Looking for different gift ideas for this holiday season? Homemade food and cooking ingredients can be great gifts for friends and family. It is also the time of year when local food pantries need additional food items. This season try giving health-related gifts and providing healthier food donations. There are lots of options and here are some suggestions to help get you started.
Healthy holiday gifts & donations:
- Fruit and vegetable bouquet. Try giving a colorful selection of fruits and vegetables, keeping them at peak quality by putting the basket together shortly before giving it. Examples of items to include are green and red grapes, apples, oranges, peppers, broccoli, cucumber, or zucchini.
- Holiday snack jar. Choose a clear, covered container and add healthy snacks such as small boxes of raisins, trail mix, packs of various crackers or snack mixes, dried fruit, baked chips and pretzels. Personalize it further by decorating the lid and/or jar with holiday cheer.
- Holiday food or beverage mixes in a Jar. Mixes for soups, cookies, and beverages are popular gift items that are fairly inexpensive to make. The gift recipient will appreciate the attractive and thoughtful gift and also will value the convenience.
- Spice up your gifts. Zest up your holiday gifts this year by giving an assortment of herbs and spices. Examples that are good at replacing or mimicking the taste of salt include black pepper, minced garlic or garlic powder, minced onion or onion powder, basil, oregano, curry powder, and ginger. Examples of sweet-tasting spices that help reduce the need for sugar in certain foods and recipes are cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, mace, and anise.
- Mailing holiday food gifts. Food is a popular holiday gift and can be mailed safely if carefully chosen, well packaged and delivered in a timely manner. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, non-refrigerated foods stay fresher longer, are safe at room temperature, and lower the risk of causing food poisoning. While you don't need to worry about the temperature of non-refrigerated foods, you should protect the original packaging. Coffee blends are easy to pack into decorative plastic or metal containers. Dried foods, nuts and dry mixes such as spiced teas, herb blends and party mixes, are also options.
- Personalized gift certificates/IOUs: Give a “gift certificate” for healthy food from your kitchen. You could promise to cook a meal for several people or provide a baked good once a month for the next year. Other ideas include “gift certificates” for getting active together such as going walking or jogging or signing up for group classes.
- Donating food. Help your local food pantry improve the quality of food it distributes by donating healthier items:
- Fruits: Canned fruit (such as peaches, pears and pineapples) in water or its own juices, no sugar-added applesauce, dried fruits (such as raisins, cranberries and apricots) or 100 percent canned or boxed juices.
- Vegetables: Low-sodium or “no-salt-added” canned vegetables and soups.
- Grains: Brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn, and whole grain cereals, pastas and crackers, and whole wheat tortillas.
- Protein: Canned chicken, turkey or tuna (choose canned in water or lower fat), canned or dried beans (such as black, kidney, navy or pinto), unsalted nuts such as peanuts, almonds or walnuts, and peanut butter.
- Dairy: Examples include non-fat dry milk, evaporated or canned milk, and pudding cups made with milk (non-refrigerated). Examples of non-dairy sources of calcium include breakfast bars, canned or bottled juices, ready-to-eat cereals, and oatmeal with added calcium.
- ½ whole wheat mini-bagel
- 2 teaspoons low-fat cream cheese
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped and washed red and green fruit such as kiwi, green grapes, green and red apples, strawberries, raspberries, etc.
- Wash hands with soap and water.
- Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on the bagel.
- Sprinkle fruit to resemble a holiday wreath.
Snack Crediting for Ages 3-5 in CACFP - Whole Grain
- Calories 90
- Total Fat 2g
- Saturated Fat 1g
- Cholesterol 5mg
- Sodium 95mg
- Total Carbohydrates 16g
- Fiber 1g
- Total Sugars 6g, includes 2g Added Sugars
- Protein 3g
- Vitamin D 0%
- Calcium 6%
- Iron 6%
- Potassium 2%
Cason, K., Hunter, J. 2008. Healthy Holiday Gifts. Clemson Cooperative Extension. Home and Garden Information, HGIC 4091. Accessed at: https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/healthy-holiday-gifts/
University of California. 2005. Healthy Eating for the Holidays. Student Nutrition Awareness Campaign. Accessed at: http://www.dining.ucla.edu/housing_site/dining/SNAC_pdf/GiftOfGoodHealth.pdf
University of Illinois Extension. 2019. Making the Most of your Food Basket Donations. Urban Programs Resource Network. Accessed at: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/foodbaskets/
United States Department of Agriculture. 2017. Accessed at: Mail Order Madness: Sending and Receiving Those Food Gifts