Nova Scotia

No fried food on frigates as navy takes aim at fatty fare

The Royal Canadian Navy is launching an offence against an all-too-familiar enemy right in its midst: fatty, fried foods.

Steam ovens will replace deep fryers and charbroilers on all ships

Members of the navy can spend months on vessels like the one above. Food is a key component while maintaining morale among the crew. (Royal Canadian Navy)

The Royal Canadian Navy is launching an offence against an all-too-familiar enemy right in its midst: fatty, fried foods.

Navy ships are ridding their kitchens of deep fryers and charbroilers and replacing them with high-powered steam ovens in an effort to provide healthier options for crew members.

Lt.-Cmdr. Deanna Wilson said the new appliances, known as combi-steam ovens, will still provide sailors with treats like fries and steak — just without the extra fat.

"We are able to offer products that still give you that feeling of comfort food, just not with the added deep-fried oil," said Wilson.

Morale booster

Lt. Matt Stickland has been in the navy for nine years and though he tried to eat healthy, he knows some people won't be so receptive to the change.

Matt Stickland, a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy, says bacon was once dropped from the menu at sea. He says the crew didn't handle it well. (Shutterstock)

"There was some guys who lived and died by the deep fryer, and Fish Friday was the king of days for them," said Stickland.

Once, when bacon was taken off the menu, "people lost their minds."

"It lasted about a week," he recalled.

Stickland said good-tasting grub is key to keeping up morale when on the ocean for prolonged periods of time.

"There are some guys who were really struggling to stay healthy," he said. "Healthy food generally doesn't taste as good when its mass-produced."

Healthier cooking methods will provide better food for those trying to stay fit.

Safety concerns

Wilson said there are also safety concerns with deep fryers and charbroilers on board navy ships. 

"When we're out on the ocean rocking and rolling, the liquid inside the deep fat fryers can slop about and it can go on the floor," she said.

The new ovens have additional safety features that will avoid damage if the ship is struck at high seas. 

A healthier navy

The Department of National Defence said in a news release the new ovens will not only provide nourishment, but also produce less food waste. They are also more energy efficient.

Wilson said it's hoped all navy ships will be outfitted with the steam ovens within three years.

There was some guys who lived and died by the deep fryer, and Fish Friday was the king of days for them.- Matt Stickland, retired navy lieutenant

The ovens are not the only change the navy has made to encourage healthier lifestyles on board.

Alcohol consumption was banned while at sea in 2014 and beer was taken out of vending machines.

The following year, a former naval communicator who spent 13 years working aboard ships told the Veterans Review and Appeal Board the food he ate at sea resulted in health complications including hypertension.

The 47-year-old unidentified man said he was fit and slim when he began working for the navy and gained a significant amount of weight after eating a diet high in sodium and fat.