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University of Illinois Extension serving Livingston, McLean and Woodford Counties

Main Office (McLean County)
402 North Hershey Road
Bloomington, IL 61704
Phone: 309-663-8306
FAX: 309-663-8270
Hours: Monday - Friday 8 am to 5 pm

Branch Office (Livingston County)
1412 S Locust
Pontiac, IL 61764
Phone: 815-842-1776
FAX: 815-842-6547
Hours: Monday - Friday 8 am to 4:30 pm (Closed 12 - 1pm)

Branch Office (McLean County)
UNITY Community Center
632 Orlando Avenue
Normal, IL 61761
Phone: 309-862-4041
FAX: 309-663-8270
Hours: Monday - Friday 12 noon - 7 pm

Branch Office (Woodford County)
P.O. Box 162
117 West Center
Eureka, IL 61530
Phone: 309-467-3789
FAX: 309-467-6034
Hours: Monday - Friday 8 am to 4:30 pm (Closed 12 - 1pm)

News Release

Healthy Holiday Food Gifts

From My Kitchen to Yours: Healthy Holiday Gifts

The holiday season often brings scrumptious cookies, pies, and holiday treats, often in the unhealthiest of forms. So why not give your loved ones a healthier food gift that doesn't have a ton of calories, fat, and guilt attached?

Try some of these personalized food gift ideas that are both healthy and tasty. Many people love to receive soups in a jar because of their easy meal planning and preparation. Simply layer dried beans and peas with sodium free dried bouillon granules, onion flakes and herbs in a mason jar. Attach a recipe with a pretty bow and you're finished!

You can also try making vegetable dip mixes or even dry rubs by combining various herbs and spices. Make a gift card for directions on making the dip or ideas for using the rub. Trail mix and granola are also easy but colorful ideas. Add peanuts, soy nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruits, pretzels, whole grain cereal, candy coated chocolate or other items and package them in a festive airtight plastic bag. You can also package homemade seasoned pecans, hot cocoa mix, and a book or magazine in a basket for that special someone.

Making a holiday gift is not only unique and personable; it can be money saving. In times of tighter budgets, gifts from your kitchen are the way to go. Just remember to think about food safety. Foods that don't have to be refrigerated and won't perish too quickly work best. Package foods in mason jars, plastic containers, or other decorative bags, but make sure these are food-grade containers. A food-grade container is one that will not transfer non-food chemicals into the food and contains no chemicals that would be hazardous to human health. Have a safe and holiday year, and enjoy the gift of gift giving!

Caramelized Pecans

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons cold water

2 pounds pecan halves

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

Whisk egg whites and cold water together in a large bowl. Add pecans and toss until well coated. In a small separate bowl, mix together brown sugar and salt. Add to the pecan mixture and toss until well coated. Place nuts on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour at 225°F, stirring every 15 minutes. Let completely cool before packaging.

Nutrient Analysis per ¼ cup serving: 200 calories, 19 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 7 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams protein, 35 milligrams sodium, 0 milligrams cholesterol

Source: Jenna Smith, MPH, RD, University of Illinois Extension, Nutrition & Wellness Educator Serving Livingston, McLean and Woodford Counties (309) 663-8306

Local Contact: Jenna Smith, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness,