Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Give Good Health This Christmas

No, of course I'm not Scrooge; I love giving presents, but I also love my friends and family. If bottles of booze, boxes of chocolates, exotic tins of paté and large cigars are on your shopping list this Christmas, please cross them off.

I've never understood why we give our nearest and dearest these sorts of presents at Christmas time. Gifts that are guaranteed to shorten the lives of those we love - they're loaded with fat, sugar, alcohol and nicotine.

This year why don't you give the gift of good health instead? I've got some simple suggestions to suit all pockets and all ages, all it takes is a little thought, a little time and a little trouble instead of the usual last minute desperate dash when all the traditional baddies end up in your shopping basket.

READ ON . . .

You can start by replacing all the chocolates and sweets with delicious dried fruits, fresh nuts, and fresh dates - not the syrup covered sticky ones in boxes with the little plastic forks that always break and you end up with mucky fingers. Make up mixed baskets of these goodies - they look great and are bursting with health-giving vitality.

For anyone who likes to cook what could be nicer than a bottle of wonderful extra virgin olive oil, a traditional string of garlic, or a mouth-watering selection of herbs and spices which will last for months.

Lack of exercise is one of the major factors that contribute to lack of health, so why not put a skipping rope in someone's stocking this year. Skipping improves breathing, circulation, muscles, stamina and is good for the heart. When granny comes round on Boxing Day she'll probably show you and the kids how to do it.

A kite will get the whole family out in the fresh air and these days you can buy them at all prices from the simplest DIY kit to the competition monsters.

A pair of trainers and a track suit might encourage the most dedicated couch potato to venture as far as the local fitness centre, and a dog is the best reason of all for regular walks. Remember that a dog is not just for Christmas but for life, so wait till January and visit your local dog's home.

For a grand family present, club together and get a good exercise bike or bouncer and pedal away to your favourite music.

Now for a couple of home made presents that will give pleasure as well as good health this Christmas.

Flavoured Olive Oil
Fill a jar one third full of extra virgin olive oil. Add a mixture of black and green olives, 3 peeled cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of rosemary, half a dozen black peppercorns and a couple of dried chillies.

Add more oil to cover, and then tightly seal the jar. Within a few days your lucky friends could be enjoying the delicious and health giving benefits of your present.

No-cook chutney.
Finely chop half a pound each of fresh dates and dried apricots and a pound of peeled onions. Stir together with a pound of peeled and grated apples. Mix with 4 oz of sultanas, freshly ground black pepper and a teaspoon each of English mustard powder, cinnamon and ginger.

Add a pint of cider vinegar, half a pound of Demerara sugar, stir thoroughly. Cover and leave for 24 hours.

The next day put into sterilised jars and seal. Keep one for yourself and give the rest away - a delicious aid to good digestion.


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