18 Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas, Plus a Giveaway!

The holiday shopping season is here. Are you looking for some healthier gift ideas this year? We talked to Cindy Parnell, MEd, RCEP, an exercise physiologist at UVA, and Gretchen Verrilli, a Heart Center exercise physiology intern, to get their ideas for you before you hit the stores.

Make the holidays healthier with these gift ideas.Healthy Food Ideas

You don’t have to give cookies and cakes:

  • Healthy gourmet foods (salmon, olive oil, herbs and spices)
  • Healthy cookbooks
  • Healthy gift baskets (ones with things like fruits and heart-healthy nuts)
  • Homemade healthy baked goods

Exercise and Outdoors

These gifts encourage healthy habits:

  • Yoga items (mats, DVDs or classes)
  • Exercise books
  • Personal training sessions
  • Workout bags and clothes
  • Gym memberships


Fun ways to get moving:

  • Give a season pass to a zoo or a museum to encourage walking.


Stress relief is good for the mind and the body:

  • Foot spas
  • Massage items

Stocking Stuffers

Small gifts are good for gift exchanges with coworkers and friends or to stick into stockings:

  • Pedometers
  • Health and fitness magazine subscriptions
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Grocery store gift cards
  • Reusable lunch bags to encourage packing healthy lunches

Shopping and Walking

When you do go shopping, don’t spend a lot of time searching for a close-up parking space. Park farther away and enjoy the extra walking. (You may not have a choice on this one if it’s a busy day!)

Shopping Spree Giveaway!

Note: This contest is closed.

We’re giving away a $100 Visa gift card! Enter and your next shopping trip could be a little easier!

How Do You Win?

Leave a comment below and let us know your tip for healthy holiday shopping. You can also share healthy eating and exercise tips or any other healthy tips for our readers. Each person who comments will be entered to win the $100 gift card!

Contest Rules

No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase or payment of any kind will not increase your chances of winning. Void where prohibited. To enter, leave a comment and your email address on this blog post by 12 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. One entry per person. Open to legal U.S. residents 18 years or older who live in the cities of Charlottesville, Waynesboro or Staunton or the counties of Albemarle, Nelson, Greene, Fluvanna, Augusta, Orange or Louisa. One (1) prize will be randomly drawn from all eligible entries. Odds of winning are dependent on the number of entries received. Winners will be notified via email. Winner is responsible for complying with any applicable federal or state laws pertaining to taxes, Medicaid and Medicare. Winner agrees to have his or her name shared via this website and other UVA Health System websites.

Comments (33)

  1. Claire Kaplan says:

    I’m a fan of gift pedicures! They are a great moment of relaxation and healing, and anyone can enjoy them. They are especially good for older family members who always end up with candy or powders, but who really need to care for their feet.

    Another great gift is to give little “survival” packages to homeless people. Massage for the soul!

  2. Mary Rike says:

    Geocaching gifts are a great idea for kids who love to treasure hunt. It encourages exploring, walking and getting off the couch!

  3. Patty Cornell says:

    I like to take snacks of nuts and dried fruits when I do my holiday shopping (which is usually all in one day) so that when I get tired or worn down, I can quickly snack on something small with protein and reward myself with an Unsweet iced tea!

  4. Claire says:

    Instead of a cookie-exchange party, have a healthy-snacks-exchange party. Everyone brings a sample of their favorite healthy homemade snack–enough to share at the party and then pre-packaged samples to take home, plus the recipe. Everyone leaves the party with a smidgen of all the snacks and a whole set of new recipes!

  5. Lisa Horanyi says:

    These are great ideas that are also good ways to shop locally. I’m going to focus on local items and consumables this year as most people I am buying for already have enough “stuff.” There are lots of things locally like cooking spices, jams and candies (it is good to have a few treats!) that I would not buy for my everyday cooking but that make great gifts to both give and receive.

  6. Christine says:

    I really like the new electronic pedometers that are available–they would make a great gift, as it’s somewhat hard to justify buying for oneself.

    There’s a wristband by Nike that is really neat (and hard to throw into the washing machine). But my favorite is the Fitbit tracker–it really motivated me to get up and move more. At least until I put it into the washing machine!

  7. Jennifer says:

    I love holiday shopping since it’s so fun and also burns quite a bit of energy as I’m running around the stores, carrying everything. I like giving spa-type gifts because I know that stress is a major cause of over-eating, so giving my female friends some relaxing products could keep them relaxed, happy, and healthy!

  8. Lynn Heath says:

    Instead of individual gifts to co-workers, I’d like to pool resources to support a group like IHS that provides food packages to visitors at the hospital who can’t afford to eat out–or can’t leave the patient’s room. I tiptoed into the retail world yesterday and nothing appealed to me, to get OR to give.

  9. Felisha says:

    I like to spend a lot of time perusing the downtown mall. I get a lot of walking done, get a chance to support local businesses, and find really cool and unique gifts.

  10. Wendy says:

    I like giving gifts that encourage relaxation, and stress-free moments. These moments can be rare, especially during the holidays. I like the idea of giving pedicures/manicures, massages, dance classes, karate or some other fun activity. When I was young I gave my Mother a book of coupons for things that she could “cash in” whenever she wanted. They said things like, cook dinner tonight, clean the bathroom, etc. She loved it!

  11. Susan says:

    I try to be flexible when days get busy. Instead of simply blowing off my 5 p.m. trip to the gym in favor of an office party at the same time, I wake up an hour early and walk or jog before work. Or fit a brisk walk into your lunch hour. I try to park far away in parking lots to help add in some walking time.

