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Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Healthy stocking stuffers

It’s pretty easy to shove a bunch of candy into a stocking and call it a day. But the stocking is a great place to stash creative, thoughtful, smaller gifts. For loved ones who like to cook or exercise, or who deserve something nurturing, here are 15 stocking stuffers to consider, each for less than $20:

Fleece ear cover: For people like me whose ears get super cold in the winter (but who get overheated in a hat), an ear band is an awesome gift. Here’s an example of the kind you can buy.

Eye mask: These are good for relaxing, meditating and blocking out light when you’re trying to sleep. Some eye masks/pillows have a soothing scent like lavender. Here’s one option.

Motivational cards: Motivation might be the best gift at all. Make or buy cards with inspirational sayings on them.  For years, I’ve kept some cards that a friend left behind after a visit. Occasionally, when I’m feeling stressed or rushed or worried, I glance at one that says “Now that all your worry has proved such an unlucrative business, why not find a better job?” It makes me smile. Here’s an option for buying some inspirational cards, and here’s another.

Good lotion: Dry, cracked skin, anyone? Nurture chapped hands with lotion. In the winter, I especially like this Neutrogena hand cream.

Meat thermometer: Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a gift that can prevent food poisoning. Here’s one for under $10.

Jump rope: Especially (but definitely not just) for kids, a jump rope is a great stocking stuffer. It’s compact and promotes exercise you can do inside on cold days. If your kids are like mine and sometimes seem to have energy in stunning abundance, it’s nice to be able to say, “You need to burn some energy. Go jump rope.”

Fruit: This may seem like a meager, Dickens-era gift, but who doesn’t like a juicy orange or clementine?

Dark chocolate: No stocking is complete without chocolate, and dark chocolate actually has some health benefits. Look for brands with at least 60 percent cacoa, such as this and this. For dark chocolate with a kick, try this Tabasco spiced chocolate.

Gift cards: If you can afford it, get your loved one a gift certificate for a massage, personal training session, yoga or Pilates class, or to shop in a sporting goods store. Another option: An iTunes gift card. A $15 card can buy a CD’s worth of music for your loved ones to listen to as they jog, walk, dance or relax.

Garlic press: This might be my favorite kitchen tool. Here’s an option for about $10.

Reusable ice pack with straps: If, like me, you live with someone who plays hard and sometimes gets hurt in the process, a gift like this is mighty pragmatic. Click here for one option.

Recipe cards: Jot down some of your favorite recipes on index cards (or something prettier) and tuck them into stockings.

Salad dressing bottle: Homemade dressings tend to be much healthier and cheaper than store-bought dressings, and a bottle like this is the perfect size for mixing and storing dressings.

Water bottle: For loved ones who exercise or just need a great bottle for carrying water on the go, consider popping one of these into their stockings.

Hand warmers: These seem so luxurious in the winter. Imagine sitting outside during a sporting event, or being out on a long walk, and having toasty warm hands. Here’s one option for keeping your hands cozy even on the coldest days.

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