Giving someone a gift during the holidays they don’t expect but really enjoy always feels great. Finding something interesting the recipient will appreciate and use isn’t always simple, though. Here are some great gift ideas for the fitness guru in the family, or for those just beginning their path to a healthy lifestyle.

One of the easiest and most usable products is a healthy alternative cookbook. Betty Crocker has one titled “Betty Crocker Healthy Heart Cookbook.” This book is chock-full of great recipes to satisfy each and every tastebud with nutritional data included. Cooking meals benefits the body because whole foods are used, which naturally contain the vitamins and minerals the body needs to perform important bodily functions.

Cooking also helps to include a variety of foods in the diet. There are books out there for everyone: vegetarians, vegans, people with gluten intolerance, etc. Know someone who’s a fanatic for hot and spicy? Have a friend who loves exploring international cuisines? Have fun with this gift, but remain vigilant. The last thing anyone wants is a book on dieting. Unless they have asked for a diet book specifically, it may be too much of an in-your-face gift.

Have a traveler in the family? Try a portable gift such as a yoga mat and resistance bands. Put these together and they’ve got a gym wherever they go. Yoga mats are inexpensive and last forever. Look for them at places such as Target or Walmart. Some mats even come with beginner DVDs or other accessories and can be used for exercises other than yoga. Resistance bands are also very versatile. They can help tone arms, legs, backs and cores. The best thing about bands is that they take up little space, so they can be thrown in a suitcase for that holiday trip.

Fitness DVDs are a perfect portable gift as well. Daily goals to go to the gym after work or a long day of class don’t always pan out the way we hope, but with DVDs your gift recipient can fit in their workout without the added travel time to and from the gym.

Working out at home also means not having to wait for machines to open up. Both Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper from the television show “The Biggest Loser” have workout DVDs sure to leave anyone who attempts them in a pool of sweat. The show “Dancing with the Stars” has also put out a line of fitness DVDs for those who enjoy Latin dancing. If the person you’re buying for has a Wii or Xbox 360, take a look at Zumba Fitness’ video games. Zumba, a revolutionary Latin-inspired dance-fitness program, will definitely excite friends or family who enjoy a good samba.

Another great gift anyone can appreciate is a new pair of running shoes. Who wouldn’t want to hit the pavement or treadmill with a fresh pair of kicks? Depending on whether you’re buying for a serious runner, or for someone who just wants something for the gym, you’ll want to do a little bit of research. Shoes show off personality, and these days they come in hundreds of colors and designs. Find a style you think fits your recipient, or a certain shoe they’ve mentioned or looked at recently.

While you definitely don’t want to give someone a bathroom scale (ouch), a kitchen scale is a great gift for someone beginning a healthy lifestyle. Try out the Perfect Portions Food Scale which can be found online at Target. This food scale is a measuring cup on steroids. On its side, it has a digital nutritional label like the ones you would find on a package. When you weigh a food it tells you how many calories in that portion size, the weight, as well as how many grams of carbohydrate, protein, fat, sodium, cholesterol, fiber and sugar. The scale comes equipped with a built-in database of 2,000 different foods, and you can enter up to 99 of your own. This bad boy also has the ability to track total daily nutritional intake to make sure you’re on track to your goals. It’s an awesome gift for someone in the family who is openly trying to lose weight, but it’s also awesome for anyone wanting to maintain a healthy lifestyle in general.

I don’t know what would inspire me more to get off the couch than a brand new iPod and an iTunes gift card to fill it with motivational jams. The new iPod Nano screams “take me for a run!” Its small size and sleek design make it compact, so it won’t become a nuisance during a vigorous sweat session. The absolute best thing about the Nano? It has its very own fitness application, a built in accelerometer that tracks steps, distance, pace and time: perfect for reaching fitness goals. There are many other types of iPods and brands of MP3 players in all prices ranges, so you’ll surely find a great one.

Jenny Slattery is a sophomore majoring in journalism. Want a healthier lifestyle? Send questions or comments to her at [email protected].