.com
A Seafood Subscription Box
“A great holiday gift for the foodie in your life would be a subscription service for high quality fish and seafood,” says Chelsey Amer, RDN, a SideChef ambassador. “Most Americans do not eat the recommended two servings of fish per week, which provides anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, iron, and zinc.” Subscription services such as SizzleFish will deliver an assortment of sustainable and wild-caught seafood to your door as often as you choose, with recipe suggestions.
Wild Seafood Favorites Box, 10 to 14 portions, $119.95 and up, Sizzlefish.com
A Kit That Teaches Kids to Bake
“A cooking subscription box can be a fantastic way to try out new meals at home and get the whole family involved,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, a dietitian, certified personal trainer, and the author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet. If you are looking for a fun gift for kids, Baketivity offers a similar service geared toward the younger crowd. “Each set comes with a delicious recipe (including all ingredients) that kids can make alone or with some parental supervision, along with an educational activity,” Palinski-Wade says. Who wouldn’t have fun whipping up Duff Goldman’s snow globe cookies or soft pretzels?
Kids Baking Set, $29.99 and up, Baketivity.com
For Sandra Arévalo Valencia, RDN, CDCES, the director of community health and wellness at Montefiore Nyack Hospital in New York, homemade gifts are best. “When you do it yourself I feel you instill a bit of your personality and love to each gift,” she says. “Plus people are very appreciative that you took the time and effort to make it yourself.” She likes to do fresh fruit baskets with mangoes, apples, pears, kiwis, peaches, and boxes of berries. “The more variety the better, because the more colorful the basket the nicer it looks, and in terms of health benefits, the wider the variety of colors, the more nutrients it has,” she says. She’ll also make snack baskets with popcorn kernels, crackers, cheese, cookies, pickles, low salt chips, sesame sticks and olives, and maybe a can of sugar-free lemonade powder. You can adjust it to your budget by making it as big or small as you like. Choose your favorite foods, then wrap your basket with cellophane and top it with a nice bow and a card for a guaranteed winner.
A Really Good Balsamic Vinegar
“A nice aged balsamic vinegar is an indulgence that you may not treat yourself to, but are sure to treasure — which makes it the perfect gift,” says Kelly Kennedy, RD, the staff nutritionist for Everyday Health. Aged in oak for a minimum of 12 years, this vinegar is so sweet and rich that it shines alone, without any need for olive oil. “That makes it a great choice for someone who is looking to enjoy a tasty salad, but is watching their calories closely,” says Kennedy. “With this balsamic vinegar you can cut way back on the oil or even eliminate it entirely.” It’s also great drizzled over ice cream, yogurt, or berries.
Dafni Balsamic Vinegar (250 milliliters), $30, DafniGreekProducts.com
Few beverages can beat tea when it comes to health benefits. And this time of year, who doesn’t love a cozy cup? This gift goes one better though, by eliminating the messy teabag. “I love these bagless, organic, whole leaf teas, especially the unsweetened versions,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN. “The tea is pressed into a cute shape and you just pop it in hot or cold water and sip. It’s the perfect cozy wellness gift.”
Unsweetened Citrus Ginger Tea Drops, $15, MyTeaDrop.com
Gift the caffeine fiend in your life some extra health perks with beans grown for maximum antioxidant potency. “I love gifting Purity Coffee to any of my coffee-loving family and friends,” says Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, a registered dietitian.
“It tastes wonderful, is organic, antioxidant-rich, and fresh. I especially enjoy the ability to use the coffee beans when I have the time to crush and make a fresh pot or to use their single pods (very convenient for when you are on the go).” You can also buy monthly subscriptions to keep the brew flowing.
Original Roast Whole Bean Coffee (12 ounce bag), $24, PurityCoffee.com