12 Days of Holiday Food Gifts

Give the gift of healthier edible goodies this season.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

The perfect present for many people is a food gift. Think about it: Sooner or later, food gets consumed, and it won't collect dust sitting on a shelf or take up space in a closet.

The way I see it, you can never have too many festive food gifts on hand during the holiday season. You can bring them to parties as hostess gifts, or give them to friends or neighbors who stop by unexpectedly. When you don't quite know what to give to kind coworkers or talented teachers, give the gift of food. Everyone's got to eat!

To give you some ideas -- 12 to be exact -- I've put together 12 days' worth of holiday food gifts. But these are not your typical holiday offerings -- there's no fruitcake to joke about, no tacky tins of stale popcorn parked under the tree, no obligatory bottles of wine given as host or hostess gifts.

Some of these gifts you can order online, and some you assemble at home and deliver in person. They may not all appeal to you, but there should be something here for just about anyone.

1. On the first day of Christmas, my FOODIE gave to me ... a tin of pomegranate tea.

There are several brands of Pomegranate Green tea out there. But the shiny red tin from The Republic of Tea makes an especially festive gift. It's the gift that keeps on giving, because each tin contains 50 tea bags to enjoy. Send it in a beautiful gift box or wrap with pretty cellophane or tissue paper. You could include a teacup or mug, too.

2. On the second day of Christmas, my FOODIE gave to me ... 2 bottles clinging.

Instead of wine, give friends a Napa Valley company's best-selling duo: a bottle of Lemon Pepper Olive Oil and a bottle of Blackberry Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar. "When these two are paired together, the flavor just pops," says owner Tony Pennisi, who says the combination was discovered quite by accident.

This relatively young company, Big Paw (started in 1993) doesn't advertise. They sell their gourmet goods at farmer's markets across Northern California, and now online. They'll mail their products anywhere Federal Express will go. You can find them at www.bigpawgrub.com.

3. On the third day of Christmas, my FOODIE gave to me... 3 grinders grinding.

The Grinder Trio can be found for under $10 at your local supermarket. When you give this to someone, you're giving the gift of fresh flavor.

  • Nutmeg Mill by Drogheria Alimentari. There's nothing like freshly ground nutmeg topping your light eggnog or pumpkin pancakes or flavoring your coffee. The Nutmeg Mill makes this easy. You'll never buy ground nutmeg again.
  • Sea Salt Grinder by McCormick. If you're going to add salt to your food, it might as well be freshly ground. This way, you may be likely to use less of it.
  • Pepper Grinder by McCormick. Every healthful kitchen needs a pepper grinder. This multicolored peppercorn blend adds color and flavor to any dish without adding calories or sodium.

4. On the fourth day of Christmas, my FOODIE gave to me... 4 whole-wheat cake mixes.

Whole-wheat cake mixes? That's right. They're brand new from Bob's Red Mill, headquartered in Oregon. There are four flavors, each calling for a small amount of vegetable oil and each with its own topping suggestion printed on the package:

  • Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Mix.
  • Chocolate Cake Mix.
  • Gingerbread Cake Mix.
  • Spice Apple Cake Mix.

A serving of each of these cakes contains around 2 grams of fiber, 220 calories, and 17 grams of sugar. A nonstick, 9-inch cake pan completes the gift nicely. Find them at www.bobsredmill.com

5. On the fifth day of Christmas my FOODIE gave to me ... 5 chocolate bars!

Remember the "5 golden rings"? I can't think of anything, food-wise, that compares to the preciousness of gold other than chocolate. Here are a couple of options (but there are, of course, many more wonderful chocolate bars out there to behold).

Moonstruck Chocolate Co. sells a 5-bar pack of elegant chocolate bars for $15. It includes the standard milk, ivory and dark chocolate, plus Chile Variado and Espresso Bean flavors. Find them at www.moonstruckchocolate.com

Dagoba Organic Chocolate is one of a few organic chocolate companies in the U.S., and their bars are loaded with the phytochemicals that the cocoa bean is naturally endowed with. May I suggest their 12 Bar Alchemist's Blend box? It's a mix of their top-selling dark and milk chocolate bars, including flavors like "Brasilia," with coconut and roasted exotic nuts, "Chai" with a secret blend of chai spices and crystallized ginger, and "Mon Cherri" with cherries/vanilla. According to my calculations, if you give away two gifts of 5 chocolate bars each, that leaves two bars for you. But who's counting? Find them at www.dagobachocolate.com