It’s that special time of year when many of us celebrate major holidays with family and friends. Often, gift-giving is a part of the tradition. Giving and receiving gifts can add to the magic of human connection — especially when gifts are an expression of your love and of your values.
But in an age of rampant consumerism, I think it’s worthwhile to take a step back and reconnect with the true meaning of our holidays – our “holy days” – before pulling out our credit cards and buying mass-produced stuff for the people we love.
One of the “bugs” in the human brain is that we are terrible at predicting how happy we will be if certain things come our way. I remember as a kid being utterly convinced that this or that toy would make me happy for the rest of my life. And if somehow I got that toy, it almost never lived up to my expectations.
It’s not just kids who have this problem. In Stumbling on Happiness, psychologist Dan Gilbert shares research that shows humans are terrible at “affective forecasting” – that is, predicting how something in the future will make them feel.
What truly makes us happy?
Not more stuff, or better stuff, or newer stuff. The longest-running study on happiness, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, started in 1938 by following 724 men (about 60 are still alive). One of the biggest factors correlated with happiness in the research was close relationships: with spouses, family, friends, and community members. The more time these men spent enjoying the company of others, the happier and more fulfilled they were.
A close second was meaning: doing work (paid or volunteer) that fulfilled a sense of purpose. Being of service was good for those served, and even better for those doing the serving.
Which brings me back to the holidays. While different religious traditions observe different festivals and tell different stories, there are always underlying themes of togetherness, compassion, unity, and love. I can’t think of a single holiday that’s celebrated by focusing on your own needs to the exclusion of others.
The tradition of gifts for the holidays
And that’s where the gift-giving tradition springs from: a desire to please those around us, and to give them tangible symbols of our love and esteem. The problem is, this impulse has been hijacked by consumerism, in which an ever-more-pervasive advertising industry tries to tell what we want and need. And since things usually don’t make us happy, we can never have enough of them. As I saw on a humorous-yet-sad Facebook post yesterday, “I’m not sure how many cookies it takes to be happy, but so far it isn’t twenty seven.”
To be clear: I love giving and receiving gifts. And I think that generosity can be a beautiful element of the holiday season. I think that thoughtful gifts, for ourselves or others, can enhance our relationships and the lives of the recipients. But let’s not default to our culture’s lowest common denominator of gifting more and newer stuff. After all, many mass-produced products are commodities; interchangeable, identical, and ultimately unspecial. What poor vessels to convey the depth of our feelings about the people we love!
A sustainable approach to gift-giving
Instead, try giving what is uniquely yours to give: a poem, a meaningful story, a massage. If you have a skill, can you deploy it on behalf of the recipient? Fix their dripping kitchen faucet. Mend a wobbly chair. Help them declutter their garage.
What about volunteering or donating money to an organization that embodies their deepest values and most profound longings for the world?
And purchased gifts don’t have to be physical things, either. What about gifting experiences, like concerts and plays and movies that you can go to together? Or getting them ballroom dancing lessons, or a few sessions with a massage therapist or personal trainer?
If you do buy physical gifts, choose ones that enable experiences and social connections, or help them to live healthier lives. A big part of successful gifting is taking the time to think about the person you’re giving the gift to. What do they love? What would they find fun? What forms of social connection do they enjoy?
Another strategy for choosing great gifts is to find things that make it easier for people to enhance their health, and if possible to make the world a healthier place as well. High quality kitchenware, well-made air and water filters, and fair trade and sustainable foods and crafts — all of these can fall into this category.
Enhance life and happiness for everyone from your gifts
Let’s honor our holidays – and our loved ones, and ourselves – by gifting to enhance life and happiness for everyone. By sharing our unique light with those around us. And by seeing – and supporting through our words, actions, and purchases – the special qualities in the special people in our lives.
In that spirit, our team here at Food Revolution Network have compiled some favorite food- and health-related gift ideas, as well as some of our favorite causes related to food justice, environmental healing, and animal welfare. Check them out for family and friends, or even consider them for yourself!
A home chef or cooking aficionado might enjoy one of these healthy, handpicked kitchen enhancements.
Food Storage Containers
Most food storage containers are plastic, which while cheap and convenient, come at a cost to your health and the environment. Good alternatives are stainless steel and glass, which won’t leach chemicals and are more sustainable options. They make a great gift for the people in your life who are always on-the-go or who have large families and always seem to have leftovers to store.
And for those people who have that special kitchen drawer overflowing with mismatched Tupperware lids, Rubbermaid containers, and Chinese restaurant takeout boxes, a nice set of glass or stainless steel containers might be just the thing to bring a little peace and harmony back into their lives.
