Giving a healthy gift is one of the most thoughtful things you can do for someone. It may sound cliche, but good health is the greatest gift of all. Here are some noteworthy choices.
What: Remember hula hoops? They're back, this time as an adult workout tool with a new equally wacky name. This year's hottest gift for those wanting to add fun to their workouts.
Health bonus: Aerobic exercise that can burn as many as 455 calories per hour. It works every major muscle group and is effective in building core strength.
Best options: Funky hoops and the DVD.
Prices: $34.95 to $49.95 for hoops, the DVD is $24.95.
Where to buy: www.hoopnotica.com.
What: Many people like a good cup of java, and a mug of low-calorie, flavored coffee is a great substitute for a dessert.
Health bonus: Coffee can provide a mild stimulant, and there is now evidence that methylpyridinium, a coffee compound, may protect against colorectal cancers. Other studies suggest that coffee can slow or prevent tooth decay, reduce your chance of developing kidney stones, and, if you're a woman, reduce your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. Plus, coffee contains about 1,300 antioxidant compounds.
Best options: Starbucks has good options, such as a gift box of French Roast, Sumatra and Guatemala Antigua.
Where to buy: Your local Starbucks outlet, www.starbucksstore.com.
SESAME STREET'S HEALTHY HABITS BOOKS AND DVDS
What: Targeted to the preschool and kindergarten set, the fun and helpful line is designed to teach children healthy habits.
Health bonus: Activities for kids, and eating "right" instructions presented by your children's favorite characters.
Best options: The books "FOOD!" by Cookie Monster and "Get Moving with Grover" and the DVD "Elmo's World: Food, Water & Exercise."
Prices: Books are $6.99, DVD is $12.98.
CITY WALKS BOOKS
What: Each "book," published by Chronicle Books, is a deck of 50 cards providing 50 self-guided walking tours with an easy-to-follow map on one side and detailed, insider information about your destination on the other.
Health bonus: One hour of walking burns about 250 calories. It helps reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and is an inexpensive way of getting around town. In addition, walking has fewer risks of injury than jogging and anyone can participate and reap the rewards.
Best options: City Walks are available for Boston, Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., London, Paris and Rome. In the spring, look for Chicago and Vancouver as well as the first City Walks for Kids for New York.
HEALTH-ORIENTED VIDEO GAMES
What: Video games that let you have fun while exercising.
Health bonus: Pure exercise, believe it or not. It will get your heart pumping and burn at least 500 calories per hour — with fun and laughter.
Best options (Since we're not video-game experts, we asked the editors of Ziff Davis' gaming community and editorial hub www.1UP.com for their picks): "Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero 2 ... tap into this primal urge to jump around like an idiot, trash your immediate surroundings, tear down the very fabric of society via blues riffs and power chords ... on a plastic toy guitar," says Andrew Pfister, an editor at 1UP.com. Dance Dance Revolution is the one you see in malls where people dance like madmen in step with the arrows scrolling down the screen. It's also available for home game consoles.
Prices: Guitar Hero $39.99, Guitar Hero II Bundle (with guitar) $79.99, Dance Dance Revolution Max $29.99.
ORGANIC FRUIT BASKET
What: Harry & David have been working for years to get the soil just right for their new organic Royal Riviera Pears.
Best option: Royal Riviera Pears and Organic Medley, which also includes apples and oranges.
Health bonus: Fruit has amazing health proprieties, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants that your body needs to maintain good health. And now it's organic.
Prices: Royal Riviera Pears (5 pounds) $34.95, Organic Medley (3 pounds, 12 ounces) $44.95.
Where to buy: www.harryanddavid.com.
What: This creative, honest company realizes their products are not exactly health foods but are "lesser evils" than the junk foods it calls "Snackcidents!"
Health bonus: These popcorn choices do not contain preservatives, trans-fatty acids, artificial flavors or high-fructose corn syrup. Plus, they are about 20 percent to 30 percent lower in calories than typical flavored popcorns (1 cup has about 120 calories). Popcorn also has fiber.
Best options: Create your own four-choice gift box. Pick the Black and White, Maple Pecan (although it's a bit higher in calories) and two of the Kettle Corn.
Price: Custom Pack is $15 plus shipping and handling.
Where to buy: www.lesserevil.com.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public-health advocate, and author of "Breaking the FAT Pattern" (Plume, 2006). Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at www.dietdetective.com.