Decorative measuring cups can make for great gifts for the chef in your family. Stackable ones can also be used to serve sauces or condiments. (Photo courtesy

What am I going to give so-and-so for the holidays? That is the universal question this time of year. Whether it’s for your assistant the java junkie, your friend the baker, or your brother-in-law the grill master, there are plenty of food-related gift ideas guaranteed not to be re-gifted.

Chocolates, snack mixes, tubs of popcorn are easy, non-creative ways to meet your gifting responsibilities, but they are more often dreaded by the receiver than appreciated. Many complaints by my clients during this time of year include the endless assault of high-fat, high-calorie salty foods at parties and other social events, and the lack of time for exercise. The last thing most people want or need is more junk food to sabotage their health and weight control goals.

The following is a list of creative gift ideas that may relate to food without contributing to the waistline or total cholesterol of your friends and family.

Liquid treasures

Coffee/tea: Gift cards or variety packs of coffee from local shops are always appreciated by even the most vocal coffee snobs. Gift cards can be purchased online and e-mailed to the recipient, making gift-giving even easier. Tea shops, like Bird Pick Tea & Herb, that sell loose tea are a real treat for those who love black, green or herbal tea.

Soups: One of my favorite gifts given to me one winter was a set of soup mugs and a soup mix. Cost Plus World Market is a great place for imported and specialty gourmet foods. They have colorful double-handled soup mugs and mixes for easy, cholesterol-busting bean soups.

Oil and vinegar: Cooks love to flavor their food with specialty seasonings, oils and vinegars. Like good wine, good oils and vinegars are coveted by cooks to add finishing flavors to their dishes.

For the kitchen

Decorative measuring cups can make for great gifts for the chef in your family. Stackable ones can also be used to serve sauces or condiments. (Photo courtesy

Cooking utensils: The utilitarian measuring spoons and cups become fun counter décor or conversation pieces when they have personality. Nesting measuring cups inspired by the classic Russian dolls make for an attractive counter display, and stackable measuring cups like the snowflake earthenware exclusive at Sur La Table can also be used as small serving dishes for sauces or condiments.

Oil misters: Cooking sprays are useful when only a touch of oil is needed. But what if you want to use a specialty oil of your own to season salads and grease pans or baking cups? That is when oil misters are helpful, so you can add your own favorite flavored oil.

Herbs and spices: Whether it’s a salt and pepper mill or specialty spices, these are perfect gifts for the fan of varied cuisine. offers spice kits for the cook who enjoys preparing Indian, French, Persian, or Southern dishes. They also claim to have one of the best saffrons in the world, hand-picked “Coupe” Spanish saffron for only $36 for a 5 gram jar.

Forget food

Gift cards and tickets: Movie tickets to a local theater on the Third Street Promenade, wristbands to Pacific Park, or passes to the ICE at Santa Monica for a day of ice skating, all make for fun outdoor adventures and active holiday gifts without contributing to holiday weight gain.


Lori Salerno, M.S., R.D.N, C.P.T. is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer who provides medical nutrition therapy to groups and individuals in Santa Monica and recipe and menu analysis for restaurants nationwide. Learn more at

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