This 10-piece set of Pyrex storage containers includes both round and rectangular glass containers with plastic lids. You’ll get two 2-cup and one 4-cup round containers along with a 3-cup and 6-cup rectangular container. The non-porous glass and BPA-free lids ensure your thoughtful gift is safe and non-toxic. This is a great starter set for a single person, or double up on your order to suit a family.
These high-quality, food-grade stainless steel containers are lightweight, durable, watertight, and versatile. Multiple sizes and shapes are available to accommodate all kinds of leftovers and ready to go meals. The non-removable silicone seals on the lids, along with three stainless steel latches, make each container leak proof and airtight. No more accidentally wearing lunch when the car you’re in has to make that hard right turn during morning rush hour!
Also perfect for school lunches or picnics. The containers should last a long time, and are dishwasher safe. The lids are best left out of the dishwasher, as high heat can degrade the silicone seal.
Pots & Pans
A nice single skillet or a set of pots and pans make for a practical gift that will get used over and over again. Although there are many different types of cookware, these selections won’t leach chemicals into food or the air.
This is one of many fine stainless steel pot options. It’s multi-ply clad with stainless steel interior and exterior (for toughness and safety), and an aluminum core for enhanced heat conductivity. This pan works on Induction, gas, electric, glass, ceramic, and halogen stoves, and is dishwasher safe.
This lightweight, three-layer, enameled cast-iron skillet from Essenso doesn’t require seasoning like a traditional cast-iron skillet. The enamel coating is easy to clean and can even go in the dishwasher if necessary. Since the pan can tolerate high temperatures, it’s useful for both the stovetop and the oven. Grab one for yourself or your favorite home cook.
Many conventional, non-stick cookware sets contain Teflon, which can emit toxic fumes into the air. But this 11-piece ceramic set from GreenPan is 100% toxin-free. Included are an 8”, 9 ½”, and 11” frying pan, a two and three-quart saucepan, a three-quart skillet, and a five-quart casserole pot along with matching lids. Safe for all stovetop types, and in the oven and dishwasher as well.
A high-efficiency blender makes a lovely gift during the holidays. Recipients can whip up smoothies, juices, dips, and soups. It’s a great way to encourage healthier eating!
Although it’s on the pricier side, the Vitamix S30’s high quality makes it a valuable and highly sought after gift. This model is more compact and comes with both a 20-ounce and 40-ounce container made with Tritan, a plastic that doesn’t contain BPA.The Vitamix can quickly and easily make a frozen dessert or a morning smoothie, and can grind up seeds and blend fruits and vegetables with ease.
Around 20% of the municipal water in the US has unsafe lead levels. And that’s just one contaminant. With our water supply under siege by industrial and agricultural pollution, a high quality water filter is an important resource in almost every kitchen.
AquaTru is a reverse osmosis unit that sits on the countertop and includes carbon filter technology. It delivers high-quality water and flavor. The system removes fluoride in addition to chromium-6 and a great many other contaminants from tap water. Give your loved ones the gift of truly clean water, and get it now (with the link above) for a special $100 discount.
Whether you’re chopping vegetables or tofu, every kitchen needs a good cutting board. And I’m not talking about one of those cheap plastic boards you can buy in 3-packs from Walmart. If you’ve ever tried preparing a salad on a plastic slab with the footprint of an iPad mini, you know that most of it will end up rolling off the board and onto the counter, or worse, the floor. With a high quality, right-sized cutting board, you can look those carrot rounds in the eye and confidently proclaim, “You’re not getting away this time!”
Surprise the chef in your life with a cutting board that’s long-lasting and won’t damage knives.
This beautiful wooden cutting board from Mevell comes at a reasonable price point despite being made from maple. The wood is sustainably grown in the US, handcrafted in Canada, and approved by the National Sanitation Foundation for use in commercial kitchens. Best of all, Mevell plants a tree for every cutting board they sell.
Food processors make an excellent gift for a home cook because they’re so versatile. Prep your meals in a jiffy with multiple settings like chop, shred, slice, mix, knead, and blend.
For a top-notch food processor, consider the Breville Sous Chef. Its eight discs and blades perform a variety of prep tasks including a variable slicing disc with 24 different settings that allow you to customize the thickness of slices. The BPA-free processing bowl holds 16 cups for dry ingredients and 12 cups for liquid. Other features include a super-wide feeding chute and an LCD display with a timer. Give the gift of saved time with this all-in-one food preparation tool.
Nourishing Food & Drinks
Delicious and nourishing food can be one of the most powerful ways to enhance health and well-being. Check out some of these healthy gift selections.
Thrive Market is like if Costco, Whole Foods, and UPS had a baby. This membership-based online market provides healthy and organic products at discounted prices. With over 6,000 items, ranging from food, vitamins & supplements, beauty products, and home goods, Thrive Market makes it easy to shop for everything you need. New members who sign up for a 1-year membership get a free full-size gift (up to a $24 value). Buy a membership for yourself, or gift one to a loved one, by clicking here.