  12. Diane Morse says:

    I park the car further from the stores to encourage more walking. I also avoid fast food for lunch and instead opt for healthy choices such as Panera Bread.

  13. Angie Hogan says:

    A Road ID would be a great gift for the runner(s) or cyclist(s) in your life. It’s on my wish list this year! An item like this that supports and encourages an active lifestyle while keeping safety in mind is very thoughtful. And the recipient will be grateful every time s/he finds their driver’s license in its proper place (i.e., wallet) rather than discovering it was left in a pocket and is now somewhere in the dirty clothes pile!

  14. Cathy Pasternak says:

    Dear Santa,

    A Wii console with the Wii fit package or a Wii dance game would be nice.

  15. jean emery says:

    I enjoy making a healthy dinner as my gift for friends. During the year I pick up pyrex dishes or casserole dishes on sale. I then fill with a healthy homemade dinner: ex. spinach stuffed shells, curried carrot soup, turkey meatballs. I freeze this dish, then before giving I attach cooking instructions with a pretty ribbon. Most times I deliver 4-5 days before Christmas when people are tired and overwhelmed with to do’s. But they can cross off cooking dinner one night which they love.

  16. Nicole Leihtentritt says:

    Maybe I’m a total weirdo but I always LOVE when my uncle sends us those boxes of perfectly ripe fruit: pears, Florida oranges, sometimes pomegranates. I probably wouldn’t think to put it on my wish list, but I go for the foot before the pumpkin pie every time when it’s an option!

  17. Monica Young says:

    First, and foremost I set an example by leading with positive examples. During the holidays we always have fruit and veggies trays for snacking with nuts too. The kids love them. We do have pie but skip the cool whip! We also actively hike together and even go for a family walk after our meal on thanksgiving

  18. Amy says:

    I like to do gifts that are deceptively healthy. Wine, dark chocolate, coffee, tea, and other foods have been shown to have great benefits to our health. The best part is you can purchase many of these items locally. Gift baskets packed with these items along with a mug from a local artist or shop is a great gift!!!

  19. Stephanie Davis says:

    I am a big fine of fruit baskets instead of baked goods and my kids always get a cool toothbrush in their stocking every year.

  20. Sherril Stinnett says:

    I would suggest obtaining a free month’s pass to the local Y or gym and give those as gifts. Most gyms will donate a free month’s pass if asked, and that is one good way to get friends and family in the door and involved in exercise again!

  21. Ashley H says:

    I think gift certificates to yoga studios are great. You can get healthy and relaxed at the same time.

  22. Ttrockwood says:

    I pack healthy snacks for all day errands and shopping, and i drink one glass of champagne amd switch to sparkling water at parties. Since i am vegan i also always bring a healthy dish to share to gatherings so the host doesnt have to worry about a special dish for me- and i love when people enjoy my food!

  23. Debbie Christodoulou says:

    My favorite gift to give to friends and co-workers would be fuzzy-fun socks or gloves and scarfs. I like to make my gifts which gives them a little more sentimental meaning and keeps me busy and not thinking about snacking. Long hikes in the woods with my dog is my favorite fall and winter work-out! fresh air and sunshine is good for the body and spirit. Instead of a cookie exchange our POA is having an ornament exchange!(that will save on the calories). Happy holidays to all!

  24. Carlene RD says:

    One of my hot healthy gifts for the season is a flavor infusing water bottle. Add fruit to flavor without the calories! (Aqua-Zinger)

  25. Vicki Musselman says:

    I like to think of gifts for my grandchildren that require them to use their minds or bodies. This year I am looking into buying tickets to the Massanutten Water Park. A good way for them to enjoy some water fun in the middle of the winter and it is great for exercise. Think this is much better than buying them another toy that they will lose interest in or not play with at all. Memories of us spending the day at the water park (without them thinking of it as exercise) will last much longer.

  26. Sneha Shah says:

    Normally, we spend Christmas exchanging gifts and then never leaving the house. This results in lots of food being eaten and (usually) a lot of technology to be played with. This year, I plan on gifting my parents and sister a wii for the home. This way they can stay fit and enjoy Christmas at the same time! These memories will be much more fulfilling this way.

  27. Rebecca says:

    I love giving gift cards to all my friends who have their own hobbies. There’s nothing better then being able to sit down and relax doing the thing you most love to do.

  28. Betty Jordan says:

    I always take a tiny cooler with bottled water. Better than sodium in soft drinks when you are doing a lot of walking and being on your feet.

  29. Eleanor says:

    Gift certificates for dance classes (like swing or salsa) can be fun way to encourage exercise and turn someone on to a new hobby!

  30. Tom Leonard says:

    Some great tips here. I am considering giving my co-workers a lottery ticket and pedometer combo as a holiday gift. I hope it will be fun and ultimately lead to some creative, healthy competition for most steps taken at work in a given day/month, etc. Afterall, most folks aspire to lose weight after the holidays.

  31. A pass to the zoo is the ultimate health gift. You get your walking in and you get a chance to relax. Plus laughing at the antics of cutes animals really is the best medicine.

  32. Charlotte Martin says:

    I walk around my yard if I have no one to walk with me. I will walk around in the stores even if I am not buying anything from that idle. If you live near stores walk instead of driving if you are not getting a lot of stuff. Turn your radio on and dance to the music all by yourself.

  33. Zoe Miroy says:

    I use sweet red peppers and sugar snap peas for seasonal color and dip in hummus for heart healthy snacks.

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