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Healthy holiday gifts for people you really love

By Derek Clontz -   Nov 30, 2006

BOUTTE - You can give the gift of glowing good health this holiday season and your friends and family will love you for it.

And you won't have to spend a fortune, either, says the Herald-Guide’s expert - because lots of good-for-you gifts can be had "on the cheap" for under $10.

"Just about everyone these days is trying to get healthy and stay healthy and you can help by choosing a supportive gift they’ll enjoy and appreciate," Dr. Caroline Richardson told the Herald-Guide from her office at .the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.

"Getting a friend or family member a gift that will help them eat healthier or become more active is a wonderful thing to do during the holidays."

Here are the expert's suggestions:

1. Fancy oil and vinegar. High-quality balsamic vinegar and fresh, extra-extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil are luxurious gifts and you can give both for under $10.

If someone is trying to lose weight or eating a lot of salads as part of a heart-healthy regimen, aged balsamic vinegar and a dash or two of good olive oil can make the difference between a boring salad and a gourmet treat, Richardson says.

2. Sessions with a nutritionist. Lots of people have tried to go low-fat or low-carb, or have ridden the wave of the latest fad diet. But what works for individual people can vary dramatically. A nutritionist can help tailor a diet plan to a person's individual likes and dislikes, and can come up with something the person is more likely to stick to, Richardson says.Check the phone book or ask your doctor for a recommendation.

3. A healthy cooking class. Chef Ed Rhinehart ... and continuing education classes, etc. These classes often are inexpensive.

4. A healthy-eating book. One option, Richardson says, is Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating by Walter C. Willett and P. J. Skerrett. And given the popularity of the book You: On a Diet, it seems some people are already following this advice.

5. A crock pot, rice cooker or steamer. You can get a decent crock pop for $10 or less. These will help the gift recipient prepare food in a healthier way, Richardson notes. Throw in a few recipes for a tasty soup or a meal that includes steamed vegetables.

6. Clothes for winter outdoor sports. "Get someone silk long underwear or furry, soft gloves or a good hat, and they will be more inclined to get outside and exercise," Richardson says. This not only helps with physical health, but also can improve people's mental well-being and reduce "cabin fever."

7. A massage gift certificate. "Relaxation and stress relief are important for overall good health," Richardson notes.

8. A fun exercise class. Is the gift recipient someone who gets bored easily and may have trouble sticking to some types of fitness routines? Try signing him or her up for a fitness or dance class, yoga, tai chi, karate - anything goes, Richardson says.

10. A session with a personal trainer. Do you know someone who can't stay motivated to exercise? A personal trainer is a great way to get people on track with workouts that help them build muscle tone and endurance, Richardson says.

11. A tune-up for a bicycle. That bicycle with the broken chain isn't doing anybody any good rusting away in the garage. Pay for the tune-up of a friend's bike, and throw in an offer to go on some rides with him or her this year.

12. Last but not least, a pedometer. Richardson is a huge fan of pedometers and often gives them to people as presents. Make sure it's a good one; "some pedometers just don't count steps accurately," she says.

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