The average American diet consists of approximately 2,000-2,500 calories. At least, that is what I have read on the side of food containers for as long as I can remember. There are times when I think 2,000 is more like a cruel joke considering how good a scoop of peanut butter is. Then again, in the wintertime, that scoop of Jif or Skippy may not be so bad after all. Think about it, with winter comes cold weather which means the need to consume more calories to aid your survival and keep your internal furnace going. The reality is, you will need to consume upwards of 3.5 times your daily caloric intake. If that’s the case, we’re talking about 7,000 calories. Eating as much food as you want sounds like a dream but the reality of long stays in the outdoors reveals how your dietary requirements can take up space and add significant weight to your pack. What’s the winter woodsman to do? Take a spoonful of this advice and see how it works out for you.
Low-Salt High Fat Nuts: The key to getting the massive amount of calories in your diet is to select calorie-dense survival food. It may be tempting to eat candy with high amounts of sugar but simple carbohydrates are not the way to go. Your best bet for winter survival food is fat and nuts are a simple snack that can be consumed throughout the day. Choose either cashews or macadamia nuts as they have the highest fat content. Look at the packaging label when you purchase these as some have higher salt/sodium content than others. Water consumption is important in the winter but generating water from melting snow is a task. Excessive salt in your diet will make you work harder than you have to.
Coconut Oil Coffee: I’m a fan of cooking food with coconut oil. I use it all the time in my at-home kitchen. I’m also partial to using it to get additional calories in my morning coffee and cocoa. I say “coffee AND cocoa” because mixing a packet of instant coffee along with a packet of instant hot cocoa is a sweet way to start your day with a good boost of sugar and caffeine. I know I mentioned sugar isn’t the preferred means of getting your survival calories but when you add coconut oil to your coffee and cocoa, you are getting a rich mix of fast and slow-burning nutrition. You can also drop a pad of butter in your coffee and cocoa if you don’t like the taste of coconut. Throughout the day, you can add coconut oil to your diet by cooking with it. Just add it to your pan if you are frying any food over your camp stove. At night, you can add it to more cocoa before you go to sleep.
Pemmican: Perhaps the most traditional and damn-near-perfect winter survival food is pemmican. This is not for the faint of heart and the taste does take some time to acquire. Pemmican is an old-school survival ration made with rendered fat and bits of dried fruit and ground dried meat. Pemmican is a welcomed treat when you need to get calories down but it comes at a cost. Like many fatty foods, it tends to coat the inside of your mouth, and the most disagreeable part about eating it is its consistency. The flavor is there and you can modify it with more fruit for sweetness or more meat for savory. However, it has a grittiness to it and even though it is good for keeping your internal furnace going, you must choke it down. Being able to eat it with an understanding it is not meant for emotional comfort and mentally disconnecting from the experience is the key. If you can do that, you’ll find pemmican is freakin’ awesome.
Soups: Winter is the time of year when soups just hit differently. It’s great comfort food and it is an excellent community dish as you can’t argue someone received a better cupful than someone else. Something is satisfying about eating a hearty soup that seems to warm you up from the inside out. One of the often unthought-of benefits of eating soup is the fact it can be eaten with a spoon or drank from a cup. It doesn’t seem like much but when you don’t have to fiddle with a fork and knife with gloved hands, you’ll appreciate it. Also, hot soup broth is a great way to keep that aforementioned fat from solidifying making it easy to drink your calories. What soup you consume is up to you but soups with heavy cream will take you further than watery broth. Of course, it can be argued chili is not technically a soup, but it can’t be denied how great it is when the mercury drops as survival food. Chili can warm you many times starting with the initial heat of the meal, then the spice of the meal, the metabolic process of when your body changes the ingredients into heat, and finally when you pass the chili through your digestive tract and your B-hole curses you for adding so much extra spice.
Trail Mix: The quintessential trail snack found in many backpacks in the backwoods is trail mix. One of the most basic combinations is peanuts, raisins, and M&Ms. There is nothing wrong with this classic trio of ingredients but you can modify your trail mix to give you more calories per ounce. Replace the peanuts with reduced salt cashews. Replace the raisins with cranberries. Add in dried coconut flakes as well as butterscotch and dark chocolate miniature baking Hershey Kisses. This concoction will give you a seriously potent blend of fat, sugar, and fiber that will keep you going in the cold. It is also easy to consume throughout the day and it won’t freeze on you as some energy bars will. Trail mix works can be made for all seasons and it makes great affordable survival food. I’m sure you’ve heard health experts warn of not snacking as it contributes to packing on the pounds during the holiday season. In the winter, you’re encouraged to do just that.
Keep in mind, eating is living and other functions of life include digestion. Make sure your diet is supplemented with vitamins, fiber, and plenty of water. A common problem with winter travel is constipation from dehydration. Force yourself to drink more liquids and keep your urine clear. As long as you take care of your health and feed your body with quality winter survival food, you’ll enjoy the time in the great outdoors during the winter months.