Seafarers’ diets are equally healthy as those working ashore. On the other hand, they smoke more, are more often overweight and get less exercise. These facts were illustrated by a report published in the spring on diets and exercise habits among people working at sea.
According to the investigation, seafarers eat more fruit, vegetables and fish compared with other occupational groups. As many as 40% of them follow the recommendation of the National Food Administration and eat five fruits and vegetables per day when they are at sea, and 13% fulfil these recommendations when they are at home. The corresponding figure for Swedes in general is only 7%.
Seafarers eat fish on average twice a week, which is more frequent than the average Swede, and far fewer use butter on their sandwiches compared with the population in general. However, more fatty food and cakes are eaten at sea, and seamen consume more soft drinks than their land-based counterparts.
More sausage and potato chipson board
Sausage consumption is characteristic for those at sea. Almost 30% of respondents ate sausage in a main meal more than once a week onboard, and 25% did the same while on leave. The equivalent figure for the rest of the population is 12%. Seamen also eat more potato chips than Swedes in general.
In the survey, crewmembers were asked for their opinions about the food served onboard. 11% were not satisfied, 18% were neutral, while 74% were satisfied with the food. Dissatisfaction was largely aimed at the cooking: too much fat, too many pre-packed meals and lack of variation.
In general the largest numbers of dissatisfied crewmembers were on passenger ships, where almost 30% felt that the food they ate at sea was unhealthy. One reason for this may be the attitude of the cooks. At least this is what Nestor Ramallo at Mat IQ believes, who organised the survey.
The survey into food habits, physical activities and health of Swedish seafarers was carried out by the company Mat-IQ and was financed by the Swedish Mercantile Marine Foundation. Seven shipping companies participated: Broströms, Furetank, Scandlines, Stena Line, Thunrederi, TT-Line and Wallenius. The questionnaire on health was filled in by 529 Swedish employees onboard, of whom two thirds were men and one-third women.
Cooking for the crew unpopular task
– Cooking food for the personnel is not always the most popular task among cooks on cruise ships. I was on a ship where one of the cooks had to work between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. cooking for the crew, and that particular job was considered to be a punishment.
The survey also shows that people working onboard are more often overweight than other Swedes. On passenger ships 61% of the crew was overweight compared with 51% on cargo ships.
Another problem at sea was the use of tobacco. The highest figure was for women in accounting, where 40% were smokers. Next frequent was smoking among men working with accounts, on deck and in machine rooms, where 24% were smokers. 12% of the officers were smokers.