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Prairie Fare: Enjoy Some Outdoor Winter Activities

Despite all the fun you can have during mild winter weather, think safety when sledding, skiing or even walking on icy sidewalks.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist NDSU Extension Service

"Mom, that was fun! Exhilarating!" my 11-year-old rosy-faced son exclaimed as we stepped off our cross-country skis on a sunny afternoon.

"I agree. Good word choice, too!" I responded.

I was a little tired, but I didn't tell him that.

He did much better than I did when I first attempted skiing. My old skis were the type that had to be waxed. When you don't wax your skis with the right wax, you face the possibility of landing in the snow a few times.

Yes, I learned about the importance of properly waxing your skis the hard way. I also dressed too warmly the first time I skied. I ended up being too warm, then too cold.

With my new waxless skis, proper wardrobe and my eager pupil, I had graduated to novice ski instructor. I think we'll continue skiing where it's nice and flat.

Cold winter weather may tempt us to hibernate in the warmth of our homes. The area's unseasonably warm winter has lent itself to the possibility of enjoying more outdoor activities. Sometimes we have had to search for snow, though.

Interestingly, in some areas of the country, temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit are considered "extreme cold," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We consider those temperatures nearly balmy at this time of the year.

Despite all the fun you can have during mild winter weather, think safety when sledding, skiing or even walking on icy sidewalks. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, about 74,000 emergency room visits per year are linked to accidents from sledding and snowboarding. Many are head injuries, which can be very serious.

Here are some tips to stay active, warm and safe while enjoying some outdoor activities.

  • Be sure you're in good physical shape before deciding to go sledding or doing any outdoor physical activity, especially if you are a parent or grandparent. Cold weather puts an extra strain on your heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice before exerting yourself.
  • Dress in layers to stay warm. A wool, silk or polypropylene inner layer will keep you warmer than cotton, which can become damp and chilling as you perspire. You can take off a layer if you get too warm. Be sure clothing is wind- and water-resistant, and wear a hat, too.
  • Don’t forget to wear sun block. Yes, you can get sunburned in the winter as the sun reflects off the snow.
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses or goggles. Doctors recommend that kids under 12 wear well-fitting helmets. Avoid going "headfirst" down a hill, too.
  • Supervise your children and be sure the equipment is in good shape. Hills can be obstacle courses that can lead to broken bones.
  • Stay hydrated. Warm beverages are best. Try some warm apple cider in a thermos bottle. Alcohol-containing and caffeinated beverages may appear to be "warming," but they actually can cool you.
  • Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature caused from being in cold temperatures too long. Infants and the elderly are most at risk. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, memory loss and exhaustion. To treat hypothermia, get the person to a warm room, cover with blankets, provide warm beverages if the person is capable of drinking and get medical attention.

Here's a main dish recipe to warm you after an afternoon of winter activities. It's from the Michigan State University Extension Service.

Quick Skillet Lasagna

  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 16-ounce can chopped tomatoes with Italian seasoning
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley (optional)
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
  • 2 c. cooked egg noodles
  • 3/4 c. low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese

Cook beef and onion until the beef is brown and the onion is tender. Drain off excess fat. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, water and garlic powder to the beef mixture. Bring to a boil and simmer until sauce is thick, about 25 minutes. While sauce is simmering, cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain. Add cooked, drained noodles to the beef mixture. Stir to prevent sticking. Mix the cheese and spoon it over the top of the mixture. Cover and heat over low heat for five minutes.

Makes seven servings. Each serving has 200 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 23 g of carbohydrate, 3 g of fiber and 20 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

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