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Prairie Fare: Mrs. Claus Comments on Santa’s Health

A conversation with Mrs. Claus highlights the importance of good eating and health-care habits.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

A few years ago, I bumped into a man known as “the jolly old elf” as he dropped off some presents for my kids. We had a nice conversation about health, and he set some goals.

The other day, I ran into his wife, and our conversation went something like this.

“Hi, Mrs. Claus,” I said. “How’s my favorite red-suited friend doing?”

“Thank you for asking,” she replied. “Santa was following the diet advice you gave him pretty well for a while, but now he’s back eating cookies and candy with the elves every day. I am getting worried whether Rudy and the other reindeer can propel the sleigh off the ground this year.

“By the way, everyone calls me ‘Mrs. C,’ ” she added.

“Mrs. C, I think we can come up with some new strategies,” I noted. “Staying healthy takes some effort, but it’s a challenge worth doing.”

“Santa really likes his comfortable, old red suit, but I’ve altered it as far as the seams can extend,” Mrs. C said. “Santa really doesn’t like that famous poem that compares his belly to a bowlful of jelly.”

“That was an unfortunate rhyme, wasn’t it?” I replied. “We have a lot of temptations around us at this time of the year, so maintaining our current weight is a better idea than losing weight.”

“I’m a little worried about him getting stuck in a chimney, though,” Mrs. C noted. “Overall, I am concerned about his health.

“By the way, Santa took a break from the annual toy inventory and filled out that men’s health survey you had on the web earlier in 2017,” she said. “I looked over his shoulder while he was filling out his answers on his tablet computer.

“He’s getting a little up in age, so he’s starting to get serious about his health,” she added.

“Mrs. C, do you mind me asking about Santa’s age?” I asked. “Some health screenings are linked to age.”

“Don’t tell him I told you, but Saint Nicholas is 1,747 years old now,” Mrs. C responded.

“I married a slightly older man,” she added with a twinkle in her eye.

“You’re kidding about your ages, right?” I said with surprise. “You both look great.”

“Well, thank you for that,” Mrs. C said. “Santa is long overdue on some of his health screenings. He has received a couple of reminder letters about having a colonoscopy. He has always had rosy cheeks, but I noticed a brown spot on his cheek that he should have checked.”

“Yes, most men age 50 and older should be screened for colon cancer,” I said. “Be sure he has those skin spots checked, too, Mrs. C.

“He should be sure to wear a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher, even in the winter and even when he’s cruising in a vehicle behind a windshield,” I added.

“He gets a little stressed at this time of the year, too, with circling the globe and all,” she said.

“Getting enough sleep, along with regular exercise and a healthy diet, can help manage stress,” I noted.

“He delivers all the gifts at night, and he’s also been complaining about his night vision,” Mrs. C said. “Do you know anything about nutrition and eyes?”

“Nutrition plays a role in eye health,” I explained. “Bright orange and gold foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of carotenoids, which our body converts to vitamin A. That vitamin helps maintain our night vision. He should be seeing an eye-care professional to be screened.

“Mrs. C, maybe he should join Rudolph and the other reindeer for some carrots instead of having cookies with the elves,” I added with a grin.

“Do you have any online resources for us?” she asked. “We’re pretty isolated in the North Pole. Unfortunately, I’ve gained a few pounds myself, and I think we need to approach this together.”

“Thanks to Santa and all the men who took our survey, we are launching a new program in 2018 through the NDSU Extension Service called Healthwise for Guys,” I said. “It will include a website, fact sheets and community lessons just for men. We have lots of resources for all adults. Visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/boomers for resources about stress, eyes, skin, digestive system and other body systems.

“By the way, here’s a comfort-food recipe from my friend’s dad, Dennis,” I said. “It’s high in fiber and vitamin A from the sweet potatoes. You might want to invite the elves for dinner.”

Dennis’ Cheesy Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 5 of the orange-fleshed type)

2 tsp. cooking oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 (14-ounce) reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. parsley flakes

1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese (not grated)

1 (8-ounce) package shredded Italian cheese blend

Parsley flakes (garnish)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub sweet potatoes, poke holes to allow steam to escape and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until still firm but easy to peel and cut. Allow to cool slightly, then peel and slice. (Alternatively, peel and cut sweet potatoes into chunks and cook in boiling water until they can be sliced easily.) Peel and chop onion as directed. Heat oil, then add onion to a large pot on medium heat. Cook for about five minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook one to two minutes longer. Add broth and cream cheese. Heat until cream cheese is completely melted and sauce is well-blended, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Add Parmesan, parsley and half of the shredded Italian cheese blend and mix well. Gently stir in sliced sweet potatoes. Spray 9- by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Add sweet potato mixture and cover pan with foil. Bake for about 40 minutes covered. Top with remaining cheese blend and bake for five to 10 minutes. Broil for a couple of minutes, if desired, to brown the top. Sprinkle top with parsley flakes before serving.

Makes 10 servings. Each serving has 270 calories, 12 grams (g) fat, 12 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber and 400 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson)

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Dec. 14, 2017

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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