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The holiday season is a magical time of year. The lights are twinkling, snowflakes are falling, and Santa’s sleigh is soaring through the sky. The love of a child and the joy of watching their eyes light up is the reason many families choose to participate in holiday traditions. One such tradition is laying out cookies for Santa to eat as he stacks presents under the tree. However, we must not forget that his reindeer need something to munch on, too!

On Christmas Eve, simply sprinkle “reindeer food” on your front lawn to serve as a guide for the reindeer to find your home. Many reindeer food recipes will include glitter and metallic foil, which glimmers in the moonlight to light the way for Santa’s sleigh. However, this can be harmful to the real wildlife that roam the area, particularly small birds. Consider making a bird-friendly version of this magical concoction so that all animals have a safe and happy holiday.

Making reindeer food can be a good project to keep the little tykes busy on a cold winter day. Buy actual birdseed, and add oats and red and green sugar or sprinkles. If you don’t have birdseed, use hulled sunflower seeds, which also makes “reindeer food” people food. When using sunflower seeds, “reindeer food” that goes unused makes a great topping for oatmeal! Put the reindeer food in a jar, label what it is, and decorate the jar with two craft eyes, a red craft pom pom for the nose and reindeer antlers made from brown pipe cleaners.

If you’re not sure about leaving food outdoors, “reindeer food” can also be carrot sticks. Leave them next to Santa’s cookies inside, and the reindeer will be sure to enjoy. Plus, buying carrots for reindeer mean that the excess carrots are put in the refrigerator, making them the perfect snack for boys and girls alike. Whatever the holiday tradition, be sure to have a safe and happy holiday season!

Reindeer Food

1 cup old fashioned oats

1 cup birdseed or sunflower seeds

1-2 tablespoons red decorator sugar crystals

1-2 tablespoons green decorator sugar crystals

Combine all ingredients in a pint-size jar. Secure lid and label. (If using birdseed, not for human consumption.)

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Smith, a registered dietitian, is a nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.