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Wilburn: Give a healthy foodie gift this holiday season

POSTED: December 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Almost two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and more than half don't get enough physical activity.

This holiday season, encourage your friends and relatives to eat healthier and get moving by giving them health-related gifts. You might want to buy duplicates for yourself.

Homemade food, cooking ingredients and kitchen tools are sure to please almost everyone on your list. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few practical gift ideas to get you started.

Assortment of herbs and spices

Buy several small containers of seasonings to add new zest and taste to foods formerly flavored by salt, sugar and fat. Add a few less-common herbs and spices for your family and friends to try, also.

Health-conscious cooks - and especially those with high blood pressure - appreciate no-salt seasonings that help in lowering overall sodium intake. Spices and herbs that are effective in replacing the taste of salt include black pepper, minced garlic or garlic powder, minced onion or onion powder, dill seeds, basil, oregano, parsley, cumin, curry powder, ginger and coriander. Avoid garlic salt and onion salt.

These spices reduce or eliminate the need for sugar in foods: cinnamon, allspice, cloves, anise, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and mace. Cutting back on dietary sugar benefits everyone, especially diabetics.

Herbs and spices contain very few calories compared to gravies, sauces, batter, breading and fried foods. In fact, removing a tablespoon of fat from food also removes 100 calories and about 10 grams of fat. Cutting out 100 calories from the diet every day could represent a 10-pound weight loss in a year!

"Gift certificate" for food from your kitchen

You might promise to cook a complete meal for six people or to bake one fresh loaf of bread per month for the next year.

Cookbook or cooking magazine subscription

Choose a cookbook with healthy recipes that are lower in sugar, fat and calories. Other options include a cookbook that has only a few ingredients or one with recipes for quick meals. If the person enjoys receiving new recipe ideas throughout the year, give them a subscription to a cooking magazine.

Fruit and vegetable basket

Give a colorful selection of fruits and vegetables, keeping them at optimum quality by assembling the basket shortly before giving it. Many grocery stores will help put one together for you. Here are a few items you could include: green and red grapes, apples, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, bananas, kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers (red, orange, green and yellow), broccoli, zucchini and onions.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating 2 cups of fruits and 2« cups of vegetables every day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables every day helps maintain good health, protects against the effects of aging and reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Healthy snack jar

Select a clear, covered container and fill it with packages of healthy snacks such as: little boxes of raisins, nonfat snack bars, trail mix, 100-calorie packs of various crackers, dried fruit, baked chips and pretzels. These snacks are low in fat and sugar but may provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. The see-through container makes it easy to tell when it's time to refill.

Source: Clemson (S.C.) Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.



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