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Is it time to slim down Santa?

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Chances are your children put out the same snacks for Santa that you did when you were their age. Perhaps you left cookies and milk or similar types of goodies. But is it time to leave Kris Kringle a snack that aligns with the healthful eating habits you foster in your children at other times of the year?

Even the kids know that Santa and Mrs. Claus could lose a few pounds. After all, in “The Night Before Christmas,” he’s described as being “chubby and plump” and having “a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.”

Along with obesity, Saint Nick may be at risk for sleep apnea, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Uh oh.

Children can help the jolly old elf be healthier and learn good eating habits by leaving him — and his reindeer — a more nutritious snack on Christmas Eve. Or is that going too far?

A fan of providing Santa some options on Christmas Eve is registered dietitian nutritionist Christy Wilson.

“I think Santa enjoys the sweets,” she said. “But it’s probably a good idea to give him a little variety.”

She says it’s perfectly fine to leave some cookies and a cup of milk for Santa plus a few oats or carrots for the reindeer.

“They have a long night, so they need keep up their energy,” said Wilson.

Consider changing the tradition and providing something festive, yet nourishing for Santa, who has a long night ahead of him. On Christmas Eve when you put out snacks for Father Christmas, why not give him a high-energy snack so he has the stamina to travel ’round the world — without contributing to his round belly?

Twelve better-for-Santa snacks:

• Whole-wheat pita bread wedges and hummus.

• Cranberry muffins.

• Dark chocolate-dipped strawberries.

• Spiced pecans.

• Whole-wheat biscotti.

• Roasted butternut squash wedges.

• Homemade cereal-based party mix.

• Cheese and crackers.

• Seedless black grapes, cheese wedges, and French bread rounds.

• Dried figs dipped in chocolate.

• Hot cocoa in an insulated mug.

• Hot spiced cider.

Wilson, who has a daughter who still believes in Santa, says last year her family put out some choices.

“We left him a few homemade cookies and something warm to drink along with a few carrots for the reindeer. It’s good for us and for Santa.”

Christine Palumbo is a Naperville-registered dietitian nutritionist who swears by a mug of homemade hot chocolate with a candy cane stirrer for Santa. Find her at Christine Palumbo Nutrition on Facebook, @PalumboRD on Twitter, or ChristinePalumbo.com.

Almond cocoa-cherry chia bites

Serving: 1 bite

Recipe makes: 35 one-inch sized bites

Total Time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ cup rolled oats (sometimes labeled as Old Fashioned Oats)

½ cup almonds, roughly chopped

2 tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut

1 tbsp. chia seeds

¼ cup 72 percent cocoa dark chocolate, roughly chopped into small pieces

½ cup dried cherries, roughly chopped

1/3 cup honey

2/3 cup almond butter

DIRECTIONS: In a large mixing bowl, add first six ingredients into the bowl (oats to cherries). Stir all ingredients together until combined. Add honey and almond butter to bowl, and mix all ingredients together until combined. Place mixture into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, as this will allow it to harden and make it easier work with. Shape mixture into one-inch, round balls and place on a platter or cookie sheet. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container up to five days. You can also freeze and take out as needed.

NUTRITION FACTS: 80 calories, 9 g carbohydrates (4 g sugar), 2 g protein, 4.5 g fat (1 g saturated), 0 cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 2 percent DV vitamin A, 2 percent DV calcium, 4 percent DV iron.

Recipe used with permission from Christy Wilson Nutrition.

Updated 5:30 pm, December 9, 2016
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