Barbara Burke

Health Options

By Alan Titchenal & Joannie Dobbs

Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Consider food gifts
for holidays

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to be with family and friends and reflect on the past year. Thanksgiving also is the eve of the busiest shopping day of the year. For some who love to shop, this fact is a joy. However, for those who don't like to shop or who have too little time to shop, Friday the 26th can add a significant amount of stress into an already stressful life.

Between now and Christmas, there will be twice as many things to get done as there is time. Preparing for a successful holiday season requires 1) staying healthy; 2) getting adequate nutrition and sleep; and 3) choosing the right gifts.

Staying healthy is especially challenging when other shoppers may already have this season's cold or flu. One way is to be proactive in preventing viruses from getting a hold on you. This can be done by not touching your eyes, ears, mouth or nose without first washing your hands well. Carrying hand-washing towelettes also can come in handy before grabbing a bite to eat in the mall after handling money.

Getting adequate nutrition will help to maintain a strong immune system. Eating right also will help you to stay focused on all the additional holiday tasks. The brain requires glucose (blood sugar) to function properly, so skipping meals or avoiding carbohydrate foods could make it more difficult to choose that perfect gift.

Another form of holiday insurance would be to start the day by eating a fortified cereal that contains 100 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for most vitamins and minerals or taking a multi-vitamin mineral supplement that supplies the same. No matter how you meet your nutrient requirements, getting good nutrition will help you stay healthy over the holidays.

TRYING to choose the right gift can be stressful, especially when shopping for people who seem to have everything. Co-workers can pose a challenge, especially if you only know them professionally. And friends and family on the mainland pose two problems: choosing the right gift, and finding time to get to the post office in time for holiday deadlines. As nutritionists, our thoughts go to the perfect gift for all three groups -- food.

Foods for special occasions can be homemade or purchased and come in all shapes and sizes. Gift baskets are especially easy to have delivered both here and on the mainland. A quick look in the yellow pages under "gift baskets" will show that many florists now offer this service. The Internet offers hundreds of food choices. Sending tropical fruits and local products gives mainland friends a little taste of Hawaii during the cold winter months.

A single, individually wrapped chocolate truffle sends holiday greetings to chocoholics. Or give Hawaii-grown gourmet chocolate.

For those who love hot and spicy tastes, consider one or more bottles of specialty hot sauces and salsa. Other food ideas include samplers of teas, coffees, spiced vinegars, flavored mustards, dried mango and papaya, candied ginger, and jams and jellies.

When sending prepared foods it is important that they include an ingredient label so that individuals with food allergies know what is in the food.

Our favorite gift basket contains a mixture of fresh fruits, including special fruits such as Asian pears and persimmons, crackers, cheese and a special beverage. All that is missing is the party.

Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a sports nutritionalist in the
Department of Food Service and Human Nutrition,
University of Hawaii-Manoa.

Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a food and nutrition consultant
and owner of Exploring New Concepts, a nutritional consulting firm.
She is also responsible for the nutritional analyses indicated
by an asterisks in this section.

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