Choosing gifts for others is not easy. There is a reason why magazines have gift catalogues this time of the year. And why you end up buying something inappropriate and expensive, and possibly unhealthy, on the 24th of December.
So what do you do if you're into healthy things, yet have a long Christmas list of friends and relatives? Do you bow down to Christmas hype out of desperation and end up buying chocolates, plastic toys and booze? If that's not the way you want to go, here are some creative suggestions.
Home-made soap. You know the kind - the colour of oatmeal or candle wax, with little bits of foliage or wheat or seaweed inside. These are always welcome, they look pretty and they're inexpensive. They're good stocking fillers and also come in handy when your son's music teacher unexpectedly gives you something and you feel the need to reciprocate on the spot.
Olive oil/ herbs. Olive oil is healthy - anyway, so much healthier than most other oils. These can be used for cooking, on salads and so forth. Olive oil can be bought in very pretty gift containers, often together with balsamic vinegar.
A massage gift voucher. After a day which included a crowded shopping centre, a bad-tempered boss, a screeching toddler and a letter from the Receiver, there is nothing that quite makes all of that disappear like a good massage. Give a friend a gift voucher for one of these - he/she will be incredibly grateful.
A subscription to Men's Health/Shape. These magazines not only make for good and entertaining reading, but help you to stay healthy. From exercise tips to informative health articles, diet tips - they've got it all. Give a friend a gift that lasts.
A vegetable steamer. This is great for people who want to cut their cholesterol levels and also for those who just want to eat healthier foods - steaming retains nutrients.
A low-carb or low-fat or vegetarian recipe book. Very often people eat unhealthy foods because they perceive them to be the easiest and quickest. A recipe book with simple and quick, but healthy, recipes could help a friend eat a more healthy diet. Who knows, you might even be invited for supper?
A relaxing weekend in the country. If you want to give a large and memorable gift, give a friend a voucher for a relaxing weekend away. It doesn't have to be luxurious - for someone whose life is hectic, clean and quiet will be fantastic. Check country hotels for special offers and buy a friend or relative some time out.
Gym membership. If you give a friend a gym membership, one of three things can happen. Firstly, the friend will wonder if you won the jackpot, secondly whether you're trying to tell them something, or the friend will thank you politely, but actually be offended enough not to want to use this. Make sure someone wants this before you spend your money. It's easy enough for people not to go to the gym even when they've paid for it themselves - how much easier will it be to slouch on the couch if someone else footed the gym bill?
A gift voucher from a health shop. If a friend has never bought anything at a health shop, this may not be a good idea. Unless he/she is the adventurous type, your gift voucher may just gather dust in a drawer until its expiry date. But if health shops are on their regular shopping route, this gift should hit the mark.
Ten hours of your time. This is a big one. A voucher representing ten hours of your time - for errands, for shopping, for babysitting, for visiting a difficult relative of theirs - could be the greatest gift of all. It's flexible, it doesn't cost you anything and should be much appreciated.
A healthy breakfast. When last did you drive somewhere beautiful - river or mountain or sea - for breakfast? Not the heart-attack-on-a-plate kind of breakfast, but a healthy one with fresh fruit, cottage cheese, wholewheat bread, muesli and yoghurt? If you can't think of a healthy gift to give someone, take him/her out to breakfast somewhere special. Not to a grease joint.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated November 2011)