You’ve all heard the expression, “the gift that keeps on giving.” Perhaps the best example of one such gift is the gift of health. Here are some practical ways to give the gift of health this holiday season:

food-peppers-kitchen-yumSet a healthy example. Peer pressure is a powerful force, but it doesn’t have to be negative. A positive influence can be just as strong. If everyone at a party is filling their plate with goodies (Why are they called “goodies” when they’re so bad for you, I’ve always wondered.) and you are choosing healthier alternatives like veggies and hummus and actually being happy about it, people will become intrigued. I’ve started more conversations that way, and most of the individuals I’ve spoken to expressed gratitude that I reminded them to make better choices.

Have a compassionate meal. I don’t necessarily mean going vegan. But if you are inviting loved ones over for holiday dinners who struggle with their weight or with an illness or disease, offering healthier alternatives is compassionate. Most substitutions won’t even be noticed. I made a vegan pumpkin pie one year and no one ever knew. I also cut the sweetener in half on the sweet potatoes and only received compliments. You don’t have to be obvious about it, or even mention it; some gifts are best given anonymously.

Be an encourager. I never could understand why, when I would say, “I’m trying to eat healthier,” people would reply, “oh just eat a cookie, treat yourself!” We need to change our responses to be more supportive and encouraging. If a friend struggles with their weight to the point where they are frustrated and despairing, it is more loving to not only affirm their value as they are, but to suggest perhaps doing a 30 day challenge together. I have a great one on my website (http://www.easyveggies.com) that I do with my friends. It’s a bonding experience, and it’s a great gift to be able to share with those you love.

Share your own experiences. The other day, I was speaking to a friend who was going through a difficult health issue that I myself had experienced. Instead of just saying, “oh yeah, that’s horrible, I’m so sorry,” I shared with her the things that had worked for me. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to talk about our health trials, but they are given to us for a reason, that we may help others going through similar struggles. You never know who may need to hear what you have experienced.

If these ideas are too abstract for you, and you’re looking for actual gifts to go under the Christmas tree, you could always assemble a gift box of healthy gourmet foods, and add a homemade loaf of bread and jelly (my friend brought me some of the best coconut bread and blackberry jelly the other day — meant so much to me!). Sometimes all people need is to taste something to realize that healthy can mean yummy! And knowing it came from someone who loves them goes a long way. For other gift ideas, please visit my website http://www.easyveggies.com.