Healthy holiday gift ideas

Monday, December 17, 2012

For those who are not yet through with all of their holiday shopping, here are a few gift idea suggestions for those we love and want to stay healthy.

With nearly two-thirds of Americans overweight or obese, and more than half that don't get enough physical activity, you might consider choosing gifts that encourage healthy eating and being more active. Just think how much easier it will be to start the New Year with healthy habits if we all got healthy presents instead of tons of fruit cake and candy.

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

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 even onions.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating two cups of fruits and two and a half 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, protect against the effects of aging and reduce 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; non-fat snack bars; trail mix; 100-calarie 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.

"Gift Certificate" for food from your kitchen: Give a home-made "gift certificate" for fresh, healthy treats 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 a subscription to a cooking magazine: Choose a cookbook with healthful 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.

Fitness-related gifts: For health benefits, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days, preferably every day. This activity time can be done all at once or broken up into shorter sessions, such as 15-minute intervals.

Getting 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days will prevent weight gain, and 90 minutes will lead to weight loss, if the person does not consume more calories. Children and teens should be physically active for at least 60 minutes on most days, if not every day.

To rev up the physical activity level of people on your gift list, consider giving them one or more fitness-related items like some of these this year.

Pedometer: A recommended walking goal is to build up to an average of at least 10,000 steps a day. Why not buy a pedometer for someone else and get a duplicate for yourself? Then you can turn holiday shopping and cleaning into a step-a-thon. If you only want to count steps taken, then you can buy a pedometer that is ready to use right out of the box. Another type can be programmed to figure mileage.

Workout video or DVD: These are available in levels from beginner to advanced, so choose the appropriate fitness level. The programs feature everything from kickboxing to yoga, Pilates, salsa and tap dancing.

Popping a workout video into a home player is like having a personal trainer on call. You can work out to a dance video at home by yourself. This reduces the stress of whether your workout clothes measure up to someone else's or whether you'll step on your partner's toes. In fact you can make up your own moves and don't even have to follow the steps. The important thing is to keep moving.

Stability or balance ball: There are several exercise routines that can be done on these balls: Through the continuous adjustment and readjustment of the body, core muscles can be strengthened while sitting on the ball and watching TV. However, just bouncing up and down on it is a lot of fun and a great stress reliever. Always check the instructions on the box and buy the ball size that is correct for the person's height.

Sports equipment: If you or your loved one enjoys being outdoors or playing sports, having a new piece of equipment might be just the ticket to encourage them to be more active.

Walking Programs: Join a walking program or sign up for a race or benefit walk during the coming year. There are many groups that plan and sponsor 5K walks and races throughout the year.

The Putnam County Mental Health Association will be sponsoring its third annual New Year's Walk on January 1 and the Greencastle Parks and Recreation program is sponsoring a Walking Wednesdays (and Fridays) as an indoor winter walking program for January and February.

So plan to start the new year off right and make a date for yourself and someone you love to participate in one of these programs. For more information about the New Year's Day Walk or the Winter Walking Program contact Eileen Johnson at Mental Health American Putnam County or Troy Scott at

Upcoming Events

Dec. 18 -- Region V Indiana Beef Cattle Assoc./Purdue Program, Clay Co. Fairgrounds, 6:30 p.m. (RSVP Extension Office 12/11)

Dec. 24-25 -- Extension Office Closed for Christmas Holiday

Dec. 31-Jan. 1 -- Extension Office Closed for New Years Holiday

Jan. 4 -- Meeting for Ext. Homemakers 100th Anniversary planning 10 a.m. at Extension Office

Jan. 8 -- 4-H Junior Leader Meeting, Fairgrounds, 7 p.m.

Jan. 10 -- Putnam County Health Coalition 10 a.m. at the Extension Office

Jan. 10 -- 4-H Volunteer Development Meeting, Location TBA, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 17 -- 4-H Junior Leader Meeting, Fairgrounds, 7 p.m.

Jan. 21 -- Extension Office Closed, MLK Holiday

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