healthy presents for the holidays

Stumped about what to get friends and family for special occasions? Want to help them get and stay healthy? Here are my top recommendations.

Food is the First Medicine

Nutrition seems confusing, but eating right can be simple. The bottom line: eat whole foods. My colleagues Dr. Julie Briley and Dr. Courtney Jackson took their 12-week cooking and nutrition class and made it into a book — one that answers many questions folks have, and some they didn’t know to ask. Get Food As Medicine Everyday here.


Another favorite book is Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. It lives in my consultation room so patients can read bits of it while I’m preparing their prescriptions. Robinson shares great tips about maximizing the benefits you get from vegetables and fruits, and even gives you shopping lists of the most nutritious varieties of each.

Did you know that olive oil is seven times more effective at pulling nutrients out of lettuce than soybean oil is? Or that cooking carrots whole in some form of fat is the healthiest? Or that frescos of beets adorned the walls of ancient brothels? The book is filled with fascinating and useful facts like those. This book is great for food geeks and newbies alike.


Healthy Cooking Made Easy

Have you joined the InstantPot revolution? I’m not much of a cook, and so not much of a fan of kitchen gadgets. But this is one I actually use. With functions for sauteeing, steaming, slow cooking and pressure cooking, this one device is well worth the counter space. There are lots of great recipes available online — try this one for Vietnamese Caramel Salmon, which is fast, easy and comes out perfect every time. Get an InstantPot here:


Aspirational Cookware

The healthiest no-stick cookware out there is made from cast iron, and a good piece will last a lifetime. Cast-iron cooking is a regular prescription for my anemic patients. By far the most gorgeous options out there are made by Finex, right here in Portland, Oregon. Each vessel’s cooking service is honed to an incredibly smooth finish, and comes preseasoned with organic flaxseed oil. They’re heavy, truly heavy. But weight-bearing exercise is good for you, right?



Here’s a picture of the Finex Dutch oven for you, too. Because it’s so beautiful.



Organic produce delivered to your door

We are blessed with access to great organic fruits and vegetables here in this corner of the world. And it’s easier than ever to get these directly from the farms to your house. Lately I’ve been getting a weekly veggie box from Full Circle.

The process is largely automated, and I can customize my box a few days before each delivery. This is the easiest way I know to get more veggies onto your plate. If you’re in the Portland-Vancouver area, sign up online and use code ZRNA7244 to get $15 off your first box.

Here’s the awkward video I made about this. Be gentle with me, I’m still learning.



Stress Less for the Holidays With Vitamin N (Nature)

Nature is literally curative — it’s empirically shown to reduce stress, improve mood, lower inflammation and even boost joy. Curious about the science of this? Read all about it in Florence Williams’ excellent book, The Nature Fix. This is another book that lives on my consultation room desk, and it’s recommended reading for my all my patients. Williams is a journalist in the best storytelling sense, making the book a very readable adventure that makes the science accessible. This book will bolster a nature lover’s passion and might spur the less enthusiastic to give Vitamin N a try. 



Get to the gym without leaving home

I’ve never been a particularly athletic person, but a couple of years ago my stress levels forced me to try it. We all know exercise is important medicine, but it doesn’t work if you don’t do it. My sister Jeannie started doing these at-home kettle bell workout videos from Michael Skogg and it changed her life. I started with a single bell at home, and now go to Michael’s gym — and routinely lift a kettle bell that weighs as much as I do! I recommend kettle bells to many of my patients as a convenient way to fit exercise into a busy schedule: just a few minutes can make big changes in your health. These videos are a great way get started.

(Yes, Michael looks fierce on his promo materials. But he’s a sweetheart. Listen here to our conversation about the mental-health benefits of exercise.)



As for kettle bells themselves, a pair of 4 kg (9 pound) bells make a great start. You’ll quickly graduate to a pair of 8 kg bells. Those two sizes are enough to keep you fit. These are what I have at home. If you want to keep going, I consider a gym membership. You’ll get coached on form and have lots of bell sizes to choose from.


Access high quality supplements

Friends don’t let friends buy supplements on Amazon. Why? Because what you see is very often unrelated to what you get. You might get lucky, or you might get sick. There’s no knowing how long a supplement has been sitting in a random Amazon reseller’s warehouse, or under what conditions. And some people report getting bottles that are falsely labeled. You just don’t want to risk it.

My patients can get supplements online through my online dispensary. Fullscript, accessible only to practitioners, works with the same distributor I use to supply the clinic. You’ll see my favorite supplements, the ones I recommend most often in practice and with which my patients get the best results. Many are not otherwise available to the public.

Another great option: in-person support

Sometimes you just need another person’s take on your situation. Making an appointment is a great self-care present to keep you healthy through the holidays and beyond!




Header photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.