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I pledge not to be a sloth this winter

Prairie Fare: Chicken (Or Turkey) and Cranberry Salad

Through the years, I have worked with numerous “super-fit” student interns, graduate students and program assistants. They arrive at work bright eyed and report that they ran five miles, swam laps for an hour or biked several miles earlier that morning. Some of them exercise regardless of how cold the weather is.

I look at them in admiration as I sip my steaming cup of coffee, trying to awaken. No, I have not joined them in these early-morning fitness pursuits.

Sometimes, I feel like a three-toed sloth, the world’s slowest animal. These animals move at a top speed of 0.003 mile per hour. Well, maybe I am not quite that slow. No algae has grown on me due to lack of movement, as it does with sloths.

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Of course, I am well aware of all the physical and mental benefits of physical activity. Walking strengthens our heart, and helps reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Walking helps reduce stress.

Yes, I need some special motivation to avoid being a sloth in the winter. In warmer months, I spend time outdoors working in my yard, riding a bike or going for walks. In the winter, I would be very content to hibernate with a fuzzy blanket and an ongoing supply of cocoa.

Do you have any barriers to getting exercise in the winter? Pause and think a few seconds.

Were you thinking of the obvious? Extremely cold weather definitely is a barrier to going outside. Falling on slippery sidewalks can be another barrier to fitness activities.

When the temperature gets to -20 and the sidewalks are slippery, I become a well-bundled penguin trying to seek shelter as soon as possible. When you determine your own barriers to physical activity, you can figure out solutions. Of course, you can bundle yourself in many layers and venture outdoors at least for a while. You can add slip-on “grippers” to your shoes or boots.

For people who live in areas with indoor shopping malls, “mall walking” is a great winter activity. You do not have to worry about icy sidewalks; the area is temperature controlled and attractive.

You do not need a lot of equipment. You just need a pair of properly fitting shoes. Some malls have maps that show the distance walked or brochures that get you started with a walking program.

Just watch out for the temptations at the food court. Check out the calorie information, and bring a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated.

But what if you do not live near a shopping mall, a health club or a school with an open gym? What can you do to stay active in the winter?

  • If you do not have a pedometer (step counter), give yourself a fitness gift.

Apps that can tell you how many steps you walked also are available for cellphones. Write down your steps every day. Build to 10,000 steps a day.

  • Exercise to a DVD.
  • Play indoor physical activity games. Go on scavenger hunts or play charades. For example, be an Olympic skater or a star basketball player.
  • Turn your kitchen into a gym. Use your countertop for balance and stretching exercises. Try doing “toe stands.” Stand with your legs shoulder width apart. Stand on your tiptoes for a minute. March or jog in place. Use cans of vegetables as weights; do sets of 10 arm raises or as many as you can. Take a break to dance with your cooking partner.
  • Bundle up and head outdoors to cross-country ski. I plan not to be a sloth this winter. How about you?

Here’s a tasty salad to enjoy during the holiday season. I brought it to a party and my serving bowl was nearly empty by the end of the meal. You can serve it on bread as a sandwich or as a main-dish salad with rolls.

Chicken (Or Turkey) and Cranberry Salad

  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds
  • 3/4 c. light mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp. Greek seasoning
  • 1/3 c. onion, diced finely
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 c. roasted chicken, diced or chopped (or substitute turkey)
  • 2/3 c. cranberries
  • 3/4 c. celery, diced
  • 1/4 c. feta cheese crumbles (optional)
  • Mixed greens (to line serving bowl)

Cranberry_ThinkstockPhotos1.jpgPreheat oven to 350 F. Place almonds on sheet pan and bake for five to seven minutes, until lightly browned. Prepare other ingredients as directed. Mix mayonnaise, Greek seasoning, onion and lemon juice. Add remaining ingredients (except mixed greens) and gently mix. Serve immediately or chill. Serve in a bowl lined with lettuce, or make individual salads. Sprinkle with feta cheese crumbles if desired.

Makes six main-dish salad servings. Each serving has 320 calories, 17 grams (g) fat, 17 g carbohydrate, 24 g protein, 2 g fibre and 250 milligrams sodium.

About the author


Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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