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Nutrition

Give a Healthier Gift Basket

Treats Without the Added Sugar

From holiday gift baskets to special occasions, food is a hallmark for celebrations. But what’s lurking under the cellophane?

The usual culprits in holiday gift baskets ― candies and sweets ― are loaded with added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories of added sugar (that’s 6 teaspoons, or 24 grams) per day for women, and 150 calories (9 teaspoons or 36 grams) per day for men. Teens and children should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar each day. The average person consumes about 19.5 teaspoons, or 82 grams, of sugar per day.

Gift baskets can easily derail a healthy diet unless they’re chosen carefully. If a basket of goodies is your gifting go-to, Colleen DeBoer, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, clinical nutrition manager at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, has some advice for filling it with healthier alternatives.

Swap sweets for naturally sweetened fruits.

“You can create some really nice gift baskets full of fiber, essential vitamins and natural sweetness to satisfy a sweet tooth in a healthy way,” says DeBoer. Avoid highly processed foods.

Pick pre-packaged snacks for portion control.

It’s hard to parse out a single serving from a goodie bag of caramel corn, but remember sweets are best when enjoyed in moderation. Consider pre-packaged snack packs that offer a variety of foods in small portions to avoid overindulging. Or, make your own healthy snack mix.

Fill your basket with filling foods.

Nuts and seeds are a good choice for a snack loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which improve brain health and help you feel fuller longer.

Gift a food subscription instead.

“Food preparation box subscriptions are a great gift for someone short on time, or for someone who isn’t confident in the kitchen,” says DeBoer. “Meal prep boxes help promote healthy eating and proper portions, and produce subscriptions help cut down on food waste.”

From Halloween to New Year’s Eve, holidays seem to revolve around food and sweets. “If you’re not mindful of what you’re consuming during the holiday season, you could come out of it with unnecessary weight gain,” adds DeBoer.

Here’s a handy guide to help you deliver something healthier this year.

“You can also do non-food-related gifts,” DeBoer adds. If you’re rewarding a child, instead of stickers or crayons, try incorporating experiences the whole family can enjoy. You can also treat them to fitness-inspired gifts, like a jump rope or a scooter.

nm-gift-baskets_chartL Download Give a Healthier Gift Basket