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Healthy Food Ideas for a Holiday Gift Basket

Unsalted Nuts

Nuts have made a huge comeback in the health race. As it turns out, some fats (the unsaturated ones) are good for you, and nuts are a great place to find them. They also have no cholesterol and plenty of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants and protein. Chestnuts, a holiday favorite, are also high in complex carbohydrates (those are the good kind), a nut rarity.

As far as calories go, pistachios are on the low side; for fiber and vitamin E, almonds are excellent; for the highly sought-after DHA variety of fatty acid, walnuts are superb; and peanuts are a particularly good source of folate.

So, what's the problem with the mixed nuts in your typical holiday basket? Sodium. While small amounts of sodium can be a good thing, salted nuts are typically heavily salted. A 1-ounce serving can provide a tenth of the maximum recommended daily intake of salt, which is a lot when a serving can fit in the palm of your hand [source: Henneman].

It's an easy problem to fix: Include only unsalted nuts in your gift basket. They're fantastic on their own, but you can also get more interesting with spices, nut butters, granolas and trail mixes.

The low-fat route can be tasty, though ...