BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Dec. 12 (UPI) -- This time of year, Santa Claus is often criticized for being chubby and plump, but a U.S. nutrition professor says weight is just one risk factor to monitor.
"Would the world really be a better place with a thin Santa Claus?" Beth Kitchin, an assistant professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said on her health and wellness blog, the Kitchin Sink. "Studies show that fitness level is an important measure of someone's health, not just weight, so maybe a few extra pounds on a treasured icon aren't such a bad thing."
Other health markers Santa needs to achieve to maintain good health regardless of weight include: appropriate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, low cholesterol and blood triglycerides.
"There is evidence that older people often do better with a little extra weight," Kitchin said. "We know that Santa gets plenty of exercise on Christmas Eve, but he needs to be walking or snowshoeing at least 30 minutes on most days of the week as well."
Assuming Santa eats properly and takes care of himself, there's no reason he can't carry a few extra pounds, Kitchin said in her blog.
However, Kitchin suggested healthier Santa snacking including:
-- Cookie control. No more than one or two Oreos -- 50 calories each.
-- Drink skim or 1 percent milk. Milk is loaded with protein, potassium and calcium, a glass could help lower Santa's chances of breaking a bone in case of a hard landing.
-- Think Mediterranean diet, which is packed with healthy plant fats such as olives, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
-- Add fruit and veggies. Provide Santa with carrot sticks with ranch dressing, banana or apples with peanut butter.