Culinary Waves: by Chef Mary Beth Lawton Johnson
As yachties, we are used to doing things to their best. We do everything to make sure we keep our resumes in top-notch order, the yacht in pristine shape, and the guests in top quality entertainment in gorgeous surroundings.
But what about our bodies? Do we put as much effort into taking care of our bodies as we do in taking care of others?
This column is devoted to all the people I have encountered in yachting over my career as a chef who have had a stroke or heart attack. Some were owners or guests, some lived onboard. From brain aneurysms to cardiac-related incidents and even blood clots, I have witnessed it all. Less than a month ago, a loved one in Italy suffered a stroke while on a call with me on WhatsApp.
Genetics play a huge role in the outcome of our lives so it would help to have a genetics test to find out if there is a family history of heart problems. Of course, just because our relatives have had problems doesn’t mean we have to. What we put in our bodies is what we really are. Thirty years of snack and processed foods floating around in our bloodstream will clog our arteries no matter what our family history says.
I ask my fellow yachties to reconsider those big, thick steaks and switch a few of them out for a leaner protein such as lamb, turkey, bison, even buffalo. Instead of carbohydrates loaded with fat (baked potatoes, pasta), switch in some complex carbohydrates such as cauliflower, quinoa, and sweet potato.
Now just imagine the good stuff floating around in our system for the next 30 or 40 years. Kind of makes a big difference, don’t you think?
The key is to gradually eliminate bad fats, processed foods, and high fat proteins in the diet. It’s not necessary to change everything in one day. Eating this way is an acquired taste and takes time. Consider it a lifestyle change.
I recently put a “morbidly obese” friend on a diet. He lost over 120 pounds, all because of changes he made in what he ate and didn’t eat. Instead of steak, he tried turkey tenderloin, rack of lamb, and fish and shellfish. Add in a variety of vegetables, especially ones with color such as red and orange bell peppers, leafy greens such as kale and spinach, and broccoli rabe. Instead of white rice, try whole grain, quinoa or a riced vegetable like cauliflower. Instead of pasta with butter and cream sauce, use a spiralizer or special peeler and create zoodles (zucchini noodles). Simply sauté in a little garlic and 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
It’s never too late to correct our diet. Changing just one decision about the food we put in our bodies will start to make a shift in the level of hunger and satiety each of us feels every day. We will start to see a difference in the appearance of our skin, hair, and nails, not to mention how our clothes fit. Simple changes equal life-long results.
We don’t have to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors when it comes to our diet. We simply have to make smarter choices and, in 30 to 40 years, our bodies will thank us.
Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years. Comments are welcome below.