The Roundup -

Prairie Fare: Stay Active and Healthy in the New Year

Physical activity helps maintain a healthy heart, and strong muscles and bones, and ease stress.


Soup is a nutritious way to get warm this winter. (Photo courtesy of Morguefile)

"I found a supreme parking spot!" my husband noted as he arrived at the mall with our younger daughter. She nodded and grinned. Then she began eyeing the food court for a snack.

Parking a distance from your destination is a common recommendation for increasing your physical activity. Winter tends to push that recommendation out of people's thoughts, and my family was no exception.

I was drinking coffee with our older daughter after an afternoon of last-minute holiday shopping. The mall was swarming with people carrying shopping bags.

I checked the step counter on my phone and learned I had walked about 5,000 steps, or 2.5 miles, in the mall. Many health experts recommend working your way to accumulating 10,000 steps per day, which is about five miles. We were halfway to the goal, although we did a lot of ambling to avoid running into people.

For health benefits, walk at a brisk pace during "mall walking." Many malls have maps showing you the distance you have walked.

If you are trying to maintain your weight while walking at a mall, you may need to resist the tempting aromas of freshly baked cookies, rolls and other treats. Or at least you need to share your treat with a friend. A cup of plain coffee or a bottle of water has no calories, by the way.

When we finished our coffee that afternoon, we put on our coats to venture outdoors. After a severe cold snap during the previous week, we had a nice day for December in North Dakota. I had changed from my full-length "arctic blast" coat to a lighter wool jacket that day.

I wasn't too worried about surviving the dash from the mall to the car. In fact, the ice was melting on the parking lot, so I was watching my step to avoid landing on the ice with shopping bags scattered all around me.

People in cars were looking for spots and eyeing us. When we reached our supreme spot, we had two cars signaling to enter it from opposite directions. Our daughters were giggling at the determined drivers. As soon as we exited our spot, a car zoomed into the slot.

When wintry temperatures keep us blocked inside, what can we do to stay reasonably fit? We all need to accumulate at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week to help maintain a healthy heart, and strong muscles and bones. Physical activity also helps ease stress.

You might not live close to a mall, but perhaps you live near a school gym or community center with space for walking. If you have access to a pool, swimming or aquatic exercise classes can be a way to stay in shape. Or try an exercise DVD in the comfort of your living room.

Because we often have plenty of snow around us, we can capitalize on the fluffy stuff. Children enjoy making forts, snow angels, snow people and snow animals, and adults can have fun helping them. One year, we had a large purple unicorn in our front yard, thanks to my creative daughters and a spray bottle filled with water and food coloring.

Skating and skiing are excellent ways to burn calories and maintain our heart health. On average, a 150-pound adult burns about 300 calories an hour skating and 400 calories an hour cross-country skiing.

Try snowshoeing, and you might discover some energetic rabbits hopping by as you make your way around our winter wonderland. Snowshoeing burns nearly 500 calories an hour for a 150-pound person. Shoveling snow burns about 450 calories per hour.

Regardless of your chosen activities, be sure to dress in layers and stay well hydrated.

To help you and your family stay healthy in 2017, we have launched a new campaign called "The Family Table," with family mealtime challenges (with prizes), nutrition and fitness tips, an e-newsletter, Facebook site and website with a variety of resources. Visit and click on "The Family Table" to join the fun.

Warm yourself this winter with some tasty soup. This recipe is courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Mixing Bowl and the "Let's Move" campaign, in partnership with

Mexican Tortilla Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, diced

1 c. onion, chopped

1 c. green bell pepper, chopped

1 tsp. chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)

3/4 tsp. ground cumin

3/4 tsp. chili powder

2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 c. coarsely crushed baked tortilla strips or chips

1/2 c. reduced-fat shredded Mexican blend cheese

Sliced lime (optional garnish)

Sliced avocado (optional garnish)

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a nonstick Dutch oven or other large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring often, three to four minutes or until browned. Remove to plate and cover. In the same pan, heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil on medium-high. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook, stirring often, five minutes or until softened. Stir in cumin, chili powder, broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer five minutes. Return the chicken and juices to the pan and simmer three minutes or until heated through. Stir in cilantro. Ladle soup into serving bowls; top with crushed tortilla chips and cheese. Serve hot with a lime wedge on the side or an avocado slice on top.

Makes six (1-cup) servings. Each serving has 296 calories, 11 grams (g) fat, 29 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 522 milligrams sodium.


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