For someone in the family, an electronic device, such as a smart phone or iPad, almost certainly tops the “wish list” this holiday season. If you’re searching for a healthier alternative to this type of gift, however, the following suggestions can provide benefits that will last long after the holidays.
- Electronic weight loss devices such as the bodybugg or BodyMedia FIT are two of the most accurate of the commercially available devices to measure caloric consumption. The bodybugg has gained recognition by being used by contestants on the reality TV show, “The Biggest Loser”.
- Membership to a health club, yoga or Pilates studio. Often, a “punch card” can be purchased, allowing the user to attend sessions when they want without having to commit to a long-term contract. A yoga or workout outfit is the perfect accompanying gift.
- Food steamer or rice cooker. Steaming food is a much better alternative to frying because it preserves vital nutrients and minimizes use of fat. The convenience of a rice cooker encourages the addition of this healthy carbohydrate source into more meals.
- Health and fitness DVDs. Zumba, a new fitness craze, can be learned from the Zumba Fitness Total Body Transformation System DVD Set. The iGym yoga and Pilates set includes a yoga mat, gym ball and hand pump, and a workout DVD.
- Sudoku Puzzle Books provide exercise to help your brain to stay mentally sharp.
- A Juice Extractor is an easy and healthy way to get your daily nutritional intake of fruits and vegetables.
- Mediterranean Cookbooks offer recipes that are delicious and healthy because they limit red meat and combine fresh vegetables, fruit, fish and olive oil, a better option than vegetable oil or butter.
- Pedometers are the least expensive of the devices used to estimate calories burned. A popular campaign, the “10,000 step programs”, uses a pedometer to help people achieve the goal of walking 5 miles each day, consuming approximately 500 calories in the process.
- Electronic Toothbrush for better dental hygiene. Built-in timers encourage people to brush longer and more thoroughly.
- Sunglasses help to protect the eyes from ultraviolet radiation that can cause cataracts. Make sure they’re labeled as offering 100% UV protection.
- Dumbbells or resistance bands are a great way to strengthen muscles. They cost less than weight machines, take up less space, and don’t require a gym membership. Resistance bands, such as the Xertube Deluxe set can even be used when traveling.
- A Zen Garden kit provides a means for stress relief and relaxation during hectic days at work.
- Heart rate monitors are commonly used by competitive athletes to assist with their training programs, but certain ones can also provide information on caloric expenditure also.
- Active wear for teens who ski, ride bikes, or are into hiking are a great way to encourage physical activity. Consider a gift certificate so that they can pick it out for themselves.
- A hot-air popcorn popper allows teens to make a healthy, delicious snack.
- Bicycles provide teens or even College students with a means of transportation as well as a form of exercise. One type or another (mountain bike, commuter bike, racing bike, townie bike) would suit almost anyone in the family.
- Active Video Games such as Dance Dance Revolution, the Nintendo Wii fit, and XBOX 360 Kinect Sports, encourage teens to get off the couch and burn calories.
- Frisbees – The variety of flying discs is astounding these days and includes discs that light up, fly for hundreds of feet, and that are best for playing ultimate Frisbee, a highly aerobic sport. There are even “green” Frisbees that are made with 100% recycled materials.
For the kids:
- Bikes, roller skates, and skateboards offer a self-powered, rather than motorized, activity. With the burgeoning problem of childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes, both closely tied to physical inactivity, toys that encourage physical activity can help avoid these problems. Add a helmet, knee pads, and/or elbow pads for safety.
- Wagons, swings, slides, climbing equipment, and “push toys” are great for small children.
- Board games involving multiple players not only strengthen social skills such as taking turns, but also enhance color and letter recognition in younger children while increasing strategy and sequencing skills in older kids. Social play is promoted even more by dramatic play toys, such as dolls & doll houses, dress up clothes & action hero costumes, kitchen play equipment and puppets. These same toys also foster creativity.
- Balls of various types (basketballs, footballs, baseballs, etc.) come with the expectation of physical activity. Badminton, volleyball and even croquet sets are great if you have a yard and available partners for your child. Don’t forget too that you are a potential partner!
- Other toys which encourage social interaction as well as offering other benefits include card games (from simple matching skills for young children to more complex math skills for older ones), jump rope (motor skills), jacks & pick-up sticks (fine motor skills), and puzzles (problem solving, spatial relationships).
- Toys that encourage creativity often involve hands-on activities like craft projects, painting, coloring, drawing, or clay modeling. Good old blocks, Lego’s, Tinkertoys, and Play-Doh are great for young children to develop small motor coordination, as well as fostering creativity. “Pretend” activities, are also a favorite among children. Puppet theaters, toy castles, farm play sets, play stores, dollhouses, and toy kitchens are some examples of toys that encourage children to use their imagination.