By Monica Hunsberger, PhD, MPH, RD

With the holidays upon us, many of us will bring gifts to friends, family, colleagues and others.   Buying gifts can be stressful; so how about putting together a gift basket with easy to find, inexpensive items that will not only be beautiful, but healthy too.

A beautiful bottle of olive oil needs only a bow!  Olive oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids.  We observe that people consuming lots of olive oil, think Mediterranean Diet, live long and healthy lives.  If you want to get more elaborate you could infuse the oil with fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or garlic.  Placed in a uniquely shaped bottle this is really lovely.  Otherwise, you can find many pretty olive oils ready to give.

A fruit basket makes a beautiful gift.  To enhance the gift you can add a fancy cheese, a whole grain cracker or flat bread.

Also, consider making a spice rub mix and placing it in jar with a homemade label. You will find most computer software, such as word, come with templates to create labels.   Look in cookbooks or online to find recipes for spice rubs.

Soup blends make a nice gift as well.  Some of my favorite suggestions include: split pea, lentil or bean.  You will find an endless array of possibilities by doing a simple search. Click here to get started.

In addition, consider making a fancy nut or seed blend.  Whole nuts, not roasted in oil or salted are like olive oil, are an exceptionally healthy choice. You could even mix the nuts with unsweetened dried fruit for a colorful blend such as: dried cranberries, dried cherries, apricots, figs, etc.  Or layer nuts and dried fruit for effect.

Lastly, consider gifting granola or granola bars.  Below is a recipe for granola that can easily be modified to your taste.  It is colorful in a jar and makes a lovely present.  Also, I think mueslis, simple oat and fruit blends without added sweetener are tasty and served with unsweetened yogurt make an exceptionally healthy breakfast.

Basic Granola


  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup nuts of your choice
  • 2/3 cup of your favorite seeds (sesame, flax, sunflower, pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup dried fruit of your choice


  1. Preheat oven to 275°F.
  2. Combine oats, coconut, nuts, and seeds in a large bowl. Combine maple syrup, water and oil in a medium bowl or large measuring cup and pour over the oat mixture; stir until well combined. Spread the mixture into a large (12-by-15-inch) roasting pan or large rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir, and continue baking until golden brown and beginning to crisp, about 45 minutes more. Stir in dried fruit. Let cool completely before storing.