13 Food Gifts NOT to Give

Considering an edible holiday present? Before you hit the mall, check out this list of food gifts it's best to avoid.

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

We've all gotten them at one time or another: gifts of food that were disappointing or misguided, even comical. Sometimes it isn't the gift itself that doesn't work so much as the match between the gift and the recipient.

For example, I was the goofball who, with all the best of intentions, gave a Starbucks gift card to a music teacher at my daughter's school. It didn't occur to me that he might be a Mormon (see No. 7 in the list below).

Here's another example: I was once given dark chocolate as a gift, when anyone who knows me well knows that I prefer milk chocolate. (The giver in this instance happened to be my mother.)

So, with some personal experience and some tongue-in-cheek reflections on gifts from Christmases past, here is my list of 13 food gifts NOT to give:

  • Don't give sugar-free candies or chocolates to someone with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or other intestinal issues. The sugar replacement often used in these products is maltitol, which is only partially digested and absorbed. The part that isn't digested tends to ferment in the intestinal tract and attract water. To someone with diarrhea-predominant IBS, having a few pieces of these sugar-free goodies can cause some "intestinal issues". (As someone who has IBS, I can speak from sad experience.) We'll leave it at that.
  • Pay attention that you don't give tea with special properties to someone whom it might offend. The Republic of Tea, for example, makes "Get Lost" tea, described as "herb tea for weight control"; "Get it Going" tea (for regularity); and "Get Gorgeous" tea (for clear skin).
  • Be sure you don't give alcohol to someone who doesn't (or shouldn't) drink. Even if someone has consumed alcohol in the past, they may now be avoiding it for a number of possible reasons.
  • Don't give those tins of stale popcorn to pretty much anyone. If it isn't fresh, it isn't worth the calories.
  • Don't give fruitcake as a food gift, because all the fruitcake jokes known to man are bound to ensue moments after it is unwrapped.
  • Don't give a gift assortment of dark chocolates to someone who is passionate about milk chocolate (or vice versa). The same goes for giving cream-filled chocolates to someone who is wild about nuts and chews.
  • Don't give alcohol or anything with caffeine to a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These items are not in line with their beliefs.
  • If you don't know the gift recipient all that well, avoid holiday processed meat gift packs (from gourmet catalogue companies) or other foods containing meat, in case your giftee is a vegetarian.
  • Don't give food gifts that include chocolate, peppermint or spearmint, garlic and onions, coffee, caffeinated tea, citrus, tomato products, or chili peppers, to someone who suffers from acid reflux.
  • Don't give any food containing pork or pork products, or that combines dairy with meat products, to someone who keeps kosher or observes Muslim dietary laws.
  • Don't give peanut brittle, caramel apples, or candy canes to people with braces. According to H. Dixon Taylor, DDS, an orthodontist in Concord, Calif., these are the three worst food gifts for someone with orthodontics. (And about 20% of Taylor's clients happen to be grown-ups.)
  • To that friend of yours who is working hard to lose extra pounds, don't give a gift card to The Cheesecake Factory.
  • Don't give chocolate-covered insects to people who might be "bugged" by it. I'm serious -- this actually happened to an acquaintance's mom, and she was definitely not amused!

Published December 14, 2006.


SOURCES: Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux, 2002, by Elaine Magee MPH, RD. Candy Warehouse web site. H. Dixon Taylor, DDS, orthodontist, Concord, Calif.

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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