Q: I don’t want to be a killjoy, but I hate stuffing my family’s stockings with candy and quick-to-break junk. Do you have any fun but healthier-than-candy alternatives?
A: Here are some of our favorite things for $25 or less that will give the gift of health for years to come:
• Dark chocolate. Splurge on brands that boast 70 percent or more cocoa and don’t contain milk fat or solids to reap benefits from flavonoids, which keep arteries young. Eating dark chocolate also releases dopamine, a feel-good hormone.
• Dry-roasted walnuts. Dry-roast these morsels at 275 to 350 degrees for nine minutes (dry-roasting is the healthiest way to cook them—no fat needed) and gift-wrap with a fancy bow and a handmade card. You’ll hand your loved ones a snack full of omega-3 fatty acids, which lead to a healthier heart, better moods and creak-free joints.
• A chef’s knife. Make it easy to chop fresh produce. Look for an 8-inch high-quality chef’s knife that stays super-sharp. Tuck a few healthy recipes into the box, too.
• A pedometer. Good ones are $15 (cheaper ones may be inaccurate). Our patients like the Omron HJ-112 Digital Pedometer (about $22) for its tough-to-lose strap, reliability, memory and easy-to-read display. If you spend a little more on a device such as Fitbit, Jawbone or Nike Fuel, these trackers can show your daily step count on the display and/or allow you to track your progress on your computer.
• A refillable stainless steel water bottle. Sleek, lightweight and portable, these bottles make sure nobody’s getting dangerous plastic chemicals when they swig. And they reduce landfill waste from water sold in plastic bottles.
• Fancy pedicure tools. By taking their own nail implements to the salon, your loved one will be less likely to pick up a hard-to-shake fungus.
• Gourmet coffee. Coffee is the largest source of antioxidants in the North American diet, so nobody should settle for a less-than-wonderful brew.
• Ascent aromatherapy packets (ShopAscents.com). These products—made with essential oils from plants such as lavender, lemon and bergamot—are formulated based on clinical research and shown to help with everything from sleeping better to gaining energy to, ahem, getting in the mood. If that’s your aim, include a massage oil, too: Massage releases that cuddling hormone.