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Nutrition for boaters

The nutritional concerns you should be aware of will vary depending on the type of boating you plan to do. Boat trips can last hours, days or weeks or even longer. And the kind of vessel and its propulsion method can have an effect on your level of physical activity, which has a corresponding effect on your nutritional and health status.Boating may affect your eating pattern in a way that can have both short- and long-term nutritional and health consequences. Most boats have limited capacity for safe storage of perishable food, and cooking aboard is often inconvenient. This tilts boaters' menu planning toward preserved instead of fresh foods and concentrated instead of bulky foods. In the short term, these shifts may not be an issue, but on longer trips they can cause problems. The nutritional concerns you should be aware of will vary depending on the type of boating you plan to do. Boat trips can last hours, days or weeks or even longer. And the kind of vessel and its propulsion method can have an effect on your level of physical activity, which has a corresponding effect on your nutritional and health status. A leisurely cruise on a powerboat, for example, may involve a very low to moderate level of exertion. On the other hand, boating in a non-motorized vessel like a canoe, kayak or sailboat usually involves a high level of physical activity.

In 2011, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, about 83 million Americans, or nearly one-third of the country's adult population, participated in recreational boating. About 15 percent sail, about 15 percent paddle in kayaks or canoes, and about 60 percent use powerboats — 96 percent of which are 26 feet or less. Thus most vessels are suitable for a day trip close to a shore base, while only a few are appropriate for a long-term, long-distance cruise. For day-trip boaters on small vessels, the primary concern is food safety, whereas boaters heading out for a longer cruise need to also concern themselves with the nutritional value of their food.

While boating, you need to think about issues such as food availability and convenience, of course, but also issues such as how much fresh versus conserved food you eat, whether you're getting enough vitamins and minerals, how to help your body maintain proper microbiota and regularity, as well as what ailments you might be at risk of due to changes in your nutrition and lifestyle.The dietary guidelines recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encompass an appropriate mix of foods from five key food groups, as well as an eye toward caloric balance. The USDA classifies food into these five groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein.

Vegetables are an important source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Dark-green vegetables are rich in vitamin K, red and orange vegetables in vitamin A, legumes in dietary fiber, and starchy vegetables in potassium. The USDA recommends eating between 2 and 3 cups a day, depending on your age and sex, of fresh, frozen, canned or dried vegetables in cooked or raw form, including vegetable juices. Eating a variety of vegetables is the best way to obtain all necessary nutrients. If you're day-boating or cruising in intracoastal waters, you can easily and regularly re-provision with fresh vegetables. But if you're planning an ocean-going cruise, fresh vegetables will be hard to store or come by so you'll need to consider preserved vegetables — canned or dried — while still aiming for variety. Canned legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are a familiar and excellent option. A less familiar but equally good option are canned leafy greens, such as spinach, collard greens, mustard greens and turnip greens. In countries where refrigeration is less common, you may find an even greater variety of canned greens.

Fruits are important source of dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Fruits can be fresh, canned, frozen or dried or in juice form. The USDA recommends eating between 11/2 and 2 cups a day, depending on your age and sex. Whole fruit is preferable to juice because it contains dietary fiber; in addition, the calories in juice can add up quickly without satisfying your hunger. Many kinds of fruit keep well if they haven't been previously frozen. For longer trips, you can choose from a wide variety of canned fruit. If you use canned fruit, be sure to check for the presence of added sugars and choose varieties with the least amount. And remember that dried fruit is especially suitable for a boat pantry because it provides twice the nutrients as the same amount of fresh fruit.

Grains are categorized as either whole or refined. The bran and germ of whole grains include many nutrients, including dietary fiber, iron, zinc, manganese, folate, magnesium, copper, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, selenium, riboflavin and vitamin A. The USDA recommends eating between 5 and 7 ounces of grains a day, depending on your age and sex, with at least half of that amount being whole grains. A healthy diet should include a variety of grains, such as oatmeal, quinoa, whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, cereals, pasta and crackers; brown rice is a good choice on land but is less convenient on a boat due to its long cooking time. If you prefer refined grains, such as white bread and pasta and refined cereals, you should be sure to take a multivitamin/mineral supplement fortified with folic acid. Remember, too, that many refined grain products, such as cookies, cakes and some snacks, contain added sugars that may unnecessarily increase your calorie intake.

Dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soymilk, are an important source of minerals (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, magnesium and selenium), vitamins (A, D, riboflavin and B12), and protein. The USDA recommends consuming about 3 cups a day of mostly fat-free and low-fat dairy products. Your dairy options while boating may be limited, especially on small boats with no refrigeration. In such circumstances, the best choice is pasteurized milk in aseptic packaging, which doesn't require refrigeration until it's opened, and in a size small enough that the contents can be used up upon being opened. Nonfat powdered milk is another good option for extended cruises. If you don't have access to safe diary products, be sure to eat other foods containing potassium, calcium and vitamin D or to take a multivitamin/mineral supplement.

Protein is available from both animal and plant sources, including seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes and diary and soy products. The USDA recommends eating between 5½ and 6 ounces a day, depending on your age and sex. In addition to protein, these foods also provide vitamins, minerals and fat. Meat provides iron, which is needed for hemoglobin production. Seafood is a great source of vitamin B12, vitamin D and polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts and seeds are an important source of vitamin E. It's a good idea to include some meat in your diet, but remember that the typical American eats more meat than necessary for health. Fresh meat is ordinarily recommended over processed meats, such as bacon, sausage and ham. However, processed meat may be the only viable option for a long voyage. Seafood is usually easily available onboard a boat — but exercise caution in selecting and storing seafood. Methylmercury may be present in varying amounts in any seafood; check with local authorities regarding methylmercury levels in specific local species and don't rely exclusively on seafood for your protein. If you catch your own fish, make sure you know local regulations and stay alert for algae bloom notifications. Nuts are a great source of protein and can be stored easily on a long voyage — but remember that they're high in calories, so consume nuts in small portions. And beware of the salt content in processed meats and nuts. Remember, too, that canned beans and other legumes are a good way to satisfy your need for protein and can be easily stored on a boat.The USDA recommends a calorie intake for sedentary adult women of between 1,800 calories and 2,000 calories, and for sedentary adult men of between 2,000 calories and 2,200 calories. If you lead a more active lifestyle — with a physical activity level equivalent to walking at least 3 miles a day at a pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to your activities of daily living — then your energy requirements increase by at least 500 to 600 calories a day. A high-intensity activity like competitive sailing, for example, increases your recommended calorie intake to between 3,500 calories and 5,800 calories a day. Kayaking or canoeing are usually classified as a moderate physical activity, burning between 3.5 and 7 calories a minute (or between 200 and 420 calories an hour), so prolonged kayaking burns a significant amount of energy. And elite rowers may burn more than 1,000 calories an hour. In contrast, most people aboard a powerboat will expend less energy than they do in their daily lives ashore, unless they actively pursue exercise opportunities. Thus the challenge boaters face in maintaining a healthy energy balance vary widely. Elite sailors and kayakers with high calorie needs may have to resort to high-energy foods as more convenient to their circumstances than a typical healthy eating plan. Boaters who plan to cruise for weeks at time, on the other hand, may be at risk of gaining weight due to eating a diet heavy in preserved and high-calorie foods rather than fresh and high-nutrient foods.

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