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For ski trip food, go nuts

January 20, 2009|By CHINA MILLMAN / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Between the cold and the exercise, skiing makes everyone extra hungry, so there's nothing worse than being stuck with expensive lodge food that's high in fat and low on taste.

There are plenty of snacks or even whole meals you can bring along to your ski excursion that will give you the nutrients you need and the taste you want.

Leslie Bonci, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine, said that when you're skiing, you're going to want something substantial to eat. Look for protein sources -- not just chips and candy.

Nuts are a great choice, either as part of a trail mix or in the form of a nut butter, such as almond or sunflower-seed butter. Bonci suggested mixing together a nut butter, honey and dried fruit and a little dried milk, then pressing the mixture into bars for a homemade energy bar.

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Most commercial trail mixes rely primarily on cheap nuts such as peanuts and sunflower seeds; if they include more "gourmet" nuts, they cost an arm and a leg. Instead, make your own trail mix by buying a wider variety of nuts from bulk bins at the supermarket, such as almonds, cashews and walnuts (peanuts and sesame seeds are fine, too), toasting them and combining them with chopped dried fruit and some chocolate chips. Be creative with your dried fruit -- try dried papaya, cranberries, prunes, mango, apples, pears and bananas.

Bonci also suggested a pasta or rice salad as a good option for a more substantial snack or lunch. Make the pasta or rice ahead of time, chill it and mix it with a little bit of olive or vegetable oil to keep it from sticking. Keep it in one container, with other containers of vegetables, a protein such as canned tuna or beans, and another container of vinaigrette. By keeping the ingredients separate (and, of course, in a cooler with sufficient ice), you keep the dish tasting fresh.

Remember food safety: "If you bring hot food in a thermos," Bonci cautioned, "the max amount of time you're going to be able to keep it hot in a thermos is three-four hours."

"If something is frozen, the rule of thumb is two-three hours out at room temperature."

So if you have access to a microwave, take a cooler with a frozen soup or stew, and as long as it stays frozen, you're in good shape. Rich, warm dishes are perfect after a long cold day of skiing, and those kinds of dishes also take very well to freezing and reheating.

Finally, don't forget to think about hydration before, during and after any strenuous activity.

"When people are extremely cold, the idea of having a cold beverage is a little less appealing," noted Bonci. But for health reasons, you should still "start with a cold beverage, then you can follow with a hot beverage."

Cold drinks need to be kept in the right kind of container so they don't freeze. Hot beverages, even in very good thermoses, will get cold more quickly if exposed to the elements. If possible, leave them in a heated room.

Probably the best advice is to bring foods that you're actually going to want to eat, including a few extra treats.

Barbara Scott-Goodman's "The Ski Country Cookbook" is full of great ideas for ski-weekend dining, with recipes for breakfast dishes, snacks, stews and soups and hot drinks. Although most demand access to a full kitchen, Oatmeal Cherry Cookies can be made at home and brought along for a great after-ski snack -- just try not to eat them all on the drive up. Beef & Bean Chili makes a substantial and delicious dinner, and freezing it won't noticeably damage the texture or taste.

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