Living and working on a boat definitely has its challenges for someone trying to eat healthy. Most (including the chef onboard) will think eating healthy is filling up on salads and vegetables while staying away from the pastries and leftover guest cheese board.
While I agree, I have learned that to be successful at healthy eating, there is much more to the picture. You cannot live on salads and vegetables alone. There are too few calories in vegetables, and while you might feel full initially, you will inevitably crave sweets and most of us will start to binge. We are sweet-seeking creatures, after all.
It is true that you can fill up, feel satisfied and gain energy from fat and protein, but we get the cleanest, most efficient fuel from carbohydrates. Our brains need them, our bodies need them. And when we give our brain and body what they need, our moods also improve, as well as overall energy.
The other challenge about being a vegan on board is that one must consume more plant foods than your meat-eating mates. If you do not consume enough high energy carbs such as fruit, potatoes, rice, etc., you will feel unsatisfied and go toward higher dense foods such as fat and other proteins.
So, apart from needing high carbs for a fuel source, why would you not want to eat a diet high in fat and protein (even one that’s plant based)?
- The higher the fat in your diet (at least 15-20 percent) the more health problems you will see start to arise, even from a plant-based diet. There is a considerable link between diets high in fat and heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic fatigue.
The lower the fat in your diet, the better you will feel. Try it for yourself. You’ll be surprised at how high your daily fat intake is. Keep in mind any oils are pure fat. Olives, avocados, coconut meat and nut butters are a great choice for quality fats but they can also cause health issues when consumed in excess.
- You do not need as much fat and protein as you think. About 10 percent of each in your diet is sufficient for most people to feel their best. Many people have been victim to the hype of the dairy, meat and fitness industry about needing more protein but this is simply not true.
There are many vegan athletes and even regular people who thrive without a high-protein diet. Yes, you need some protein, but as long as you have a well-rounded diet composed of fruit, vegetables, greens and some nuts and seeds, you will not become protein deficient.
Fat is similar; you don’t need as much as you think you do. You can get sufficient amounts from a healthy vegan diet.
A word to the wise: The fewer carbohydrates you eat (preferably from fruit, potatoes, rice and other complex carbs), the more fat and protein your body will require. The guideline I follow for optimal energy and health is about 80 percent carbs, 10 percent fat, 10 percent protein. I feel my best if most of my carbs come from various, ripe fruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, lately, only on the boat this looks like:
Breakfast: 1 liter of orange juice, 5 bananas.
Lunch: Either more fruit, such as a 5-10 banana smoothie, or a salad, legumes and a large amount of either rice, quinoa or potatoes.
Snack: Whole grain bread (not ideal for me but used for quick, easy fuel) or rice cakes and 2 tablespoons of almond or peanut butter and a sprinkle of coconut sugar.*
Dinner: Similar to lunch.
* If I’ve had nut butters during the day, I stay away from olive oils or avocados, and vice versa. As a rule 10 percent of fat for the day equals half an avocado or 2 tablespoons of nut butter.
There is a lot of give-and-take living on a boat when someone else is cooking, however, I try to stick to this ratio when I can to feel my best.
Try this for a week. Eat an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, greens and cooked carbohydrates without additional oils and animal products and see how you feel. If you’re still hungry after your low-fat meal, you’re not eating enough carbohydrates.
Angela Orecchio is a chief stew and certified health coach. This column was edited from entries in her blog, The Yachtie Glow (www.angelaorecchio.com), which offers tips for crew on how to be healthy, fit and happy on board. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.