Healthy living means different things to nearly everyone.

There’s no right or wrong way to define healthy living, but I take this from Livestrong.com.

“A healthy lifestyle leaves you fit, energetic and at reduced risk for disease, based on the choices you make about your daily habits. Good nutrition, daily exercise and adequate sleep are the foundations for continuing good health. Managing stress in positive ways, instead of through smoking or drinking alcohol, reduces wear and tear on your body at the hormonal level. For a longer and more comfortable life, put together your plan for a health lifestyle and live up to it.”

If you are reading this section of Women Offshore, then most of that quote should ring true to you.  It does to me, and I prioritize healthy living and wellness in my life.  But how do we manage living that healthy lifestyle in an environment that seems bent on making us unhealthy?  It all comes down to choices.  For the next couple of posts, I’d like to address different aspects of healthy living, and ways to achieve it even when the odds are against you.

Let’s Talk Good Nutrition…

…because it is important.  Anyone in the fitness industry will tell you that so much of your success hinges on eating right.  This almost makes me laugh when I think of nutrition in an environment where there is a day commonly known as “Fried Friday.” Maybe I laugh so I don’t cry.  For whatever reason, an oil rig is a difficult place to find healthy food options.   This will largely depend on the catering company that your vessel has (if they have one), and whether healthy options are a priority to anyone in positions of authority.  According to the USDA, your diet should contain mostly lean proteins, whole grains, whole fruits, vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.  At the very least, strive for a balanced diet using the Choose My Plate guidelines.

I’m not going to give suggestions on how you should be eating, that is up to you, your body type, and your goals.  But let’s go over the Choose My Plate food groups, talk better-for-you options, and I’ll share some of my personal food choices that work for me.

Fruits

Focus on whole fruits, rather than juices.  Whether fresh, frozen, or dried, these are better for you and will definitely keep you feeling filled up longer than juice.  Canned fruit is good as well, but unless you are able to see the can and check on how much sugar has been added, I would steer clear.

Fruits are great source of energy as a healthy carbohydrate.  I’ll definitely take fresh fruit, especially bananas and berries when they are available right after getting groceries.

Vegetables

Your Mom always told you to eat your vegetables.  Now I’ll add to make sure that you vary them!  You want to include leafy green veggies, brightly colored veggies, legumes, and starches as part of your balanced diet.  They will help with digestion, will definitely keep you feeling full, and are full of nutrient and health benefits.

The issue I see so often on the rig is that there will be a vegetable side dish on the hot line, but it will be literally drowned in oil or butter.  The health benefits have been overcooked right out of the dish, and too many unhealthy fats added to it.  Unless it is very clear to me that the vegetables have been steamed or roasted, I will generally head for the raw salad bar instead.

Grains

Grains include things like bread, cereal, pasta, oatmeal, tortillas… anything that comes from a grain!  They are further divided into whole and refined grains.  Refined grains have a finer texture and better shelf life (making them better for storage and consumption on oceangoing vessels).  However, they have had much of their dietary fiber, iron, and vitamins removed.  You’ll find refined grains in things like white bread, rice, and flour.  At least half the grains you eat should be whole grains.

This one is not typically too difficult for me, as we have plenty of cereal options and nearly always have wheat bread available.  However, nearly all your baked goods, breakfast breads, and break tray sandwiches are going to be made with refined grains.  Steer clear of those and go for the whole grain cereals, brown rice, and whole wheat bread.

Grains are a great source of energy as a carbohydrate, and those whole grains will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Protein

You want to get the right amount of protein for your body from various sources.  These sources include both animal sources like seafood, meat, and poultry, as well as plant, like nuts, beans, and peas.  Your body needs protein for maintaining muscle mass, and protein will keep you feeling full.  Protein sources are typically available at every meal, but they are often in the shape of fattening meats like breakfast sausage in the mornings and lots of pork and beef.

Things you might consider, talk to the cook on your vessel about leaner protein options.  There’s nothing wrong with fattier meat portions in moderation, but moderation is the key. On my rig, you can have a chicken breast cooked at any meal, which is a great source of lean protein. There are days where there’s nothing but fried seafood, or it’s junk food day (read pizza and wings). On those days, I’ll request a chicken breast, and sometimes get one to go also!

Dairy

Make the switch to low or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt.  Eat ice cream in moderation.  Dairy is good for your bones because of the calcium it contains. However, it is easy to exceed your ideal calorie intake by overindulging in dairy, particularly if it is full fat.  Again, fats in moderation!

Balance

At the end of the day, it’s all about balance when it comes to your nutrition.  And that is largely up to you.
I can tell you what works for me though.  When I head out for my three weeks, I carry certain foods to the rig with me.  I bring whey protein, to drink after my workout.  In case the salad bar isn’t refreshed often enough, I bring a greens powder supplement.  I bring pre-packaged pouches of tuna, for the days when I can’t stand the thought of another chicken breast.  Too help curb my sweet tooth, and stay away from all those baked goods, I bring my favorite dark chocolates.  And I have a water bottle and tupperwares.  I typically fill these tupperwares up at the primary mealtimes of the day, choosing to eat smaller meals every 3-4 hours.  These meals consist of lean protein, whole grain carbohydrates or fruit, and vegetables.

There are certain meals on the rig that I really enjoy.  Our Chinese night is amazing, so I often allow myself a splurge meal there to enjoy some General Tso’s chicken and lo mein.  If there’s strawberry cupcakes out, or fresh donuts, those are the occasional indulgence.  But I find that by eating a balanced diet, I keep my energy levels up, I keep my weight stable, and my mood good.

What works for you?

We want to hear what works for you, on the vessels you work on. Share this with us by leaving a comment below!