Santa Gets Some Diet Advice

I bumped into someone early one morning during this holiday season. You might know him. Our conversation went something like this.

“Well, Julie, thanks for the carrots and apple slices for the reindeer! Rudy ate all the oatmeal muffins before I could even have a taste, and Prancer polished off the apples. I guess you put me on a no-cookie diet this year, though,” said my red-suited old friend.

“Actually, the carrots and apple slices were for you, too. Of course you can enjoy some cookies, but probably not at every house you visit. Wasn’t eating more fruits and vegetables part of the goal you set during our last conversation?” I asked with a grin.

“Well, I remember saying I looked like an apple with legs, but my memory’s not so clear about eating more apples,” he responded with a ho, ho, ho.

“Last time, having more fiber was one of your goals,” I reminded him as I poured a cup of skim milk and sliced another apple for him.

“OK, now I remember the part about an apple-shaped body putting me at a higher risk of heart disease. Mrs. Claus is a little worried about my cholesterol level, too. I was using the website until the elves crashed my computer,” he responded as he sampled an apple slice.

“See, you remember the conversation! Sometimes staying motivated to eat healthfully is hard with all the temptations of the holiday season. Try having plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole- grain foods, fat-free yogurt and string cheese ready to grab for quick snacks,” I said.

“The elves are getting a little chunky, too, so we’ll be sure to provide more fruits and veggies for their snacks, too. You mentioned fiber. Why is having more fiber important?” he asked.

“Having enough fiber in your diet is linked with helping prevent disease, including heart disease and certain types of cancer. Having more fiber in your diet also makes you feel full and can help with weight management,” I noted.

“Santa, I’m not going to ask your age, so I’ll give some fiber recommendations for different ages provided by the Institute of Medicine. Men age 50 and younger need about 38 grams of fiber per day, while men 51 or older need 30 grams of fiber daily. You may want to share the women’s recommendations with Mrs. Claus. Women age 50 and younger need 25 grams of fiber daily. Women age 51 and older need 21 grams daily,” I continued.

“Is all fiber the same?” Santa asked as he reached for another apple slice.

“Soluble fiber is linked to lowering blood cholesterol and is found in foods such as oatmeal, cooked dry edible beans, carrots and apples. The kind of fiber in whole-wheat bread and vegetables is ‘insoluble fiber.’ It helps prevent constipation and has other health benefits,” I responded.

“OK, I have a fiber goal again. If Mrs. C. and I work on this together, we both might accomplish our goals. I don’t want to get stuck in another chimney next year! Hey, maybe that ‘Night Before Christmas’ poem with the rhyme about my belly and jelly will be edited, too,” Santa noted with a ho, ho, ho.

“Remember to start slowly when you add fiber and drink plenty of water,” I said. “Here are a few more tips to help you. Choose fiber-rich breakfast cereals and read the Nutrition Facts label. The food label can state that a product is ‘a good source’ of fiber if the food has 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. The package can claim ‘high in’ or ‘excellent source of’ fiber if the food provides 5 grams per serving.

“Eat the skins on fruits and vegetables instead of peeling them. Enjoy more cooked dry edible beans and peas. Snack on popcorn; dried fruits, such as figs, raisins and prunes; and whole-grain crackers. However, be careful because dried fruits are high in calories. One-fourth of a cup is considered a serving,” I added.

“Well, you gave me some food for thought,” Santa said. “I see that you grew up to be a food and nutrition specialist. I know you really wanted to get an Easy Bake Oven when you were 10 or so, but sometimes not getting what you want takes you in another positive direction,” he noted as he packed up his bag and whistled for his reindeer.

“Oh, you’re pretty wise, Santa. Here’s a recipe for you to enjoy with veggies or as a baked potato topper,” I said before he disappeared up my chimney.

Vegetable Dip

1 c. low-fat cottage cheese
1 c. low-fat plain yogurt
1-ounce package ranch-style dressing mix

Put ingredients in a blender or use a mixer. Blend on medium speed for about 30 seconds or until mixture is smooth. Serve with assorted fresh vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and red and green pepper strips.

Makes eight servings (1/4 cup per serving). Each serving has 120 calories, 1 gram (g) of fat, 5 g of carbohydrate and 5 g of protein.