‘Tis the season of health and wellness.
‘Tis the decade, really. There’s no better time to give the ones you care about a basket full of carefully curated goodies for their health and posterity, and there have probably never been more options for how to do so.
But even the best-intentioned gifts can go the way of Gwynie’s jade vagina eggs or Silicon Valley’s beloved raw water.
So Daily Mail Online spoke to nutritionist and blogger Abbey Sharpe to break down what just how healthy some of this year’s hottest health baskets really are.
HEART HEALTHY GOURMET FOOD BASKET: A PROTEIN-PACKED (ALMOST) GUILT-FREE GIFT
The $69.95 Art of Appreciation Gift Basket, available on Amazon, promises anti-oxidant fatty acids with its headliner, smoked salmon.
In the US, 84 million adults suffer from some form of heart disease. In other words, a quarter of the population has a failing cardiovascular system, so it’s unlikely any among us is without a relative whose heart is in need of some extra TLC this holiday season.
Antioxidant smoked salmon and almonds are highlights of the $70 Heart Healthy Gourmet Basket, says dietitian Abbey Sharpe
Instead of showering our loved ones with sweet treats and decadent indulgences, the American Heart Association encourages Americans to give gifts that encourage better cardiovascular health and longevity.
The Heart Healthy Gourmet Food Basket doesn’t make cardio Saint Nick’s wish list but, with not a candied item in sight, it puts forth a good effort, says nutritionist and dietitian, Abbey.
‘I love that this basket contains almonds – a great source of healthy fats plus fiber and protein,’ she says.
Nuts – and almonds especially – are great way for to give the body a compact, dense dose of protein and nutrients without the baggage of saturated fats in red meats weighing down each bite.
But if nuts aren’t meaty enough for the cardio-conscious person in your life, there’s heartier protein in this basket.
‘The smoked salmon as well,’ says Abbey, ‘while high in salt, it’s rich in Omega-3 fats,’ which help to bust up triglycerides that collect in veins and arteries, helping to lower blood pressure and reduce the heart’s workload.
The hearty basket also comes with green tea, a ‘calorie-free drink loaded with catechin antioxidants,’ known for fending off free radicals that wreak havoc on cells.
But the Art of Appreciation has snuck in some ‘Artisan’ breadsticks that, while crafty, aren’t that cardiovascularly savvy.
‘I would have preferred to see a higher fiber breadstick product,’ Abbey says.
‘But, otherwise, i think this is a great basket for the health-conscious foodie.’
GOOD CHOICE SNACK BOX: NOURISHING NUTS AND HIDDEN TEMPTATIONS
Nuts are a favorite source of protein among nutritionists – but even a healthy snack can be spoiled by sneaky sugars.
Harry and David is perhaps the most recognizable name in gift baskets.
They are not necessarily known for being health-conscious, but seem to be trying to shift with the times, introducing items like the Good Choice Snack Box, sold for $39.99 on its website.
Sharpe says the Good Choice basket isn’t. It’s trail mixes and granola are most likely sugar-loaded
Abbey says that the specialty store has made a good effort but still has a ways to go before it checks all the health boxes.
‘I love this basket’s focus on heart-healthy nuts like almonds and cashews,’ she says.
‘But, as a whole, I think this basket has quite a bit of stealthy added sugar.’
In addition to the healthy roasted almonds and cashews, the basket contains ‘banana bread’ oatmeal, sugar-skinned candied fruit and trail mix.
‘Trail mix, dried fruit mix, granola and even the oatmeal mix, may all have a ‘health halo’ and therefore seem really healthy, but they’re almost always very high in added sugars,’ Abbey explains.
HEART HEALTHY GIFT BASKET: CORRECT CRACKERS BUT SUSPICIOUS SWEETS
Hamper company GourmetGiftBaskets.com’s festive heart healthy basket features lots of crunchy snack items.
The $69.99 basket comes with pretzels, peanuts, three varieties of snack or trail mix, dried fruit, crackers, cheese and almond nougat.
‘I like the whole wheat crackers in this basket,’ Abbey says.
‘But I would be a bit cautious on some of the trail mixes and nut mixes.’
This crunchy basket got a middling review from Sharpe, who was enthused to see whole grains, she was less excited about there being so many sweets
‘While these are fine in moderation, a lot of mixes are loaded with sugary dried fruit, candies, and salted nuts.’
Salt is by no means a friend of the heart patient. High sodium diets cause the body to retain more water, raising blood pressure and make the heart work harder.
Though it’s unclear why, scientists think sugary diets, too, may raise blood pressure and strain the heart. Plus, sugary diets are known contributors to obesity, and obesity, in turn is a top risk factor for heart disease.
MEDITERRANEAN BASKETS FROM MANHATTAN FRUITIER: WHOLE FOODS AND FRESH EXCELLENCE (AND A PRICE TO MATCH)
Last year, reviews of popular and trendy eating regimens debunked keto and no-carb diets as more hype than healthful.
The plan that got the best marks across the board was a simple, decades-old style of eating more than a diet: the Mediterranean diet.
Mediterranean eating centers on whole plant-based foods, nuts, whole grains and olive or vegetable oil. This is practically the antithesis of the so-called ‘Western diet’ that many Americans live on, which is loaded with processed foods, sugar and fats like butter.
Whole foods, fruits and veggies make the the pricey Mediterranean baskets from Manhattan Fruitier worth the price and the most healthy option of the four, says Sharpe
Luxe Manhattan Fruitier includes a section on its site called Healthwise, which includes a number of Mediterranean gift boxes, ranging in price from a manageable $95 to an eye-watering $297. But they all come with olive oil, fruits and vegetables and, of course, olive oil.
‘This basket looks amazing with its focus on colourful fruits and veggies, all of which add antioxidants and fiber,’ Abbey says.
Not only do all of those colors make the basket look delightful, diverse shades usually indicate a wide array of nutrients too.
Abbey added: ‘I also love that the olive oil contributes amazing heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
‘However, I would love to see a whole grain bread to add extra fiber.’