Studio 5 Health and Fitness Contributor Melanie Douglass says sometimes the sweetest thing you can give is the gift of health!
1. Pie Bites
Why? Because a slice of pie packs a solid 300 – 400 calories. That’s like eating 4 cookies. Pie Bites, on the other hand, are sweet, flaky little bites with just 31 calories per serving! That’s 90% less calories… for a delicious, perfectly sized Christmas treat.
How you make them: Thaw some Phyllo dough for about 10 minutes (you want it cold, but not frozen). Carefully unroll the Phyllo without separating the individual layers. Cut into 3.5″ squares or circles (which look better, but waste more dough). Lightly spray a mini muffin tin, or, lightly brush with Canola Harvest spread.
Take the squares/circles, 2-3 layers thick, and tuck into mini muffin tins. Every 3.5″ layer of Phyllo dough adds just 3 calories. So if you want a thicker crust, it’s probably okay to add more layers ;).
For pudding pie bites: bake the Phyllo pie bite crusts at 350 for 10 minutes. Let cool and fill with your favorite pudding or fruit pie filling, like apple or blueberry.
For pumpkin pie bites: prepare a traditional pumpkin pie filling (I use Libby!) and pour ¼ cup of pie filling into uncooked Phyllo crusts. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. You can top with a dollop of cool whip as well. One pumpkin pie bite provides 40% of your vitamin A needs for the day!
2. 5-A-Day Wreaths
Why? Think of these like a Christmas version of the popular Bountiful Baskets… or a fun way to give someone the staple fruits and vegetables they need every single day anyway.
How you make them: Simply buy a bag of apples, a bag of grapes, a bag of clementines and a few bunches of Kale to build 2 – 5 wreaths. (I buy one bunch of Kale per wreath.) You can use nuts, pomegranate arils, grapes, or even dark chocolate Hershey kisses for garnish.
Use the kale as the base of the wreath and the fruit as ornaments.
Kale is one of the healthiest green foods we can eat—but it tends to be tough and strong-flavored. So please try* – and share – this delicious, easy recipe for yummy kale… (trust me!):
1. Eat your kale within 1 – 3 days.
2. Wash it, cut the thick stems, and toss it in extra virgin olive oil.
3. Lay flat on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with garlic salt.
4. Roast in the oven, 375 degrees, 5 minutes per side. And voila! (You can roast kale until it’s paper thin… if you want… that’s delicious too!)
*People with certain blood conditions or who take anti-coagulants should not consume foods (like kale) that are extremely high in vitamin K.
3. Pom-Fruit Cups
Why: This is a refreshing twist on the classic “candy-cane-cocoa-in-a-mug” gift. Fill a cool-looking glass with antioxidant rich pomegranate arils. I’ve heard it many times: people would eat more pomegranate if it wasn’t so hard to clean and separate. You can give your neighbors a great gift by taking the time to clean and wash the arils so they are ready to eat – anywhere, anytime!
How you make them: Slice the pomegranate in half (only cut through the skin and then pull apart with your hands). Then fill a bowl with cool water and drop the pomegranate into the water. Break the halves into smaller pieces and peel the skin away. The white skin segments will float to the surface of the water and the arils will sink to the bottom.
Fill a fun, unique juice glass/tumbler or Christmas mug with the arils. You can mix in pineapple chunks and/or top with fresh mint.
4. Fresh-Ground Whole-Wheat Flour
Why: If your friends or family don’t regularly use whole-wheat flour, it’s a perfect gift to give so they can mix it into waffles, pancakes, rolls, breads and cookies. Substituting half whole-wheat flour for half of the white is a great mid-step. And cooking with 100% whole-wheat flour is healthiest because it’s higher in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
How you make it: If you have a food grinder, you are lucky! Share it with your neighbors! Taking the time to grind up fresh whole-wheat flour for your neighbors is saving them time and money and adds more healthful nutrients to their daily lives. Not a bad gift…
If you don’t have a food grinder, then you can buy bags of 100% whole-wheat flour at the store. It’s practical, easy and useful.
5. Perfect-portion Chips and Salsa
Why: Salsa is a low-calorie food. Chips and salsa are a common, well-loved snack. The only problem here is that people eat too many chips per sitting. So what if you gave them chips in perfectly sized 100-calorie snack bags?
How you make it: grab a jar of your favorite salsa (homemade or not) and place it in the middle of a holiday plate or platter. Place single handfuls (1 handful of chips = ~100 calories) into small snack bags or pieces of plastic wrap and tie each one with a bow. Set the 100-calorie chips bags around the jar of salsa.
You can’t lose if you give gifts that make the lives of others easier. These ideas are just a start. Simple things like giving washed, cut, ready-to-eat fruits and veggies as Holiday gifts helps others get the foods they desperately need more of – in a refreshingly convenient, accessible, and fun way.