Over here at IFIC, we’re concerned with Santa’s health. Being jolly alone doesn’t have the fat burning capabilities of exercise. So we’re encouraging Santa to run behind the sleigh every once in a while to increase his physical activity levels. Also, the snack of cookies and milk laid out in each home he visits may not be the best for his health. So we’ve concocted a few snack alternatives to leave for Santa that will keep him full and energized during his long night of work, while also keeping his waistline in check. And since time is of the essence, these are all easy, on-the-go snacks that won’t impact his sleigh schedule.
1. Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans
Late nights delivering presents to the 1.9 billion children in the world can be stressful business. Stress can cause increase in cortisol, setting up a chain reaction of other health disparities such as high blood pressure. Why not give Santa a boost while he’s out all night with these tasty treats! Dark chocolate espresso beans combine decadent dark chocolate with the stimulating power of espresso beans. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids, which prevent oxidative stress that can cause damage and death to cells. The antioxidant properties of dark chocolate are also responsible for cardiovascular health benefits and reduction of stress hormones.
Espresso beans also contain large amounts of antioxidants. Among other compounds found in the beans is trigonelline, an antibacterial compound that may prevent dental caries in in vitro models. In addition, caffeine found in the beans stimulate the nervous system, preventing fatigue and improving cognitive function.
Santa’s line of work puts him at higher risk of falls and illness as he tries to maintain his balance on snow and ice covered roof tops in the bitter, cold night. Fending off illness and decreasing falls are major health concerns for older adults. Eating more protein can help this population reduce healing times, boost their immune system, and prevent loss of skeletal muscle. Inadequate protein intake can lead to negative health effects such as poor & lengthy healing, reduced immune function, skin breakdown, and sarcopenia or loss of skeletal muscle. To combat this we’ve enlisted beef, turkey, pork, even fish jerky which are all great sources of protein. But what if Santa happens to be vegetarian or vegan? No problem, jerky containing soy, seitan (wheat gluten), or shitake mushroom is available.
3. Dry-Roasted Edamame
As the years go on, Santa the silver fox remains timeless, however, one thing that hasn’t changed about Ol’ Saint Nick: his age. Older adults’ diets are generally insufficient in two nutrients: protein & fiber, important in maintaining lean muscle mass and bowel regularity. These dried green soy beans pack quite a nutrient punch, rich in protein, fiber, and iron as well as other vitamins. Did we mention they are high in fiber? In one serving (¼ cup) they provide 8 grams of fiber, this is equivalent to nearly 5 slices of whole wheat bread. Edamame also contains isoflavone, a phytoestrogens linked to reduced LDL cholesterol levels and may protect against prostate and breast cancer as well as osteoporosis.
4. Pumpkin Seeds
Have some leftover pumpkins from Halloween or Thanksgiving just lying around? Turn those innards into a delicious treat. Pumpkin seeds either with or without the shell are great sources of protein and healthy fats including omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fat not produced in the body. These polyunsaturated fats have been proven to improve cardiovascular function and lower inflammation. Try baking your own pumpkin seeds today with a variety of seasonings to make them sweet or spicy.
5. Greek Yogurt Smoothie
As mentioned before bowel regularity is important for older adults as well as everyone. Why not send Santa off with a gift that keeps on giving? Increasing consumption of Greek yogurt adds probiotics into your diet, increasing the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which aids in digestion and enhances the body’s immune system. Greek yogurt is a great choice than regular yogurt because it contains more protein. Yogurt is also a great source of vitamin D and calcium, essential for bone health. Grab some Greek yogurt smoothies at the grocery store as an alternative to the glass of milk left out for Santa.
Can’t decide on just one snack? Why not combine some of the above like dark chocolate covered espresso beans, dry-roasted edamame, and pumpkin seeds in a bag to take away as trail mix. Then Santa can have the most healthy snacks to munch on throughout the night. Be sure to pre-portion the snacks before leaving them out so Santa doesn’t overeat during his travels!
Don’t think we forgot about Dasher and Dancer; Prancer and Vixon; Comet and well you get the rest. Our furry friends need some love too, especially having to carry around all those presents for the good little girls and boys. Reindeer (caribou) favorite food includes leaves, fungus, roots, and tubers. How about a nice leafy green salad with some mushrooms for Santa’s little helpers? Calm down Rudolph, you’re excitement is glowing.
Start a new tradition this year and help Santa perform his very best with these healthy snacking options.
This blog was written by Josh Naumann, a dietetic intern at the University of Maryland.