It’s that time of year again when excess and overindulgence is the name of the game – from mouth-watering feasts to expensive bottles of fizz and as much dessert as your (elastic) waistband will allow.
And that’s just Christmas dinner – under the bauble-laden tree, there is likely to be mountains (or at least small hillocks) of expensive and often unnecessary gifts to further appease our festive appetite for gluttony and extravagance.
But while the giving of gifts is a wonderful thing, they don’t all have to come with a health warning – in fact, you should try to include a few healthy options among the luxury puddings, bottles of special reserve whiskey, the latest computer games and obligatory selection boxes.
Everyone has different interests and hobbies and whether they are the outdoorsy type, love to cook or are intent on finding their “Zen Zone”, there is the perfect healthy gift out there somewhere.
So we have put together some ideas:
Surprise the foodie in your life with some interesting gadgets or ingredients, which will make their hobby more enjoyable and enable them to create healthy but mouth-watering dishes.
Dr Cliodhna Foley Nolan is the director of human health and nutrition at Safefood Ireland, and she says there is no excuse for neglecting to find some guilt-free gifts for friends and family this year. "There are lots of healthy options which would make for great Christmas gift ideas," she says. "And those who are into cooking would love a cookery class or the delivery of a weekly fruit and vegetable order."
Sarah O’Brien of the HSE says a one-off order of fruit can be just as enticing. “A nicely presented fruit basket is something we’ve received over the years and been amazed at how much more interested our kids were in eating the gift than the fruit in the boring fruit bowl,” she says.
Other healthy gifts for food lovers include:
– Slow cooker
– Organic vegetable subscription
– Meat probe
– Immersion blender
– NutriBullet blender
– Gluten-free spiced biscuits
– Vegetable growing kit
– Non-alcoholic cocktail kit
For those whose partner, friend or loved one is keen to get fitter and healthier in 2019, why not give them a Christmas gift which will help them to achieve their goal:
Dr Bernadette Carr, medical director of VHI, says promoting an active lifestyle could be the best gift you give this year. "Why not treat your loved one or yourself to a new pair of runners or walking shoes," she says. "Regular brisk walking/running or indeed any outdoor activity is a great way to get some exercise. As well as being free and accessible to all, walking and running are fantastic aerobic activities helping to improve heart and lung health while also boosting vitamin D levels for better immune health and healthy bones."
Dr Nolan agrees: “Fitness enthusiasts would be delighted with something like a club membership, a voucher for a day out, weekend away or even an activity,” she says. “Alternatively, if someone is into gardening, get them some tools or a book on the topic.”
Other gift ideas for active friends include:
– Swimming goggles with inbuilt stereo system
– Dance class
– Gym membership
– Fitness watch
– Swimming classes
– Subscription to health magazine
– Paddle board
– Surfing lessons
– Skateboard/roller blades
– A pull-up bar
– Stainless steel water bottle
“We all need a bit of down time and with modern life set at such a fast pace, the Christmas break is just the time to switch off and unwind – so help your loved ones do just that by giving them the gift of relaxation.
Dr Carr says mental health is as important as physical health and frequent meditation can help you clear your mind at the end of a busy, stressful day. “If you can find an appropriate book or make up a small meditation kit to include with a pillow or eye mask as your gift, these few tools will help get them started on their mindfulness journey,” she advises. “Many people use meditation to create awareness of themselves and harness it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.”
Psychotherapist Fiona Brennan agrees and says learning how to de-stress is something we all need to do, so giving the gift of a therapy programme would be beneficial to all. "Give yourself or someone you love the most empowering gift of all – a stress-free Christmas and positive mindset for 2019," she says. "A self-therapy programme will help you to sleep peacefully and to wake happy feeling calm and confident. A six-month online course of the Positive Habit costs €99.95."
Other relaxing gift ideas include:
– Lavender pillow
– Sleep mask
– Yoga mat
– Acupressure mat
– Natural light box
– Mindfulness retreat
– Aromatherapy pulse point roller ball
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a few games, so get everyone to put down their controllers, switch off the TV and have some fun with some real games and more importantly, real people.
Sarah O'Brien, national lead, HSE healthy eating and active living programme, says while at Christmas being prepared for visitors means we have more biscuits, chocolate and alcohol in our house than usual and then visitors arrive with more, it is time to find other ways to have fun. "As part of the START campaign when we speak with parents they say one of the biggest challenges to having a healthy lifestyle as a family is managing screen time, particularly at holiday time," she says. "So this year, we're making a START with some healthier gifts instead, especially for friends and family with children.
“So we are suggesting some tried and tested options which include board games especially if you are prepared to join in, bubbles, balloons or small balls for younger children and a voucher for something like bowling or skating.”
Other fun ideas include:
– Jigsaw or wooden puzzle
– Juggling balls
– Colouring books for both adults and children
– Board games
– Floor games such as Twister
– Karaoke machine
We all love a bit of pampering so there is nothing nicer than receiving the gift of something luxurious, so surprise your friends and family with something relaxing this Christmas and their resulting happy mood will benefit everyone.
Ideas for spoiling a friend or loved one include:
– Healing Essential Oils
– Spa treatment
– Organic bath products
– Herbal tea selection
– Essential oil candles
– Natural cosmetics
– Make your own body cream kit
And last but not least, because Christmas is really a time for thinking of others less fortunate than ourselves why not give the gift of charity this year? Sponsor a child, help feed a family, save an animal or even plant a tree in someone else’s name.