So, what is a "good" diet? The concept of a good diet has changed radically over the past few decades. Anyone mildly interested in nutrition knows that the meat-and-potatoes, Four Food Group, guide of the 1950s has been replaced by the Food Guide Pyramid, which is grounded in a base of whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables, with lesser amounts of animal protein and dairy foods. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans urge less fat, salt, cholesterol, and sugar intake; more fiber; and alcohol in moderation, or not at all. Of course that won't be a popular notion for sailors, but remember, those are just "guidelines."
Protein Gone are the days when athletes focused exclusively on protein, but there are three occasions when you might need more of this nutrient than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): (1) when your calorie intake is low; (2) if you're out of shape or a beginning sailor; and (3) for endurance events lasting two hours or more. There exists very little sports nutrition research directed solely at sailors, but most sports nutritionists and trainers equate sailors' needs with those of cross-country runners and cyclists. Therefore, sailors who are actively training and racing likely require more protein than the RDA. However, the amount of extra protein is easily consumed by eating a typical American diet providing 15 percent of total calories. For a sailor who eats a 3,000-calorie diet, this quantity translates into 110 grams of protein—the amount found in two four-ounce servings of lean meat, chicken, or fish plus two cups of skim milk.
Vegetarians can easily fulfill their needs with soy foods, nuts, and beans in addition to other items from the Food Guide Pyramid.
Carbohydrates Carbohydrates are an athlete's number one fuel source. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are found in fruit, milk, and candies. Complex carbohydrates come packaged in whole-grain breads and cereals, pastas, crackers, dried beans, and vegetables. For sailors, 60 to 70 percent of the day's caloric intake should come from carbohydrates, with one-fourth or less from simple sources and the remainder from complex carbohydrates. Again, on a 3,000-calorie diet, this amount of carbohydrates could come in: four slices of bread, one and a half cups of flake cereal, 12 saltine crackers, two cups spaghetti, one baked potato, two cups tossed salad vegetables, one cup broccoli, one cup carrots, three cups 100-percent juice, one orange, and one banana.
Simple sugars eaten directly before an event can lead to the light-headed and dizzy symptoms of hypoglycemia about two hours later. However, sipping or munching on simple sugars, whether it is juice or a granola bar, about an hour into the competition or immediately after, can help replenish muscle carbohydrate (called "glycogen") stores. Eating complex carbohydrates before competition or training has the advantage of stocking the muscles full of stored glycogen and providing many vitamins and minerals. Unlike simple sugars, consuming complex carbohydrates before competition will not lead to hypoglycemia.
Fats During endurance activities, fat's importance as a fuel source decreases as the intensity of the exercise increases. Therefore, only 30 percent of calories in the diet should come from fat. This makes good sense regarding the health of your heart too. The emphasis should be on unsaturated, low-cholesterol fats like plant oils. Avoid fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and especially the often-unrecognized fats in processed foods and bakery goods.
Fluids Inadequate fluid intake can hurt athletic performance in as little as 30 minutes, which is an important issue whether you're a racer or a cruiser, or just out daysailing. Muscles are made up of 70 percent water, and sailing on a hot, humid day can result in the loss of more than two quarts of body water per hour. Unfortunately, thirst is not a reliable indicator of the body's fluid needs while exercising. The best bet is to consciously drink fluids before, during, and after an event, practice, or other strenuous sail.
The ideal beverage to drink is water. Prior to an event, drink enough to quench thirst—then a little bit more. In addition to water, other good dietary sources of fluid are milk, fruit juice, soups, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Avoid excessively caffeinated sodas and alcohol. Both of these beverages have a dehydrating effect. Sports drinks, like Gatorade, offer sugar, few minerals, and little other nutritional value. Fruit juice is a better choice for replenishing what your body needs. Juice supplies natural sugar and the mineral potassium. And though athletes tend to lose a significant amount of sodium, this is easily compensated by foods in the normal American diet.
Provisioning for Cruisers While performance isn't the goal of provisioning for cruisers, pleasure is. To achieve that, I recommend you start by making menus, even if it's just a loose sketch of the entrees you'll eat for the duration of the trip or until the next provisioning stop. Be sure that you have something from at least three of the five food groups—breads and grains, fruits, vegetables, protein foods, and dairy—included in each meal for good, balanced nutrition. Then use your menu to create your shopping list, taking care to check what you already have on hand. At the supermarket, don't be afraid to deviate from the list if you find something better priced, fresher, or tastier when you get to the store. Just make the adjustment on your list, and then post the list in the galley as a reminder of what's for dinner each day. Keep the list from week to week or trip to trip as a jump-start for provisioning or a way to fine-tune the amounts of certain foods you truly need.
If your first few hours at sea are expected to be rough, you should definitely jump-start meal preparation. And have plenty of high-nutrition, easy-to-eat snacks readily at hand, like fresh fruits, single-serve packages of pretzels, peanuts, and dried fruits, as well as trail mixes, breakfast or granola bars, homemade muffins, or oatmeal cookies. Consider packing along a homemade frozen casserole and defrost it for the first day's meal. You might also want to prep vegetables ahead of time and store them in plastic bags. Create pre-bagged mixes that you can cook or bake. My favorite is a fiber-rich whole wheat bread-in-a-bag. Not only does this trick save measuring out individual ingredients, but kneading the dough in the bag works great for those interiors where counter space is scarse.
Food Safety When you're out on the water, keeping food safe in the glare and heat of direct sunlight can be a big safety problem. The danger zone—from 40 to 140 degrees F—is where bacteria multiply rapidly. Foodstuffs can become unsafe if held in this temperature range for over two hours. At 90 degrees F or above, food can become dangerous after only one hour. In direct sunlight, temperatures can climb even higher than these, so stock foods in the refrigerator or bring along plenty of ice and keep the cooler shaded or covered with a blanket. Better yet, bring two coolers: one for drinks and snacks, and another for more perishable foods. The drink cooler will be opened and closed a lot, which lets hot air in and causes the ice to melt faster. Pack your coolers with several inches of ice, blocks of ice, or frozen gel-packs. Store food in watertight containers to prevent contact with melting ice water. Perishable foods like luncheon meats, cooked chicken, potato and pasta salads are among those foods best kept chilled. Remember, there are enough gremlins out there on the water intent on upsetting you, and having a bout of stomach illness is the last thing any sailor should have to deal with.
The Well-Equipped Galley by Kathy Barron
Stowing the Provisions by Beth Leonard
A Safe and Sound Galley by Joy Smith
SailNet Store Section: Refrigeration Systems