The Christmas holidays are just around the corner now and for many of us that means 2 things: enjoying great food and exchanging thoughtful gifts with those closest to us. This year why not combine the two by creating some delicious but healthy, homemade gifts for your friends and family? They will undoubtedly appreciate the effort and detail that has gone into making something from scratch rather than picking it up last minute from an impersonal chain store and a well-planned, nutritious gift can also help them battle the winter bulge too. At Christmas time we are all tempted to indulge in sweet treats and stodgy snacks – one contributing factor to statistics that indicate the average American puts on a shocking 5lb over the Christmas holidays alone – but there are a number of simple, seasonal foods that make great gifts and can be healthy and tasty in equal measure. Here are some ideas for your festive foodie gifts this Christmas.
Oatmeal cookie jar
These DIY baking jars are all the rage at the minute and make cute, original gifts. Best of all they are so easy to make! Just take one large jar and separately measure out all of the ingredients you need to make healthy, oatmeal cookies that are full of complex carbohydrates to give you stable and long lasting energy levels on those cold days. You’ll need rolled oats, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and any other extras you’d like to include such as walnuts or cinnamon. Add each ingredient to the jar separately to create a layered effect then create your own ‘Cookie Mix’ label along with instructions on how to bake them. You can adapt the mix to any baking recipe you like creating a fun, fuss free gift that can encourage even the most reluctant baker to don their oven gloves this Christmas.
Not only will a chia plant brighten up the home during winter, but eventually it can be harvested for seeds which have a wealth of health benefits – so much so that chia is actually being hailed as a superfood. Packed full of antioxidants, proteins, vitamins and fibre these tiny seeds also expand up to ten times their size when exposed to fluid and form a gel-like coating which leaves you feeling fuller for longer and therefore helps aid with weight loss. Chia seeds are incredibly versatile and can be blitzed into fruit smoothies, baked into cake/dough mixes or used as a topping on cereal or yoghurt. Start growing your chia plant now and your family will enjoy a gift that keeps on giving this Christmas and beyond
Many people assume that oils and fats can be detrimental to the health but olive oil is packed full of essential minerals and fatty acids that lower cholesterol, fight cancer and improve bone health. It is still high in calories and should therefore be enjoyed in moderation but a dash of olive oil on top of roasted vegetables, salads or new potatoes can be a beneficial boost of flavor. Why not infuse some oil with garlic cloves and chilli flakes (both also renowned for improving immune system health and fighting off those winter colds) by simmering the ingredients in a pan on a low heat for 10 minutes. Then gently bring the oil back to room temperature and as a finishing touch pour it into an airtight glass bottle with a swing top cap for a gift that will look like it came right out of a fancy department store.
Truffles and nuts
Nothing is nicer than nibbling on sweet treats over the Christmas holidays but unfortunately this is where we tend to pack on the pounds. However if you are in control of the recipe then you can also adapt it to include healthier alternatives. How about making some chocolate vegan truffles with high quality dark chocolate (a natural mood enhancer and full of antioxidants) and melt it along with coconut milk (a far healthier substitute to cream), coconut oil and a pinch of salt to form a ganache. Leave the mixture to set overnight then get your hands dirty by rolling them into tiny truffles and dusting them with cocoa powder as a finishing touch. Another festive favorite has to be spiced nuts which are also ludicrously easy to make – simply toss some nuts of your choice (pecans work well) into a pan along with unsalted butter, cinnamon, cumin and brown sugar for a mouth watering but guilt free Christmas snack. Present your nuts and truffles in festive gift boxes wrapped in brown paper and string for a traditional finish.