There is something special about receiving a homemade gift for the holidays. These personal little gifts are packed with a lot of love and flavor, that no one can resist.
Giving homemade gifts, especially food gifts, are a great opportunity to be creative and customize gifts for your family and friends. For someone with health concerns or who is watching their sugar intake, a thoughtful homemade gift that takes these considerations into mind is something worth remembering.
Making your own food gifts can also be a great way to work some fun and self-care into the busy holiday season, and you can get loved ones involved. Put on some Hallmark movies or your favorite Christmas music, set out decorative boxes, organize bowls or containers, and get your loved ones together to pack the gifts up.
12 Healthy Christmas Food Gifts Ideas
While treats around the holiday time are typical, there are a variety of homemade food gifts you can make that are on the healthy side, personal, and most importantly, delicious! Here are twelve homemade gift ideas that you can DIY and know you are giving something from your heart.
It really wouldn’t be the holidays without chocolate! Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, compounds found in plants that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Dark chocolate tends to be lower in sugar content and when substituted for milk chocolate, some research suggests it may help reduce cholesterol, triglyceride, and fasting glucose levels.1
Look for dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa to keep the sugar content on the lower end. Here are two recipe ideas that make great gifts.
Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie Balls
These are easy to make and are perfect for friends with a sweet tooth. In a food processor puree 8 oz. of seeded, chopped dates with 3 tbsp. cocoa powder, 1 cup of pecans, 1 cup old fashioned oats, and a couple of tablespoons of 100% orange juice. Blend until it forms a cohesive ball. Using your hands or a 1 oz. scoop, roll into balls, and roll in an extra ½ cup of chopped pecans. Place them on a sheet pan to dry slightly and then pack them in cellophane bags tied with a colorful ribbon.
Using dates to hold the balls together does double duty. The dates hold the ingredients together and provide sweetness. Rolling the balls in extra crushed pecans makes them a bit like a chocolate truffle but keeps them on the healthier side. While a nice sweet “treat,” these little bites pack 5 g of fiber per serving. Most of the fat that comes from these treats are healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
Dark Chocolate Bark
Another easy way to use dark chocolate is to make a “bark” out of it. Melt some dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) and stir in a variety of nuts, seeds, or dried fruit. Spread it evenly on a parchment-lined sheet pan and let it cool. Then break it into pieces and wrap it up in clear festive bags or small gift boxes tied with a colorful ribbon.
Baked Christmas Gifts
Sugar-free Oatmeal Spice Cookies
Christmas cookies are a classic and there are some healthier versions that are still delicious and no one will know they are “better for you.” Use your own oatmeal cookie recipe and substitute whole wheat pastry flour for regular flour and at least some of the sugar with a non-nutritive sweetener.
Using whole wheat pastry flour (make sure it is labeled pastry flour) will amp up the fiber content of your recipe but still give you a soft texture in your baking. Swap at least part of the sugar with a sugar substitute designed for baking. A variety of available products are made with natural sweeteners like monk fruit, stevia, and allulose. These 2 easy substitutions will help lower the glycemic index and glycemic load of the cookies but still deliver a delicious treat for your family and friends.
Yes, most pancakes are high in carbs and sugar so this is probably not something you are thinking would be a good gift for someone who is concerned about their blood sugar. But, there are simple swaps you can use to make this breakfast treat blood sugar friendly and delicious too.
Swap regular flour with an equal amount of almond flour. Add the normal amount of baking powder and salt to the mix. Add in a natural sugar substitute and some cinnamon and nutmeg. Then package up your pancake mix in a mason jar with a fun label and tie directions on the side along with an ingredient list so your friend will know what they have!
Spiced Holiday Nuts
Spiced nuts are an easy and festive holiday treat. Pecans are the most commonly spiced nuts and a great choice with their high monounsaturated fat content. Other nuts like pistachios and hazelnuts and walnuts are also wonderful healthy choices.
To get the spice blend to adhere to the nuts, toss the nuts in whipped egg whites, drain them well and allow them to dry slightly on a wire rack. When they are starting to become “tacky” toss them in whatever spice blend you like. You can make cinnamon and nutmeg spiced nuts for a sweeter note, or toss them with some rosemary and sea salt for a more savory treat. Once they are covered, place them on a wired rack and let them fully dry before packing them in jars or cellophane bags. This is an easy recipe to make a big batch up for a large group of friends, or teachers, or as a party favor!
Dark Chocolate Covered Walnuts
Dark chocolate makes another appearance in these delicious walnuts. Using an 85% cocoa bar (just 4 grams of sugar), melt it and then toss whole walnuts in and coat with the chocolate. Allow them to dry on a wire rack and just before they are completely dry, sprinkle them with a little sea salt.
Walnuts contain the most plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) of all nuts, and one ounce has 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, making these a filling and delicious snack that may help keep your blood glucose in control and support your metabolic health.2 A sprinkling of sea salt amplifies the sweet flavor of the chocolate.
Spice Gift Jars For Christmas
For your friends who like to spice things up, spice blends, flavored salts, or mulling spices are a thoughtful gift for people who are watching their blood sugar or trying to manage their blood pressure.
