In Good Health: CNY #288 - December 2023

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Have a Foodie on Your List? Treat ‘em Right By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


f you want to give a food gift this holiday season, skip the sugary baked goods and candy and give food gifts that are both decadent and healthful. “If we can give things like a fruit basket, that’s great,” said Piek L. Tan, registered dietitian at CNY Family

Care in East Syracuse. “But if it is going to be a fruit basket, make it more fun than oranges and clementines. Find something less common. Maybe a fig and nuts platter, along with some cheeses. Dried fruit, nuts and cheese platter is always enjoyed during the holidays. Some combina-

tions like that is always enjoyable.” Fruit is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and in most cases fiber. Nuts provide minerals, fiber and in some cases, omega-3 fatty acids. A variety of colorful fruits can provide a wide array of nutrients. Lay a tea towel or other padding in the basket to cushion the fruit and arrange the fruit so it piles above the rim of the basket. Tuck in a few small items among the pieces of fruit, like English walnuts. Consider securing the fruit in place with cellophane if you need to transport the basket and top with a large bow. Give local goods, like New York state apples, maple syrup, cheese or honey. Many people enjoy these as treats. Dark chocolate has long been touted for its antioxidant properties. Give dark chocolates that have at least 70% cacao. For a DIY dark chocolate gift, create healthful dark chocolate bark by pouring a layer of melted chocolate over broken nuts arranged on waxed paper. Allow the chocolate to harden in the refrigerator before breaking into pieces and packaging. Create chocolate raspberries by washing raspberries to completely dry. Gently place a dark chocolate chip inside the berry with the flat side at the bottom and arrange on a glass tray. Coffee and tea are also rich in antioxidants. Find a few “fancy” flavors to nestle in a basket with mugs, a tea towel and flavoring agents like honey. Kimberly V. Higgins, registered dietitian in private practice in Manlius, likes making and giving DIY food gifts like seasonings. “Custom spice blends whether your favorite meat rub, a Tex Mex rub or taco spice blend that could go into dipping oils,” are good gifts, she said. “Another is flavored vinegars

Give Healthful Memberships

These gifts keep on giving all year By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


ou can support the good health of the health buffs on your list with a yearlong membership. These kinds of gifts will definitely get used — unlike yet another tchotchke or sweater — and you can help your recipients reach their health and wellness goals. Kimberly V. Higgins, registered dietitian in private practice in Manlius, said that finding the time to prepare healthful meals represents a big barrier to many of her clients’ efforts to eat right. “Consider things like meal subscriptions or cooking lessons,” she said. “I can see those as being very desirable as people who are so timecrunched. So many people are taxed by the concept of meal prep, shopping and execution. If you can make those steps easier, they’re all for it.” Selecting a variety of produce items for regular delivery can especially help busy families or older adults who struggle to do weekly

grocery shopping for perishable items. It also keeps fresh produce in the kitchen: a big plus for people who want to eat right. “A lot of people are finding that produce is squeezed out of their grocery list because of price concerns,” Higgins said. “They’re choosing different things or buying less of it. They don’t buy a pomegranate or mango. Produce is expensive. A nicely curated mix of seasonal fruits is often appreciated.” Fruit-of-the-Month or similar memberships can help. Higgins also suggested membership with a meal kit service. These companies deliver the prepared, measured elements to make a meal, but the recipient does the mixing and cooking. In addition to saving time, meal prep packages also help people learn how to cook for themselves, which can aid in weight loss and improving produce intake. Most meal kit companies include options such as Mediterranean,

Page 16 • IN GOOD HEALTH – CNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • December 2023

Kimberly Higgins keto, vegetarian, low-fat or other health-conscious meals to accommodate any preferred eating plan. Fitness subscriptions can also help people who want to stay healthy. However, consider a shortterm membership especially if it’s to a specific type of gym or class and not a yearlong membership. A general gym that has many types of classes and personal trainers present may be a better bet.

and oils where you infuse it with herbs, spices and in a beautiful jar. Or a custom vinaigrette. Make it up and jar it. As long as there’s no dairy it, it’s shelf stable. It encourages people to eat salads and put it on roasted vegetables.” Meal preparation delivery helps people save time on fixing meals. Give a similar type of gift by creating one yourself. Higgins recommended making soup mix with beans, spices and dried pasta in a Mason jar with a custom recipe card. offers numerous healthful mixes. “I find even though we live in an age of constant access to recipes, people want new things and things they know will work,” Higgins said. “Food gifts that do some of the work like the recipe and assembling the ingredients, people appreciate it. People don’t want more stuff to find a place for.” It also enables givers to create a wholesome soup with whole grain pasta or brown rice. Higgins likes giving mini herb growing kits. “People can grow little herb gardens in pots in the kitchen in the winter months,” she said. “Wegmans and Tops offer rosemary plants shaped as trees that are live and people can keep it in their kitchens. It will last a few months. It’s also decorative and smells delicious.” Herbs add flavor without additional salt or fat. Giving coffee or tea baskets promotes healthful eating also, as these “are the biggest sources of antioxidants in the American diet,” Higgins said. “Package specialty coffees with mugs, tea towels and accessories. Or you could do a chai tea mix with the spices. Especially in the winter, people enjoy warm beverages.”

“Most gyms sell a short-term membership with time with a trainer,” said Randy Sabourin, certified personal trainer and owner of Metro Fitness in Syracuse. “Sometimes, with a gym membership, you’re buying access but what they should start with is an introductory membership. If they can’t make the introductory period work, it’s a big waste of money to be stuck in a contract they won’t use.” A gift certificate for active lessons, such as gymnastics, boxing, dancing or martial arts could help keep someone of any age moving more. Practices such as yoga and tai chi have been linked with stress reduction and tend to be gentle on the joints. Many fitness minded people like trying new activities and a gift certificate for a class may be just the motivation to branch out. For people who like home workouts, subscribing to a fitness program such as Beach Body or Peloton can encourage regular workouts, which help fitness minded people connect from anywhere. Good health also relies upon rest and relaxation, but most people take little time for self-care. Consider giving a gift certificate for massage therapy or spa to provide relaxation.

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