One hundred years ago this Sunday, the legendary Titanic went down in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, tragically claiming the lives of more than 1,500 passengers and crew members. And as the world pauses this week to remember the historic disaster, it's important to reflect on how easily this catastrophe could have been avoided with a healthy, nutritious diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Back in its time, the RMS Titanic was the biggest and grandest ship that had ever been built, complete with a vast lending library, a Turkish bath, opulent dining halls, and even gold-plated light fixtures. More than 880 feet long and equipped with all the latest in seafaring technology, most declared it unsinkable, a regrettable boast that overlooked the vessel's gravest threat: a diet high in sugar, fat, and sodium.
In retrospect, the greatest tragedy of the mighty Titanic foundering on its maiden voyage is that an open, honest conversation about what foods passengers should and shouldn't have been putting in their bodies would have saved the great ship from violently tearing in two and dragging countless men, women, and children into the ice-cold abyss.
Believe me, as a busy mom with two girls, I know just how easy it is to fall into poor dietary habits, and eating well can be especially difficult when traveling. Those on board the world's most famous passenger liner probably wound up grabbing whatever food was most available and convenient, food that was probably laden with empty calories and devoid of the vital nutrients our bodies need. No wonder the thing hit that iceberg and sank.
If only a fresh bowl of fruit or baby-cut carrots had been available to passengers on the Titanic so they could make healthy snacking choices, then seven of every 10 of them wouldn't have ended up flailing futilely in the open ocean and crying out for mercy as their organs shut down one by one from the extreme cold.
And they'd be setting a great example for their kids!
I guarantee when those parents realized their kids had followed the same path they had and were freezing to death beside them, their dying wish was that they had made healthier choices, and packed some apple slices.
Now, a transatlantic cruise on the world's most luxurious ship was certainly a cause for celebration, and we all have "special occasion foods" we love—for me it's French fries, and Barack loves his milk chocolates. But we must remember which foods are treats that we eat only sometimes, and which foods are best for nourishing our bodies every day. Given the dishes rich in high-fat dairy and red meats served to the upper tier of passengers on the Titanic, it's no wonder they didn't have the strength and energy to hold onto the deck railings of the stricken ship's severed stern as it rose to a near vertical position, plunging them into the fatally cold water below.
Those first- and second-class travelers who succumbed to the piercing, full-body agony of being submerged in 28-degree seawater could have benefitted from this handy tip about portion control: Keep your servings of lean protein to the size of the back of your fist. It's that simple!
However, as in so many cases, it was those with the least resources who suffered the most. The poorest passengers traveling in the Titanic's steerage, many of whom were locked below deck as their cramped quarters slowly filled with frigid seawater, had no access to fresh produce or healthy grains. This is what we call a "food desert" today, and it's truly a tragedy. Those unfortunate souls never even had a chance to eat right.
Sadly, those aboard the great passenger liner hadn't learned simple tips for healthy eating—such as adding fresh peas to your rice dishes or hiding freshly chopped cucumbers in your children's sandwiches—and because of this, the 52,000-ton boat plunged to the ocean floor, creating an inescapable undertow that drowned helpless individuals by the hundreds.
But as we look back a century later on history's most famous maritime tragedy, let us heed the lessons of the past. If there is one thing that still rings true from the sinking of the mighty Titanic 100 years ago, it's that we must make sure half our plates are covered with fresh fruits and veggies at mealtimes.