Spice Mix Jars
Spice mixes look beautiful in a few small mason jars with fun labels. Pick up some larger containers or bulk spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, and allspice and make your own pumpkin pie mix or try mixing together cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika together for a homemade taco seasoning. Compared to store-bought mixes that often are high in sodium, these are easy and thoughtful gifts for family, friends, or neighbors.
Flavored sea salts are another fun gift and super easy to make for a great DIY Christmas gift. For people who like a savory note, dried mushrooms can be ground finely with a mini spice grinder and mixed with sea salt, or for a smokey blend, grind up some dried chipotle peppers in a spice grinder and mix in sea salt. Play with the proportions to get a mix you like, but a little pepper goes a long way so you won’t need much!
For those who are careful about their sugar intake or watching their carbohydrates,a savory treat might be a good gift. Here are a few savory treat ideas that make great gifts.
Similar to cheese crackers, but made only of cheese, these little crisps look pretty and make a great addition to a salad in place of croutons or on a cheese board. They are made with only shredded parmesan cheese and make pretty frilly little disks that can be beautifully wrapped in a box with a window and tied with a colorful bow.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a mounded teaspoon (for small crisps) or a tablespoon (for larger ones) on a silicone-lined baking sheet. Keep the mounds about 2 inches apart because the cheese will melt and you don’t want them melting into each other. Bake for 3 - 5 minutes, or until they have spread out and are crisp. Allow them to cool on a wire rack before you pack them up!
Marinated Baby Mozzarella
Charcuterie boards are still a favorite entertaining item so why not help your hostess out with these cute hostess gifts that will help fill the board? Marinating baby mozzarella or spicing up a goat cheese log is a fun treat that they can use the night of the party or later for a relaxing evening with just the family.
For the mozzarella, a 16 oz. carton of small (Ciliegine) mozzarella balls will make 3, 8 oz mason jars. Enough to give for gifts and save one for yourself to enjoy!
You’ll need 16 oz. of mozzarella balls, 1- ½ cups of extra virgin olive oil, and 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil, 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary 1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano, ½ - 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Combine ingredients in a large bowl, mix them together, then portion them out into mason jars. Cap the jar and tie it with a festive bow.
Other Holiday Treat Jars
Who wouldn’t appreciate an easy homemade dinner they can just reheat and put on the table? Homemade soup is a thoughtful holiday gift that can take some of the stress away from the holidays.
Cook up a batch of your favorite soup, like minestrone or butternut squash. Let it cool and then place it in a large quart-size jar for gifting. If your soup has pasta in it, hold that out and tie a decorative bag of dried pasta on the side for them to add while heating. You could tie up a bag of chickpea pasta or some quinoa or ready rice on the side along with cooking directions if you know your guest would prefer those grains.
There is something comforting about a hot cup of mulled cider, tea, or wine on a cold winter evening. Fill little cheesecloth pouches with spices that can be added to cider, tea, or red wine - or just simmered on the stove to fill the house with a wonderful holiday aroma. These are easy gifts that are perfect for teachers, co-workers, or as a hostess gift tied to a bottle of red wine.
Organize some small to medium size squares of cheesecloth. Place a cinnamon stick, a few anise flower pods, whole cloves, dried lemon peel, and dried orange peel in the center of the square and pull the corners to the center. Tie each with a piece of kitchen twine and then place them in a cellophane bag for gifting. Tie on a cute note on the bag with ideas for how to use it.
Tracking Blood Health During The Holidays
Having extra food and treats around the house during the holiday season is normal and the temptation can lead many people to overeat. A few extra pounds may not seem like a big deal, but unfortunately, research has shown that it can be hard to lose. One recent small study found body weight increased by a pound or two over the holiday season - even in those closely monitoring their weight. Only half of what was gained was lost afterward. One year may not seem like an issue but, year over year, overeating during the holiday season can add up. 3,4
So, while there are many ideas for making healthier holiday treats, moderation is still important. Even dark chocolate has a little sugar and nuts are pretty high in calories. While they are “better for you” choices, keeping an eye on your portions and maintaining some balance is important for your long-term health. By all means, enjoy a little indulgence this holiday season, but be mindful of what you are eating too.
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Topics discussed in this article:
- Leyva-Soto, A., Chavez-Santoscoy, R. A., Lara-Jacobo, L. R., Chavez-Santoscoy, A. V., & Gonzalez-Cobian, L. N. (2018). Daily Consumption of Chocolate Rich in Flavonoids Decreases Cellular Genotoxicity and Improves Biochemical Parameters of Lipid and Glucose Metabolism. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(9), 2220. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23092220
- United States Department of Agriculture. Food Data Central. Nuts, Walnuts, English. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170187/nutrients Accessed November 17, 2022.
- Bhutani, S., Wells, N., Finlayson, G., & Schoeller, D. A. (2020). Change in eating pattern as a contributor to energy intake and weight gain during the winter holiday period in obese adults. International journal of obesity (2005), 44(7), 1586–1595. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-020-0562-2
- Díaz-Zavala, R. G., Castro-Cantú, M. F., Valencia, M. E., Álvarez-Hernández, G., Haby, M. M., & Esparza-Romero, J. (2017). Effect of the Holiday Season on Weight Gain: A Narrative Review. Journal of obesity, 2017, 2085136. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2085136