Pique Tea is the only tea company to triple-check all sourcing to avoid harmful ingredients including pesticides, mold, and heavy metals. And their teas are 100% organic. Their cold-brew crystallization process creates unique tea crystals — which deliver up to 12 times the antioxidants of regular tea. Dissolve them in warm or cold water for a fresh cup of tea wherever you go. The individual boxes make great stocking stuffers. Or choose a bundle and save some money (and keep some for yourself!).
Believe it or not, chocolate has a surprising number of health benefits. But it’s often combined with ingredients that are not so healthy for us. Lily’s Chocolate is sweetened with stevia and uses non-GMO ingredients, including genuine, Fair Trade certified cocoa. They’re also gluten-free and come in a variety of flavors. This sampler pack includes one each of their Extra Dark, Blood Orange, Salted Almond, and Sea Salt flavors. And best of all, Lily’s donates a portion of profits to grassroots nonprofits that support childhood cancer fighters and survivors.
Mushrooms have incredible health benefits, so while most of us should eat them as part of a healthy diet, why not drink them too? Four Sigmatic offers a variety of mushroom-infused, superfood beverages. They have coffee mixes, elixirs, and protein packets too. Buy individual boxes or purchase a subscription box to get 20% off with free shipping.
The future of the world is in our hands. Consider one of these sustainable and healthy holiday gifts to cut back on plastic waste.
Plastic straw waste is a huge strain on the environment. And many countries and companies have issued plastic straw bans to combat the problem. Some places have replaced plastic with disposable paper straws, but they’re not a long-term solution. Instead, consider investing in stainless steel straws, like this set from Amazon. You’ll get 10 extra-long drinking straws: five straight, and five bent, so you can maintain great posture while enjoying your iced tea or kombucha. The set includes different colors, as well as cleaning brushes and a carrying bag. Another great stocking stuffer idea for the sustainability-conscious people in your life.
Only about 23% of plastic bottles are recycled in the U.S. That means the rest end up in landfills and in our waterways, polluting both water and soil. Yuhme has created an environmentally conscious water bottle made from sugarcane that’s CO2 negative. They’re made not in China, but Sweden, where workers earn a living wage. And for every bottle sold, they are able to provide six months of clean water to a person in the Central African Republic through their charity partner Water for Good. With several beautiful designs to choose from, you can both look good and do good as you hydrate.
Health & Beauty
Many conventional health and beauty items contain harmful chemicals that are toxic and can contribute to chronic health conditions. If you’re looking for healthier options, try one of these companies instead.
Give the gift of natural, organic, and wild-crafted skincare, makeup, and essential oil products. Annmarie Skin Care uses non-toxic, non-GMO, fair trade, and gluten-free ingredients. Plus, they never test on animals. This year, their staff has put together special skincare bundles based on their astrological signs. Each Astrology Bundle contains three products that reflect the qualities of each sign of the zodiac. Leos get balance and passion; Scorpio luxuriates in mystery and sensuality – you get the idea. Bundles may include products like serums, mists, cleansers, oils, body butters, and masks. Grab one for the starry-eyed folks in your life.
Air quality plays a big role in health. And since so many of us spend the majority of our time indoors, a quality air filter is important. You could easily spend thousands of dollars on high quality air filters. But for about a third of the price of most high quality systems, you can get fresh, clean air with the AirDoctor Pro.
It comes with an UltraHEPA filter that’s 100x more effective than conventional air purifiers. And combined with its dual action Carbon/Gas Trap/VOC Filter you can rest assured that allergens, gases, and toxic chemicals are filtered out too.
Entertain & Educate
Books, films, and other media entertain us, but they can also educate us. If you’re committed to the Food Revolution movement, you know how important it is to share the knowledge! Consider one of the following gifts for that special someone who has an interest in learning more about how to improve their health or the health of the environment.
Food Revolution Network’s online membership community makes for a healthy holiday gift for yourself and those you care about. Each month, you’ll have special access to Action Hours (along with transcripts, Action Checklists, and audio files), Action of the Week Videos, weekly checklists, recipes, bonus resources, and a private community of like-minded and health conscious individuals supporting you on your journey. Ready to see lasting health benefits in your life? Join here today.
Get step by step guidance from Food Revolution Network co-founder, Ocean Robbins, on how to use the power of food to heal your body and your world. You’ll discover the best foods to eat and avoid for optimal health, what the industrialized food system doesn’t want you to know, how to navigate healthy eating with friends and family, and how to transform your world through your food choices. You’ll also find a meal plan and healthy, plant-powered recipes to make it all delicious.
