From Your Table to Your Health: Stay Off the Naughty List With These Gift Ideas

Becky Varner shares recipes for gift-giving ideas that won't land you on the naughty list.
BY BECKY VARNER Modified: December 4, 2012 at 5:01 pm •  Published: December 5, 2012

Showing your appreciation for loved ones through food is common during the holiday season, but you can deliver delicious gifts in a healthful way.

Plenty of cookies, cakes and pies will be exchanged, so why not give a uniquely delicious gift that show long-term affection for those on your gift list.

Two of the current recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are to increase vegetable and fruit intake and to eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green, red and orange vegetables and beans and peas. Beans and peas are also a plant-based protein source and there are many ways to include them in the diet more regularly.

Another recommendation is to consume at least half of all grains as whole grains and to increase whole grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains. This Friendship Soup Gift encourages these recommendations. It includes split peas and lentils, which are plant-based proteins. Brown rice and whole wheat pasta are whole grains. Pearl barley is a grain but the bran has been removed.

Another recommendation in the Dietary Guidelines is to reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are black or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children and the majority of adults.

Most Americans consume more sodium than they need. Sodium is primarily consumed as salt. One teaspoon of salt contains approximately 2,300 mg of sodium.

Most of the salt consumed comes from salt added during the processing of food. There are many types of processed foods that contribute to the high intake of sodium. These low-sodium seasoning mixes are a great way to reduce sodium intake. The following Herb Seasoning Mix gift idea contains only about 1 milligram of sodium per teaspoon. It is delicious on meats and vegetables.

Herb Seasoning Mix Gift

Makes ¼ cup seasoning mix

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 ½ tablespoons paprika

1 ½ tablespoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 small decorative jar with a tight fitting lid

Ribbon to decorate

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Friendship Soup recipe

Makes 8 generous servings

½ cup dry split peas

¼ cup pearl barley

½ cup brown rice

½ cup lentils

¼ cup dehydrated minced onion

4 teaspoons Italian seasoning

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ cup whole wheat small pasta

1 quart Mason jar with lid

6-inch circle of a Christmas print or fun print cotton material

Several cotton balls to create a soft rounded lid

2 small clear cellophane bags or zippered plastic bags for the seasoning and the pasta

A blank recipe card or sheet of paper to include the directions to prepare the soup

Red or green curling ribbon

Directions to make the Friendship Soup Gift:

Wash and thoroughly dry the jar.

Layer the split peas, barley, brown and brown rice in the jar.

Combine the dehydrated onion, Italian seasoning and salt in one of the small plastic bags. Tie closed with a piece of the ribbon.

Place the pasta in the other plastic bag and tie it closed also.

Place both of the bags in the jar.

Place sealing lid on top of jar. Place several cotton balls on top of lid and cover with fabric circle right side. Position outer ring over fabric and twist to secure attractively.

Directions to enclose with the gift:

Type or hand write the following directions to include with the soup mix:

Cook 1 pound of lean ground beef in a large pot. While meat is cooking remove the seasoning and pasta bags from the jar. Pour the remaining contents of jar in a colander, wash thoroughly and drain. When meat is cooked, drain the liquid but leave meat in pot. Add 3 quarts of water, 6 cups diced canned or fresh tomatoes and the seasoning mix to the pot. Cover and simmer for one hour. Add pasta, and simmer another 15 minutes.

Punch a hole in the corner of the instruction tag and tie with a ribbon to the lid of the jar.

Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 8 servings. Each serving contains approximately 201 calories and 4 grams of fat.

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