(Healthy) Food Gifts You’ll Actually Want

Treats Without the Added Sugar

From holiday gift baskets to special occasions, food is a hallmark for celebrations. Colleen DeBoer, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, clinical nutrition manager at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, shares some of her favorite alternatives.


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.

Instead, opt for naturally sweetened fruits. “There are some really nice gift baskets available, full of fiber, essential vitamins and natural sweetness to satisfy a sweet tooth in a healthy way,” says DeBoer. And while chocolate has certain nutritional benefits, including antioxidants, avoid highly processed bars and opt for at least 60 percent cocoa content if you want to indulge in an occasional treat.

Remember sweets can be enjoyed in moderation. Consider pre-packed snack packs that offer a variety of foods in small portions to avoid overindulging.

Nuts and seeds are a good choice for a snack loaded in omega-3 fatty acids, which improve brain health. If you’re craving a crunch, include fresh vegetables.

“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.

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