Diabetes has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the US alone, nearly 10% of the population has type 2 diabetes. But research has shown that eating a plant-based diet helps prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes. In this cookbook from registered dietician, Brenda Davis, you’ll get 100 quick and easy recipes to balance blood sugar and kick diabetes to the curb. See what foods to eat and avoid with diabetes, how to combine foods, and how to understand what nutrients to focus on for optimal nutrition.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson is an expert on the neuroscience of food addiction. Her Bright Line Eating (BLE) program has seen people release 3x more weight than the typical results from any other available diet.
While her first book, Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin & Free, gave guidelines on how to follow her program, this cookbook gives specific suggestions and recipes. In particular, it focuses on bowls, plates, and salads along with tips and tricks for getting the most out of the program — and real life stories from BLE members. Vegans be forewarned: This cookbook includes a mixture of vegan and omnivorous recipes. But it’s easy to navigate, and it includes a vegan meal plan, too.
Sometimes the best gift of all is contributing to a cause you or a loved one believes in. These are some of our favorite charities and nonprofits.
In 2018, Food Revolution Network joined with American College of Lifestyle Medicine to launch a campaign to get nutrition taught in medical school. One of the obstacles, it turned out, was a lack of validated questions for the multiple choice exams that med students take.
The National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) has a question bank that’s currently used for these questions, and out of 10,000 questions currently in the bank, how many do you think test a doctor’s ability to help a patient eat healthy food? Almost none! But in response to our campaign, the NBME invited us to create 1,000 questions (10% of the total) that fill this gap. The catch? We have to raise the funds to hire qualified professionals for the task, at $250 per question. So we need to raise $250,000. Every $250 sponsors another question. Together, we can change the face of medical education!
Our bodies are made of of mostly water – somewhere around 60%. And we all need water to survive. Unfortunately, millions of people worldwide don’t have access to this basic human right. Charity: Water funds water programs in 27 countries around the globe. And they work to provide clean water in rural and poverty stricken communities. If you make a donation for yourself, or in the name of a friend or family member, you can rest assured it will bring water to people in need.
Trees are essential to life. They provide oxygen, store carbon, and revitalize soil. Trees for the Future has planted more than 145 million trees in dozens of countries. As a result, they’ve improved thousands of lives, helping families transition from unsustainable farming techniques to more sustainable practices. Every donation goes toward the planting of a valuable tree – often a fruit or nut tree – in a low-income community. Help end hunger and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and keep our world full of life-giving trees.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. And the majority of those in prison are disproportionately people of color. Planting Justice works with those impacted by mass incarceration and other areas of inequality. By cultivating skills and resources such as growing food, they keep people out of prison and create jobs, while also inspiring community healing and food justice. Your donation goes to support projects like the creation of edible permaculture gardens and food justice curriculums in schools.
The Educated Choices Program (ECP) educates students of all ages about the impact of nutrition and their food choices on health, animals, and the environment. Their programs include interactive presentations on topics like “Healthful Eating” and “Modern Animal Agriculture.” Students are challenged to address these issues and think critically about them, discussing their importance in an academic setting. ECP has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of students. Donations support their vital programs in schools, allowing educators to prepare the future leaders of tomorrow.
Plastic pollution is a rampant problem, causing over $13 billion in economic damage every year. Aside from reducing your own participation in single use plastic consumption (which is a step that everyone can take), you can also take a bit out of the problem with Plastic Bank. With your support, they will hire people, mostly women, in impoverished communities to recover ocean bound plastic. Donations help to keep plastic out of the oceans and off of beaches, and serve as a source of income for low-income communities in Haiti, The Philippines, and Indonesia.
The folks at Environmental Working Group (EWG) work to educate consumers on the dangers of toxic chemicals and pesticides in the food supply and drinking water. They also maintain a cosmetics database, which tracks ingredient safety of personal care products. Their reports, guides, campaigns, apps, and product verifications are a valuable resource for keeping your family safe and healthy.
Factory farms contribute to the destruction of our environment through greenhouse gases. Industrialized agriculture causes food contamination and recalls, antibiotic resistance, and animal cruelty. Many animals raised on factory farms never see a blade of grass in their life. But Farm Sanctuary educates people on the plight of farm animals and the hazards of factory farming.
They also rescue animals from cruelty and impending slaughter, and give them the opportunity to live happy, healthy, and free lives. Through their animal sponsorship programs, you can adopt a farm animal, which includes an adoption certificate, photo of your animal, sticker, meet and greet at one of the sanctuaries (in New York or Los Angeles), and a discount off of Farm Sanctuary merchandise.
Tell us in the comments:
- What are some of your favorite holiday gift ideas?
- What healthy gifts do you plan to give this year?
- Are there any causes you are enthused to support?
Featured Image: iStock.com/kabby