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ADVENTURES IN FOOD AND FITNESS

Ideas for fun, healthy holiday gifts that don't scream, 'You're fat!'

Monday, December 9, 2013 - 12:01 am

How do you give a gift that inspires a healthier lifestyle without offending the person you're trying to help?

It's a delicate balance, says local dietitian Marcia Crawford. On the one hand, you don't want to compound someone's weight problem with a gift of homemade fudge.

“But if someone has not mentioned wanting to lose weight, it is not your business to point it out by gifting them with a bathroom scale,” she says. A healthy cookbook may interest someone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen. “But a diet book? Not so much!”

A better idea, Crawford suggests, is encouraging activities they already enjoy: A stylish water bottle, sports gear or a gift certificate for a dance or yoga class they've expressed interest in. A handwritten voucher promising to go hiking or bird watching with a nature lover is another way to get the giftee moving.

Here are some other fun gifts that can spark a healthier lifestyle:

•It's hard to go wrong with a gift certificate to Green Bean Delivery, which brings organic produce and natural groceries from 100 Midwestern farmers and artisans to your home or office. You can even find offerings from Fort Wayne-area food producers like Graber Farms, The Spinach Ball Company and Best Boy & Co., the latter of which specializes in gourmet barbecue and chocolate sauce.

Orders are customized and labeled to help customers meet their dietary and philosophical needs. Nonmembers can order gift certificates by e-mailing info@greenbeanindiana.com or calling 1-317-377-0470. More information at www.greenbeandelivery.com.

•How about an annual pass to Indiana's state parks? A 2014 Indiana State Park Entrance Permit costs $40 (or $20 if you're buying it for someone age 65 or older). A $99 holiday gift pack includes an annual permit, a subscription to Outdoor Indiana magazine and a $70 gift card for use at a state park inn. Check out the link to Mother Nature's Mercantile at http://stores.homestead.com/indianastateparks/StoreFront.bok.

•For the geeks in your life whose girth expands with each hour on the computer, try The Oatmeal — not the food, but the comic. Get them hooked on Oatmeal, and eventually they'll discover that cartoonist Matthew Inman isn't an enormous drooling blob (as he tends to portray himself), but a serious ultramarathoner.

By then, they won't hold it against him, because he constantly frets about reverting to his former life as a slob who stows an emergency supply of ranch dressing on his tool belt. Warning: Inman's humor can be on the raunchy side; check out www.theoatmeal.com before ordering any of his books.)

•You'd think a product called Moose Mitts might be some kind of gag gift, but freezing hands are no joke to winter cyclists. These oversized, antler-shaped “mittens” attach to your handle bars; you stick your gloved hands inside to protect them from the wind and elements.

They're goofy enough that even casual cyclists might be inclined to extend their riding season. Prices range from $70 to $95, with different styles for road and mountain bikes. Ships free from www.trails-edge.com, the web site of the Plymouth, Mich., bike shop that makes them by hand.

•At first glance, Tim Ferriss' “The 4-Hour Chef” looks like a decadent diner's dream. (One photo spread depicts an eating duel featuring the Vermonster, a 14,000-calorie, 20-scoop Ben and Jerry's sundae with four bananas, three cookies, a brownie and a boatload of toppings.)

But Ferriss is on a lifelong mission to tap the limits of human potential, and this book — the follow-up to “The 4-Hour Work Week” and “The 4-Hour Body” — is really an undercover food and fitness manifesto. Here, he's on a quest to become a gourmet chef in the minimum amount of time possible. Recipes are geared toward his slow carb diet, and there's lots of “extras” — ranging from survivalist living tips to how to memorize a deck of cards in 60 seconds — packed inside. ($21 on Amazon.com).

• By now, even casual joggers have likely read — or at least heard of — Christopher MacDougall's natural running manifesto, “Born to Run.” If so, they'll be amused by a pair of running sandals made by Barefoot Ted, a character in the book who designed his minimalist footwear with the help of the Tarahumara Indians featured in the story. The sandals ($65-$100 at www.lunasandals.com) are supposed to be comfy for walking and other activities as well.

•One of the fringe benefits of getting serious about fitness is that a lot of high-energy “performance” food looks and tastes an awful lot like junk food — only healthier. But whereas a fancy plate of fudge may incite binging, a gift basket of funky energy bars like Honey Stingers and Wired Waffles (caffeinated wafers) promote action. Both can be found on Amazon.com.

•Prefer to have someone else assemble that gift basket? Try Bike Loot, a monthly shipment of half a dozen cycling-related products. A six-month subscription is currently on sale for $54, plus shipping, at www.bikeloot.com.

•Finally, “The Care and Feeding of an Almost Adult,” by local dietitian Crawford, makes a great stocking stuffer for college students, with easy recipes and simple ingredients. ($10.44 on Amazon.com).

Tanya Isch Caylor, a News-Sentinel copy editor, blogs on diet and fitness at www.90in9.wordpress.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.