12/06/2013 05:45 EST | Updated 02/05/2014 05:59 EST

Holiday Gifts that are Cheap, Cheerful, and Healthy

In the years I've been writing about health, readers have assumed that I'm the go-to-girl for healthy gift ideas that are easy to find and that don't break the bank. Truth be told, I'm no shopping expert, but over time I've developed a go-to-list of useful, healthy and fun gift ideas I'm proud to pass on. Follow these suggestions, toss them wrapped in colorful tissue into a snazzy gift bag, and you'll have more time for chestnuts roasting by an open fire:

Own an olive tree

At Nudo Italia you can adopt an olive tree and receive extra virgin olive oil from it (honest!) as it's pressed during the next year. Pair a print-out certificate with a bottle of store-bought olive oil or a pretty jar of olives. Olive oil, great for salads or to brush on fish, contains healthy monounsaturated fats that help reduce bad LDL cholesterol.

Tea for two

At any hardware store, kitchen shop, department store or Canadian Tire, you'll find a selection of inexpensive but pretty teapots. Choose one, and add some organic, herbal or flavored teas from a specialty shop or grocery store. For a special treat, check out Splendid Afternoon Teas, a Toronto company which offers a Tea and Cookie of the Month program or a Canadian literary tea package which includes a choice of prizewinning book (say, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries) plus delicious tea, shortbreads or cakes.

Smooth operator

Give your workout partner a single serve smoothie blender (Hamilton Beach , Kitchen Aid or Oster's My Blend) for fast pick-me-ups any time of day. Add a selection of your favourite smoothie recipes or a great smoothie cookbook like The Smoothies Bible, by Canada's Pat Crocker. Cooks on your list? Forget those Brie bakers that make high fat cheese spreads and give a subscription to Eating Well, a magazine for health-conscious foodies.

Best foot forward

Feet are forgotten in winter which is why Footner exfoliating socks (available at many pharmacies and at Footner's website) are a unique stocking stuffer. The socks activate the skin's own natural peeling effect and remove dead skin build-up. Add some colorful nail polish and foot cream and you'll be giving a homey pedicure kit.

Downward dog

Yoga mats are everywhere, so is the love for this ancient spiritual practice that aims for balance and harmony and has millions of followers. Complete this gift by adding a shawl (useful during yoga while waiting for muscle warm-up) or a best-selling yoga book such as The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga by Deepak Chopra.


If it's Canada, it's cold and icy somewhere. Yaktrax and several other brands of traction devices are slip-ons that fit any shoe and grip the ice and snow -- great for runners or anyone who has to walk a dog on dark snowy nights. Find traction cleats at outdoor shops such as Mountain Equipment Co-Op, The Running Room and some pharmacies.

Go nuts!

Easily found and nicely packaged as gifts, nuts contain good fat (though lots of it) and the best ones for health (according to Harvard Medical School) are almonds for their vitamin E, walnuts for their plant-based omega-3 healthy fats, and brazil nuts -- their high selenium content protects against prostate cancer.

Handy and dandy

Everyone has dry rough hands this time of year, so a gift box filled with scented department store hand lotions or the guaranteed super softees found in any drug store (CeraVe, Spectro, Eucerin, Aveeno, and Glysomed are all dermatologist recommended) are terrific.

Bring on the bubbly

Pack a gift bag with a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine (found at any liquor store) and add a few bottles of bubble bath (Ombra is one brand made with natural herbal compounds such as sage, lavender and rose and green tea, not tested on animals, and found in most pharmacies.)


Forget the ordinary bar and go for organic fair trade bars of 70 per cent dark chocolate (look for bars by Green & Black's, Godiva, Scharffen Berger or Michel Cluizel.) Dark chocolate has fewer calories than milk chocolate and contains beneficial anti-oxidants.