You are what you eat, apparently. Which can be very bad news if the food onboard is not up to scratch. What can you do if you are faced with too much fatty fried food? Is there a way to make your trip any healthier?
There have been worrying concerns across the industry that in hard business times the feeding rates on vessels are being cut – which could spell disaster. A nutritious, well-balanced diet is a vital foundation of good health, and at sea it is vital to look after your body as well as your mind and soul.
Healthy eating includes consuming high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and water, all the while minimising processed foods and saturated fats.
Eating right helps maintain the body’s everyday functions, promotes optimal body weight and can assist in disease prevention. It can also help with stress and fatigue. Food is a massively important part of any healthy lifestyle.
Putting the right fuel in, is key to getting the best performance out. Which is fine when you are at home and can choose what is on the table – at sea it gets a bit more complicated and difficult.
Food and nutrition are as important as any other health and wellbeing ingredient – and are a vital part of any good lifestyle regime. The nutrients support the activities of day-to-day living, protect cells from environmental damage and repair any cellular damage that might occur.
Protein rebuilds injured tissue and promotes a healthy immune system. Both carbohydrates and fats fuel the body, while vitamins and minerals function in support of the body’s processes.
Vitamins A, C and E act as antioxidants to protect cells against toxins, while vitamin B helps extract energy from foods. Calcium and phosphorus keep bones strong, while sodium and potassium help to transmit nerve signals.
Without a healthy diet, all of these essential functions are under threat – and while carrots making you see better in the dark may be a myth, the right food and cooking helps support how well your body can perform.
For seafarers today, weight control is a major issue. There are rumours that on some ships, it is not uncommon for crews to consume over 4000 calories per day, per person. Which is incredible.
While the anecdotes may not be wholly true, quantity matters almost as much as quality when considering good eating habits. A healthy meal plan without excess calories helps you not only feel better but can prolong your life.
Taking in the same number of calories as are burned ensures weight remains steady over time. For long trips away, it can become vitally important to try and maintain a good and sensible level of consumption.
Consuming more than is burned, on the other hand, results in weight gain as the body converts extra calories to fat tissue. When fat tissue accumulates, then not only can it be uncomfortable and distressing – but there are also massive increases in the risk of developing one or more health problems, including heart disease, hypertension, respiratory issues, diabetes and cancer.
MLC tackles the issue of food because it is serious – it may not seem like the most important safety or operational issue, but when people are ill onboard, or suffer health problems because of a lack of good food, then it can be seen that this needs a real focus.
It’s not just about getting fat. Indeed, obesity is not the only nutrition-related cause of disease onset and progression. Too much or too little of certain nutrients can also contribute to health issues.
For instance, a lack of calcium in your diet can predispose people to developing osteoporosis, or weakening of bones, while too much saturated fat can cause cardiovascular disease, and too few fruits and vegetables in your nutrition plan is associated with an increased incidence of cancer.
Consuming foods from a wide variety of sources helps ensure the body has the nutrients it needs to avoid these health problems. So the company needs to ensure that an adequate feeding rate is provided, and cooks need to have the skills and knowledge to keep their crews fed properly and well.
Most seafarers are used to eating fairly well at home – Asian and Indian diets are considered particularly healthy, so it can come of something of a shock to the system if the food at sea is not good enough. It can also be difficult for seafarers from various cultures and races to eat different food on an ongoing, sustained basis.
Where seafarers may not be used to potatoes or a high fat Western diet, there can be issues. While some Western seafarers do express concern if they have to sustain themselves on too many rice dishes. There is a balance which has to be maintained to ensure a nutritious approach to eating onboard.
So what can seafarers do to improve eating habits? First, and perhaps easiest change is to substitute water for high-calorie, sugary drinks. Water instead of Coke. Cut out the salt and avoid condiments – especially ketchup. While seafarers are unlikely to be able to influence the ingredients used, there are options when eating which can help.
Sometimes it is about making some educated and sensible choices. Too many crisps or chips? Well it’s probably time to offset the bad stuff with an apple – or something fresh and crunchy. If they are not provided onboard, then this is a legitimate issue to raise – as good things to eat should be part of the job.
What do you think? Are feeding rates being cut? Do you receive good quality, nutritious food? Are you made aware of the best options to keep yourself healthy? What improvements to eating onboard would you like to see? Or do you think your cooks and the food they use are great? Let us know…