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Quick, healthy food gifts make holidays brighter
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Holiday gift giving can feel overwhelming when everyone seems to have the necessities and the budget is tight.
Natasha Haynes, a Mississippi State University Extension Service agent in Rankin County, said one easy solution is to give homemade food gifts.
“Everybody has to eat, and food gifts do not have to be expensive or high in calories,” Haynes said. “From homemade granola to jars filled with ingredients for a pot of healthy soup, good gifts are limited only by your creativity.”
With so much information available online, frugal gift-givers can find plenty of clever ideas, recipes and suggestions for gifts that will please even the most hard-to-buy-for person on the Nice List.
“The advantages of making soup mixes with dry ingredients, such as beans and pasta, are the ability to control sodium and fat while providing a high-protein, high-fiber meal that is shelf stable,” Haynes said. “Some recipes call for canned tomatoes or other canned goods, and you can make a gift basket that includes no- or low-sodium options to give your friends and family a healthy, quick meal option.”
Haynes, who is also the host of the TV segment “The Food Factor,” said high-fiber pastas and broth-based recipes, rather than cream-based recipes, keep the final product from being loaded with empty calories.
“Another tip to remember is, if you give someone a mix and they need to add other ingredients to it, try to select recipes that feature commonly stocked pantry items,” she said. “You want your present to be something your friends will use and enjoy, not something that causes stress because they need to make an extra trip to the grocery store.”
When it comes to saving money, gifts in a jar can be economical, depending on recipes and packaging.
“Dried beans and lentils are one of the most affordable foods available,” said Theresa Hand, Extension county coordinator in Hinds County. “Buy beans and other ingredients in bulk. Then you can spend one evening filling jars and making seasoning packets and have several gifts ready to deliver. The holidays are so hectic and filled with rich sweets, but everyone can use a hearty, simple soup for those nights when they don’t feel like cooking. ”
Hand said partnering with a friend or two to create these kinds of practical gifts can make the assembly process faster and more fun.
“One person can fill jars while the others make spice packets, prepare recipe cards, or decorate the jars,” she said. “Pooling your resources can also help cut costs. Plus, it’s a great way to spend some time together, which is what the holidays are really about. ”
Cookie and muffin mixes that require oatmeal, whole wheat flour, or reduced amounts of sugar can also be healthy, helpful gifts.
“Look for muffin recipes that use applesauce instead of oil and include dried fruit, wheat germ or bran,” Hand said. “By reducing fat and adding fiber, you can help your friends fight off holiday weight gain. Plus, when your friends have unexpected company, a quick homemade mix on the shelf can be a lifesaver. You might want to keep a jar or two for yourself.”
For gift ideas and recipes, visit the MSU Extension Service’s Pinterest page.