Eating Healthy While on a Cruise

The mere mention of taking a cruise elicits images of lavish meals, endless buffets, and tall, frosty beverages. And with early breakfasts and midnight buffets, you can eat around the clock. In most cases, the cost of food is included in your payment for the cruise, so you will never see a price—essentially, the caviar is free! So is the chocolate croissant, and the filet mignon, and the fettuccine Alfredo, and the crème brulee, and...

So you see how easy it is to overeat on a cruise. Even the best low-calorie, small-portion intentions can go awry when—at 2 AM—you are encouraged to nibble on wedges of sea creature-shaped cheese and olives stuffed with lobster. Here are some tips to help you enjoy the fare on your cruise without feeling deprived or oversized by the time you disembark.

Breakdown the Buffet

Cruise ship buffet tables often look like works of art, making it very difficult to pass up their offerings. Try some of these strategies to breakdown the buffet.

  • Walk around the whole buffet table once and check out all of your options before taking anything.
  • Choose the more exotic or gourmet foods and pass on those that you can have anytime at home.
  • Take small tastes of each food, and tell yourself you can always go back if you need to.
  • Put at least one fruit and one vegetable on your plate. If possible, try and fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Once you have filled your plate, choose a seat in another room or far away from the buffet table to eat.
  • Eat slowly, taking the time to really taste each food; to do so, put your fork down between each bite. The goal is to enjoy your food, but also to try and eat less.
  • Before heading back for seconds, take 20 minutes to rest and digest. It takes the brain this long to get the message from the stomach that you are full and have had enough calories. By resting first, listening to your body, you may find that you are satisfied.

Order Smart

As in any restaurant, knowing your way around a menu can help you make more healthful selections.

  • Look for these lighter choices: fruits, vegetables; salads; baked, broiled, or grilled fish or chicken; and fruit-based desserts.
  • Avoid these heavier dishes, or order them less often and in smaller portions: fried, deep-fried, scalloped, au gratin, in cheese sauce, in cream sauce, in butter, breaded, battered.
  • Dip shrimp and lobster in lemon juice instead of butter.
  • Order sauces and salad dressings on the side, so you can control how much is added.
  • Control your portions:
    • Ask that the chef cut your beef, chicken, or fish in half.
    • Order a salad and an appetizer instead of an entrée, which are often large and accompanied by several side dishes.
    • Share an entrée with a friend, and order a salad, soup, or appetizer to start.
    • Ask for vegetables in place of fattier side dishes, such as French fries or onion rings.
  • Split a dessert with your travel companions, rather than having one all to yourself.
  • Limit your desserts, just because it is offered at every meal does not mean you have to eat it.
  • If you overindulge one meal or one day, make lighter choices at the next.

Drink Responsibly

Beverages can pack quite a caloric punch, too.

  • Soft drinks, cocktails, beer, and wine contain calories. Order spring water, unsweetened iced tea, or diet beverages instead.
  • When having cocktails, order a glass of water between each drink; you will end up drinking less alcohol overall, which means less calories and less chance of a hangover.

Burn, Baby, Burn

Do not just consume calories, burn some too. There are many great options for exercise on a cruise.

  • Go dancing, visit the health club on board, and use the ship's deck as a running or walking track.
  • After each meal, take a stroll around the deck.
  • Do not just float in the pool, swim laps or play a few rounds of tag.
  • During excursions to the mainland, walk instead of taking a bus or taxi whenever you can.
  • Take advantage of side trips for snorkeling, diving, or playing on the beach.

Enjoy Yourself

Be sure to relax and enjoy yourself. If you do come home with a few extra pounds, you can apply these same tips to your daily life to develop a healthful lifestyle.


American Dietetic Association

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