Top 10 Christmas Gifts for the Health-Conscious Cook

One thing I've learned this year is the value of good tools for culinary success. Thus, I've compiled a list of my favorite kitchen appliances/tools for healthy eating.

(All links are to for simplicity. Better prices may be found elsewhere.)

1. Food Dehydrator (approx. $190)

If I had to choose one appliance, it would be the food dehydrator. From beef jerky to herb drying, from fruit leathers to flax crackers, the versatility of the dehydrator is immeasurable. We dehydrate sprouted seeds, make kale chips, and use it to make yogurt. We even resurrected a moisture-ridden iPod with our dehydrator!

The Excalibur brand consistently has positive reviews. We have the 9-tray model, which works well for yogurt making, allowing plenty of room for tall mason jars. The ParaFlexx non-stick drying sheets are great to have as well.

2. Vitamix ($398-$498)

We use ours every day and have not even begun to explore the versatility of this appliance. It's a food processor, smoothie maker, flour grinder, and much more. We've used it to make nut butters, puree soups, and blend coconut milk. You can make a green juice by blending the greens and then straining through a nut milk bag. That may make Vitamix a better choice if you have to choose between a juicer and this product. Vitamix is extremely durable and easy to clean. Blendtec offers a similar product. The website Perfect Smoothie offers an interesting comparison of the two.

3. Juicer ($260-$480)

We began our juicing journey with a simple $40 juicer and had great success with it. When juicing became a regular habit we invested in the Green Star Juicer. This juicer has surpassed my expectations. There is very little waste with the Green Star, thanks to the twin gear technology. The twin gears make it safe to use and easy to reassemble. The Omega J8005 Juicer is more affordable ($260 as opposed to $480) and also gets great reviews.

4. Food Processor ($45-$170)

We use our food processor multiple times a day. A food processor cannot be beat for chopping vegetables. I can't imagine life without one! According to the website Consumer Search, the best budget food processor is the Hamilton Beach Chef Prep for less than $45. The best overall processor, according to reviewers, is the Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus for approximately $170.

5. Immersion Blender ($30)

Our family uses this tool 20-30 times per day. It's great for pureeing individual portions of soup. I use it to dissolve yogurt starter into warm milk as well as mixing eggs for egg dishes. I can't imagine our kitchen without it.

6. Coffee Grinder ($18)

This tool is useful for grinding spices, seeds, nuts, and herbs. We have tried a variety of models. They seem to break easily. So far, this is our favorite.

7. Shovel ($8)

This is a great tool for scooping up chopped vegetables and transporting them from the cutting board to the pot. It can also be used for clearing up food debris.

8. Funnel ($8)

Mason jars abound in our kitchen, and this funnel makes the transfer of liquids a breeze. This is a must-have for making soup broths, transferring oils between containers, pouring kefirs, and more. Add a mesh strainer and you can filter as you transfer.

9. VitaClay Multi-Cooker ($80)

There is a great deal of controversy surrounding slow cookers in general. Many are said to leach lead into the foods. I tested this product for lead and found none. Hamilton Beach slow cookers are said to be lead-free. I use this for cooking meats and fermented beans.

10. Spiral Vegetable Slicer ($34)

I make zucchini noodles as a substitute for pasta. Other uses include curly fries, apple slices, and carrot slices.

I took a risk last year and took a break from all our supplements. With the lack of insurance coverage and uncertainty that our compromised digestive systems were absorbing the nutrients, it made sense to try to get our nutritional boost from live, fresh foods. With the money we saved on supplements, I slowly bought each of these tools. I was intimidated with each new one. Most of them sat unopened for weeks.

Slowly I ventured into the new foods.

It's been a year of trial and error, but the experiment has more than paid for itself. We're slowly improving and enjoying more stable lives, thanks to nourishing foods.

As for me and Christmas, I'm hoping for the Cuisinart Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt Maker to make kefir ice cream. Either that or a week in Hawaii. With my dehydrator, of course.

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