The Real Santa’s united campaign to end childhood obesity, founded by Sustainable Santa, has expanded in the past several years, placing Santas in farmers markets where they can pose for the traditional holiday pictures with children.

More importantly, however, they give the kids and parents cards for their refrigerator, containing the three "Santa's Food Rules." The rules are designed to wean American children off their habit of consuming sugar-loaded fast, junk and processed foods — a problem which has led to a major epidemic of childhood metabolic disease in America of which obesity is a leading marker.

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That problem is now spreading worldwide with an increasing number of McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King franchises in other countries promoting "fast" processed foods filled with added sugar.

After they give them the cards, the Santas then send the children into the farmers market on a treasure hunt to look for signs saying "try a Santa’s Garden Bite HERE." There the farmer/vendors give children samples of fresh, raw or fermented whole foods: bits of raw bell pepper, broccoli, cauliflower; tastes of fermented cabbage, a thimble full of kombucha, dehydrated unusual fruits such as star fruit, Hachiya persimmons and blood oranges. The bread vendors are urged to promote wheat-less breads, as wheat turns into sugar once inside your body. The mushroom man gives them a beech button raw mushroom, and so on — all of them whole foods. The kids love it, and the parents realize there is hope for their child beyond McDonald’s and Cheetos.

It’s Santa’s Three Food Rules which have their roots in Sweden. And specifically, it’s the Swedish love for lördagsgodis (Saturday candy) which is influencing the culture shift advocated by the American Santas.

The three rules, designed to get the kids OFF the bad stuff, are:
Rule 1) If you’re hungry, eat an apple. But if you’re not hungry enough to want to eat an apple, you’re likely not truly hungry and the thought will pass. The American snack food industry has consistently spent billions promoting eating snacks out of boredom or habit.
Rule 2) Treat treats as TREATS. There is nothing wrong with "special occasion" foods, and some of the Swedish Christmas food is the world’s best. But in American they promote eating cinnamon buns, cookies, pizza and other "fast treats” daily, and "daily" is not a special occasion! Thus it doesn't deserve a special occasion treat.
Rule 3) The "S" rule: no sodas, no snacks, no second helpings, no added sugar or salt, and no sweets — except perhaps on days that begin with the letter S = Saturday or Sunday. That’s the practice of lördagsgodis.

This year the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, (IBRBS) the largest of the American Santa organizations, has printed thousands of the Santa’s Three Food Rules cards with the image of the contemporary American Santa on the flip side. They are available to their more than 1,000 members across the nation. While not all santas work in farmers markets, the fact that they will be distributing the rules designed to get the children off the bad stuff is of enormous importance.

This year, in addition to sending the children into the farmers markets on that treasure hunt to seek Santa’s Garden Bites, the members of the Real Santa’s United are advocating "Eating the Rainbow" — while eating real food. Many parents, however, don’t actually know why, or what that means. The fact is that colored vegetables can provide high levels of different vitamins and minerals. Eating a combination of them can yield optimum health.

The santas urge the parents to make the colors into a game for shopping at the farmers market (and for planning and planting a garden). The kids love the bright colors and parents can create a game at the market where kids select and eat as many red things one day, orange the next, purple the next and so on. Or they can market for veggies in the child’s favorite color. This makes shopping and eating more fun for them. The santas all have posters at their market "Santa House" explaining the unique vitamin and mineral contests in the red, yellow and orange, green, blue and purple, and white veggies and fruits.

Sustainable Santa, whose mor (mother) hails from Öland and far (father) from Göteborg, and Mrs. C, whose family comes from Sylt, the island in the North Sea off the west coast of Denmark, recently completed a 38-day trek around California matching up Healthy Happy Santa members of the Real Santas United with farmers markets all over the state.

Toward the end of the trip, Sustainable Santa participated in a project with a group of courageous, concerned doctors on the faculty of the University of California-San Francisco Medical School, led by Dr. Robert Lustig, head of pediatric endocrinology, which has been tracking our progress through their Institute for Responsible Nutrition (IRN): http://www.responsiblefoods.org/sustainable_santa_hits_the_road

The doctors were debuting their newest documentary “Sugar Coated.” Three years in the making, including research of the "secret files" of the sugar industry, the film conclusively demonstrates:

1) Sugar is toxic – and added sugar (added sugar is in 74 percent of American packaged and processed foods) creates metabolic disorders.
2) The sugar industry , which not only includes the sugar producers but also breakfast cereal, soda, candy, etc., has known for many many years that what they are producing will cause diseases in children and adults; their advertising and misinformation campaigns hide or confuse the public of these facts.
3) The parallels with the tobacco industry are apparent. The heads of tobacco companies testified before the U.S. Congress that they had "no knowledge" that tobacco was addictive nor "any knowledge of the links between smoking and the development of lung cancer." They, of course, were eventually caught in their lie(s). Sugar is also addictive, and the sugar industry has known this but worked hard since the 1980s to suppress that knowledge.

Sustainable Santa’s role at the documentary debut was to present a bag of coal to the "embodiment of the medical misinformation," Dr. SweetStuff (who had candy canes and candy bars, soda cans and other added-sugar items in his lab coat). Sustainable Santa told him in several languages to "stop adding sugar!" (in Swedish: "sluta billsätta soker!"), handed him the large lump of coal and told him to "go sit on it!" The documentary is available to view online at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/sugarcoated

With the 1,000+ IBRBS santas passing out the Santa’s Food Rules cards, maybe this sugar-free Swedish tomten and his Danish partner will see you at a farmers market, too. We can’t wait to see you.

By Helen Nielsen