It takes a little finesse to give a healthful holiday gift that is genuinely well-received. Something like a digital scale or a gym membership could easily be misconstrued as an unkind hint. And the default option — the standard fruit basket — is just plain boring.
The right healthful gift is creative, thoughtful and offers a sense of indulgent celebration while providing a welcome respite from the avalanche of sausage, cheese and cookies we are inundated with this time of year. These edible holiday collections do just that. Whether you wrap them up in a box or arrange them in a gift basket, each is a cornucopia of goodies that bring both tasty pleasure and good health.
Mediterranean food is renowned for its delicious and healthful attributes. This basket includes some of the region’s most delectable specialties.
Extra-virgin olive oil: Choose one that is cold-pressed and unfiltered for maximum wow factor and health benefits.
Aged balsamic vinegar: The more aged and, generally, the more expensive it is, the more complex flavor it will have, but even an inexpensive one will work.
Farro: This whole ancient grain that hails from Italy is trendy and absolutely delightful as a pilaf, in a salad or topped with pasta sauce.
Sun-dried tomatoes: Either packed in oil or dry, these tasty morsels add big flavor to salads, sauces and grain dishes.
Dried porcini mushrooms: The hearty, nutty flavor of these mushrooms bring an unmistakable Mediterranean flair to soups, grain dishes and stews.
Herbs and spices do more than add flavor and color to dishes; thanks to their rich antioxidant content, they have bona fide health benefits. Experimenting with a variety of tastes from around the world helps keep healthful eating fun and interesting.
Za’atar: This Middle Eastern spice mix of sesame seeds, sumac and herbs is traditionally sprinkled on bread, but it is also delicious on eggs or stirred into yogurt as a dip.
Spanish smoked paprika: The distinctive flavor and smoky aroma of this spice transforms simple roasted potatoes, poultry or egg dishes.
Herbes de Provence: This French herb mix often includes savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano; whisk it into dressings, rub into chicken or fish, or simmer in stews.
Thai curry paste: A little of this complex and quintessentially Thai combination of spices goes a long way to season stir fries or vegetable sautes, or as the flavor base for a noodle dish or curry sauce.
Besides tea’s value as a healing, antioxidant-rich beverage, taking some time out to have a cup of tea is a healthful respite from the hectic pace of the holiday season.
Teapot or infuser: These come in many styles — pick one that reflects your giftee’s taste.
Whole leaf tea: Intact tea leaves are the highest quality, providing maximum taste and luxury. Choose a couple of varieties, perhaps including one with seasonal flavors added, such as cinnamon spice.
Local raw honey: Locally sourced honey makes the gift more personal, and it is less processed — and so retains more healthful properties — than a typical mass-market brand.
This collection indulges a sweet tooth with flavor, flair and more nutrition than the usual sugary fare.
Pure maple syrup: There is nothing like the taste of the real thing — and the darker the syrup, the more flavor, minerals and antioxidants it has.
Fruit preserves: A spread of quality fruit preserves on a piece of whole-grain bread can make someone’s morning, or be just the satisfying sweet they need as an evening snack.
Honeycomb: This sweet treat is a piece of the actual beehive with the honey still in it, and it is a wonderful spread on cheese or fruit. The soft wax of the honeycomb, which contains healthful fats, melts in your mouth as you chew it, and the honey inside is in its purest form.
Medjool dates: These premium dates are big and plump and make for a sweetly satisfying dessert.
Dark chocolate: Chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa solids has the more healthful polyphenols, but it is also more bitter. For the ideal combination of health and taste, choose a bar that is about 70 percent cocoa solids.
Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author. She blogs and offers a biweekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com. She also writes weekly Nourish recipes in The Washington Post’s Food section.
^ Chat Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. Join Krieger for a live Q&A about healthful eating.