Best and Worst Gifts for People on a Diet

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If someone you love is trying to lose weight, you want to support his or her efforts to get healthy. And the holiday is no exception. In fact, giving a healthy gift is a wonderful way to show anyone how much you care, and there are great options in every price range. Here are some gifts I think nearly anybody would love to receive this season, whether or not they are trying to lose weight–and a few you should skip.

Gourmet goodies
Best
You can spend as much as you’d like, or less than $20 on one or a basket of nutrient-rich healthful treats. My favorites include: fresh organic fruit, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, herbs and spices, organic teas, or even heirloom seeds for planting a garden.

Unhealthy treats
Worst
It should be obvious that a box of chocolates or cookies is a poor choice for someone who is watching his or her weight. Even if you think they might want to splurge a bit for the holidays, there will be plenty of options at the office holiday party or just about anywhere else. You may have the best of intentions, but such a gift may be perceived as undermining their get-healthy efforts.

Kitchen gadgets
Best
There are a number of kitchen tools I rely on to craft healthy meals that make terrific gifts. Higher end options include a crock pot and wok (both about $75-100), and in the mid-range ($25-50) a water filtering pitcher or iced tea maker. Great choices under $25 include a zester, oil mister, citrus juicer, vegetable steamer, and avocado slicer.

Cooking class
Best
For $50-150 you’ll find a wide variety of healthy cooking classes at culinary schools and gourmet markets across the country. (They even offer them at Whole Foods.) Options include classes on very specific dishes, like vegan soup, or based on cuisine, such as Mediterranean meals, or focused on various benefits, like anti-inflammatory eating. And to spend more quality time with your friend or family member, you can purchase a spot for yourself, so you can attend together.

A scale
Worst
I think we can all agree that unless a friend or family member specifically asks for one, it’s never ever OK to give a bathroom scale as a holiday gift (unless you’re looking for a quick way to end the relationship!).

Fitness or activity gear
Best
If someone you love is already involved in a specific activity, such as walking or gardening, it’s a nice idea to get them some of the gear that supports that activity. For example, a well-made pair of gardening gloves, pedometer, resistance bands, or watchband (if they don’t already have one), are thoughtful and will be appreciated. Just steer clear of anything that seems like a hint to get more exercise: If they don’t currently lift weights, skip the dumbbells or CrossFit gear. (For more ideas, check out Holiday Tech Gifts Active Women Will Love.)

Nutritious gift certificates
Best
I know that gift certificates or gift cards may seem impersonal, but when they’re for a healthy restaurant or food market, they’re one of my favorite gifts to receive. When I’m shopping or ordering, and not footing the bill myself, I tend to try new things, which really is a treat. And when I give this gift, I love it when friends tell me the same, especially when they fall in love with something new. For example, one bought an exotic spice she’d always wanted to try but never did, which immediately became a how-did-I-ever-live-without-this staple.

Weight-loss membership or products
Worst
Unless they specifically ask for it, avoid getting a gym membership, signing them up for a weight-loss program, or anything targeted to shed pounds.

Useful knowledge
Best
In addition to a magazine subscription like Health, you can also bestow expert advice. I’ve had people order my services for others as gifts, like a coaching session or grocery store tour, and there are lots of wellness-oriented resources that make wonderful gifts, from A-Z superfood guides to yoga videos and guided meditation CDs.

For more ideas, check out 2013 Holiday Gift Guide for Women50 Healthy Gifts Under $50Holiday Gift Guide: Feel Good Gifts, and Best Holiday Gifts for Active Women.

What’s your take on this topic? Have you ever received a less-than-helpful gift? Please tweet your thoughts to @CynthiaSass and @goodhealth

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Connect with Cynthia on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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