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Food-themed gift ideas

Nutritionists and dietitians from the University of Maryland Medical System regularly provide a guest post. The latest is from Emily Rice.

The holidays are a time for giving and enjoying food with friends and family. It is the time of year that many people come together to bake and create delicious treats to eat and share with others. Edible gifts can be creative, easy, budget-friendly and easily tailored to suit the preferences of each person on your list. Finding healthy alternatives to traditional options can reduce sugar, fat and salt intake without sacrificing flavor.

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Here are some easy and nutritious food gifts to try this holiday:

Fresh fruits can be given in a basket or bouquet style. Many companies offer subscription services so the recipient can continue to receive fresh produce for months to come.

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Quick breads, such as banana or zucchini, wrapped up with paper and twine. To make these even healthier, pick a recipe with less sugar. (You can reduce sugar by about 1/3 without noticing a big difference). Also, consider substituting whole wheat flour for regular all-purpose flour. For those who don’t enjoy the taste or texture of whole wheat flour, look for whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour.

Homemade trail mix is easy to customize and can be made in large batches and put in jars or bags for gifting. Start with a batch of unsalted nuts and seeds, such as pecans, walnuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds, and then add different spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, and small amounts of dried fruit and/or chocolate. Store in single serve bags or jars and complete the presentation with some ribbon and a label.

Homemade granola is also a tasty and easy-to-make gift. Store bought granola can be high in sugar and fat, but when made at home you can control the sugar and added fats.

Soup mixes in mason jars can be made by layering beans, spices and whole grains, such as brown rice, with cooking instructions for an easy dinner.

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Homemade seasoning mixes are also great. Are you known for your tacos or steaks? Put together your favorite herb and spice blends and package into small jars or empty spice containers to give the gift of flavor. Just make sure to limit or omit extra salt.

Remember to focus on portion control. Instead of gifting items in a large container, consider packing items into smaller, single serving food safe bags or boxes. Having food portioned into single servings can help people eat less by signaling that the snack is over. This is a great technique to raise awareness about overindulging.

Also consider gifts that encourage physical activity or healthy eating all year. Workout clothing, water bottles, fitness trackers, healthy cookbooks, meal delivery services or a new cooking gadget are all gifts that encourage a healthy lifestyle.

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