Healthy Outlook: Healthier gift options your family won’t hate

photo by: Mackenzie Clark; Shutterstock background

Some healthier gift options your family members (hopefully) won't hate: a water bottle or holder; a shaker bottle; an apple slicer, vegetable spiralizer, strawberry slicer and huller; and adult coloring books and supplies.

My holiday spirit tends to fluctuate. Some years, I’m a Sugar Plum Fairy; others, I’m a Grinch. (This year, I’m going a secular Unicorn route.) But you can expect a couple of things from me annually like clockwork: overdramatic lamentation of the cold and the short, dark, soul-stifling days, and some early strategery about gifts that may or may not pan out.

Although my family has learned to love my healthier ways, I know I shouldn’t pick gifts that make them feel like I’m shoving an agenda down their throats. I want my relatives to know I love them just the way they are; what better way to show them than with a well-planned material gift?

So here’s a list of wellness-related gift ideas, based on how health-inclined your recipients are already — aka their health nut level.

By the way, my list focuses on adults or perhaps teens. The Associated Press reported recently that doctors say empty cardboard boxes — and other such things that promote creativity and imagination — are far better for young kids than electronic devices and games, so please have a heart and let the littles have the boxes from the gifts you buy for yourself.

Quick tips

For many of these suggestions (or, really, any gift you ever give anyone), consider asking someone close to the recipient first. In particular, some fitness-crazed folks get set in their ways and don’t want to feel obligated to change them because of a gift. Don’t put a bow on a box of guilt.

Also, avoid gifts that could become projects — for instance, by guessing on the size of clothing or shoes that may then need to be returned or swapped. If you aren’t sure and can’t ask, play it safe and go with a gift card.

Health nut level: ‘Did you put quinoa in this?’

For the family members who are skeptical or give a suspicious eye when promised, “I swear, you won’t even taste the kale” … subtlety might be wise.

• Focus on stress relief.

Stress is a constant in our lives that can have a severely negative impact on both our physical and mental health. A lot of gifts can help ease stress, though. Some suggestions: Adult coloring books and/or supplies; a journal; relaxing essential oils and an electronic diffuser; a stress ball to squeeze; a book of crossword puzzles; Epsom salts for a hot bath; or tickets to an event, game or show.

• Take a cue from kids.

Make a coupon or two — with full intentions of following through — that offer your help in an appropriate way to help the recipient destress. A few ideas to pledge: babysitting so Mom can have an evening to/for herself; doing housework that might be a strain for seniors; or paying for a delivery dinner on the recipients’ night of choice when they’re too tired to cook. (Disclaimer: Use your best judgment here so as not to offend, but if you do, I guess you can blame it on me.)

• Reminder: Think before you bake.

Yes, most people enjoy cookies and sweets, but you’re not doing your diabetic loved ones any favors there. That’s just one example of countless conditions and dietary restrictions your recipient may be dealing with, so it’s important to consider things like that if you are giving food.

Again, guilt is worse than a lump of coal. By tempting people with food they shouldn’t have, you put them in a quandary: risk hurting your feelings to protect their own health, or indulge now and feel guilty — or worse, face illness — later.

Health nut level: Those who ask if butter is a carb

These are the folks you might call health-interested. They might not start a workout routine on their own accord, but there is a budding curiosity about making positive changes, and they might be persuaded to become a resolutioner on Jan. 1.

• Give the gift of song.

For budding and seasoned music-loving fitness enthusiasts alike, a playlist can make or break a workout. Good songs at the right tempo can help jumpstart a warmup, kick into high gear, slow down for interludes, and ease gradually into cooling down and stretching. Besides that, getting off the couch to dance is a great way to get active.

Some online music streaming services allow you to give monthly subscriptions. Spotify has gift options of one, three or six months or a year, ranging from $10 to $120, for its Premium service. Apple gift cards offer more wiggle room for recipients because they can be used for Apple Music, the App Store and iTunes. You pick the amount. Pandora Plus is $55 per year.

• Help with hydration.

One of the easiest changes we can make to feel healthier all around is to drink enough water. In this weather, a stainless steel water bottle will practically keep the recipient’s ice water chilled until the spring equinox.

Also, this year I “discovered” a new toy — a water bottle holder with an adjustable strap to make hydration handy. It’s a lightly insulated sleeve, and it fits all the bottles I have at home, so I can just sling it over my shoulder and head out the door. (Importantly, it is also pink with a pretty butterfly pattern.) Mine was $11 on Amazon.

• Make healthy eating easier.

Retooling your kitchen with a fitness-friendly bent can be a bit costly when you do it all at once; here are some ideas to help with that.

An apple slicer costs a few dollars, and it lets you core an apple at virtually the speed of light for a quick, healthy snack. I usually keep one at home and one in my desk drawer at work. (One of my favorite gifts a couple of years ago was a strawberry huller and slicer — perfect slices, every time.) You might also consider a spiralizer, which can be used to slice vegetables into “pasta” — turning zucchini into “zoodles,” for instance.

Also, shaker bottles — many under the brand name BlenderBottle, for roughly $7 a pop at a lot of stores — help to blend protein shakes, so they’re not lumpy and gross. Food scales are an extremely useful tool to those starting to pay attention to what they eat, and you can get a decent one for $20.

Health nut level: Nutty as a fruitcake

The wellness is strong with this one — or it’s getting there through consistent strength training.

• Give the gift of targeted song.

As mentioned above, many fitness fanatics enjoy music but also put it to work. There’s an app for iPhone and Android called RockMyRun that allows users to select stations by genre and mood, but the Premium version also automatically syncs the beats per minute of the music to your steps or heart rate. With all the bells and whistles, this could make a great gift — $26 for a year at

• Contribute to the shoe savings account.

An unfortunate fact of life for runners and athletes is that shoes and athletic wear don’t last forever, even though it costs a small fortune. I still wouldn’t suggest buying clothing because there are so many variables and personal preferences, but a gift card contribution to a gear fund could be a very meaningful gesture for the fitness enthusiast in your life.

• Consider a gift that keeps on giving.

Bear with me on this one: Consider a subscription to a health and wellness-related magazine. There are tons of options out there, and many of them come with extra stuff for free.

A few title ideas to get you started, and their prices for a yearlong subscription: Runner’s World ($20); Health ($9); Women’s Health ($10); Men’s Health ($10); Prevention ($20, if you sit on the website long enough for it to pop up with a special offer — unless it really was just for me); EatingWell ($10) and Mother Earth News ($18). You can also get Shape ($10 alone) plus EatingWell for $15.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Healthy Outlook

Healthy Outlook is a column written by Journal-World reporter and Health section editor Mackenzie Clark, in hopes of helping readers make their lives a little bit happier, healthier and more active.

Have questions about the world of health and wellness in Lawrence, or a health story idea? Contact Mackenzie:

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