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Prairie Fare: Be Prepared to Survive Frigid Temperatures

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Nutritionally, we can survive without food for days, but staying hydrated is a concern.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“I think our temperature dropped to 30 degrees last night!” one of the women noted.

“It was 20 degrees here,” another woman said.

I was on a conference call with people from around the country. I couldn’t resist adding our temperature, although I don’t think I did anything to promote winter tourism to our area.

“It’s minus 14 in Fargo right now,” I said.

No one said anything for several seconds.

“As in 14 below zero?” someone asked, almost in disbelief.

“Yes, that’s right,” I replied, wearing two sweaters, wool pants and thick socks in my already warm office.

If I really wanted to show off our cold weather, I would have added the wind chill factor. With the wind, our temperature felt like minus 35.

Having lived in the Midwest my entire life, I am accustomed to frigid temperatures. What we consider “extreme cold” in this part of the country differs from the perspective of someone in warmer areas of the U.S. In other parts of the country, temperatures near freezing would be considered “extreme cold.”

From a safety and health perspective, extreme cold can be deadly if you were to become stranded after a vehicle stalls. The best thing we can do is be prepared with water, food and other supplies in the event of vehicle problems.

Nutritionally, we can survive without food for days, but staying hydrated is a concern. Keep at least a gallon of water in the passenger compartment of the vehicle so it doesn’t freeze in the event of an emergency. Experts advise allowing a gallon of water per person for every three days of planned travel.

Pack high-energy foods such as snack mixtures that include nuts, dried fruit and chocolate. Canned goods can be kept in the vehicle as an emergency food supply, but be sure to have a can opener available.

Avoid eating snow because it can lower body temperature in already cold conditions. You can melt snow in a can in a pinch for a water supply, but only if you have no other liquids available. Snow can contain various chemicals and bacteria, so it’s a last resort.

Maintain your body temperature. Run the car’s engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour, but be sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you are with a companion, take turns sleeping and huddle closely for warmth. Wear a hat or hood and wrap up in a blanket or sleeping bag. If you are in a situation where no blankets are available, use newspapers, maps or car mats. Do some light exercises in the car to aid circulation and stay warmer.

For more information about assembling a winter survival kit and other tips, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at

Cold weather makes me think about warm, comforting soup. Here’s a fiber-rich recipe from the University of Massachusetts Extension Nutrition Program. This large recipe freezes well in meal-size portions, whether you are cooking for yourself or a family.

Italian Bean Soup

1 can (15-ounce) great northern beans

1 can (15-ounce) red kidney beans

2 cans (15-ounce) pinto beans

1 can (46-ounce) tomato juice or V-8 juice

1 can (15-ounce) Italian style or stewed tomatoes

1 can (15-ounce) vegetable broth, low-sodium

1 can (15-ounce) drained green beans

1 1/2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

1 medium chopped onion

1/4 tsp. black pepper

2 fresh garlic cloves

In a large pot, combine all ingredients. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Makes 18 servings. Each serving has 110 calories, 1 gram (g) of fat, 20 g of carbohydrate, 6 g of fiber and 440 milligrams of sodium.

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

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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