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How To Avoid Overeating On A Cruise

Updated on March 5, 2012

Staying In Ship Shape

This past February, I took my first cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines. As someone who is attempting to lose weight, I was a little bit nervous about taking a cruise vacation. After all, whenever I mentioned my upcoming trip, everyone would be like, "Oh, you're going to be eating so much food!"

Indeed, the cruise ship did offer plenty of things to eat: there were buffet breakfasts and lunches, lavish dinners, snacks available 24/7 and pretty pink drinks aplenty. However, by doing some planning ahead of time and thinking about what I REALLY needed to eat during my vacation, I actually managed to LOSE three pounds during the trip!

That said, it is possible to go on a cruise where you can avoid overeating, stay healthy and most of all, enjoy yourself! Here are some simple tips for taking a healthy cruise.

Healthy Eating On A Cruise

Get Moving!

One of the easiest ways to stay in shape on a cruise vacation is to exercise and stay active:

1. Participate in the ship's many activities. Almost all ships have a pool area -- instead of simply lounging in the sun, try to get in a few laps. Also take time to join in the dance competitions, play some mini golf, try out the ship's surfing ride, water slide, etc.

2. Explore your surroundings. Cruise ships are HUGE. I got in plenty of walking each day just by walking around the ship and checking out all of the shops and floors. You can get in even more exercise by taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

3. Work it off. Many cruise ships have exercise gyms and a running/walking track. Find some time each day to use these.

4. Get off at port. Whenever the ship stops at an interesting place, get off the boat and check it out -- and make sure to get some walking in. Our cruise stopped in Key West and Cozumel; in each place, we got in several miles of walking just by exploring the area. 

Avoid Gaining Weight On A Cruise

Everything In Moderation

If you go on a cruise with the plan to limit your food, chances are you'll end up overeating in the end. Instead, do not deny yourself treats and go for eating them in moderation instead.

5. Avoid hot food at breakfast. This kind of food typically consists of eggs, bacon, sausages and potatoes -- not exactly healthy fare. Instead, fill up on cold breakfast foods like fruits, cereals and skim milk and whole wheat toast. If you really want a hot meal, go to the omelet line and ask for an egg white omelet with veggies. Another great idea for some hot food is to have a cup of plain oatmeal with some raisins and fruit added in.

6. Try to avoid the lunch buffet. On cruise ships, the lunches can be as hearty and luxurious as the dinners. However, you only need ONE lavish meal. Skip the buffet at lunch and opt for something smaller instead, like a sandwich or a slice of pizza. On our ship, we could get sandwiches that were on whole wheat bread and had items like lean turkey and low-fat mayo. They also offered many different types of pizzas, including veggie pizza. I loved the veggie pizza because it was filling and gave me a serving of fresh vegetables, to boot.

7. Start with a salad. Most ships have great salad bars at lunch. Bulk up on that before having your main meal -- but avoid using a lot of dressing (have it on the side) and stick to low-fat items like vegetables and lean meats. If you make a salad with pastas, cheeses and croutons, it can end up being very high in calories.

8. Drink in moderation. Those tropical drinks that cruises serve have enough calories to be a meal unto themselves! Don't avoid them altogether (it is your vacation after all!), but come up with a definite limit to how many you want per day, say two or three. Remember, they're also costly, so if thinking of their calories doesn't stop you from drinking, think of the money that's being spent.

9. Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated will not only help you feel full, but it's important to drink if you're spending a lot of time in the sun.

10. Try everything once. Want room service? Get it once and that's it. Want to go to the midnight buffet? Do it one time and leave it at that. Make sure you try everything you want to try when it comes to the food, but if you limit yourself, you won't overdo it -- and also won't feel like you missed out on anything. 

Health And Wellness Tips For Cruises

At The Dinner Table

One of the biggest places to get sucked into an eating trap on a cruise is at dinner. With a menu full of rich, elegant choices and amazing desserts, it's easy to overeat. Here are a few tips on how to keep things lean during the dinner hour.

11. Plan ahead. When you book your cruise, see if you can find out what a typical dinner menu is like. You can probably even get a look at it that morning. This way, you can decide which meal you want ahead of time and make a good selection.

12. See if there are low-fat or vegetarian options. Many lines like Carnival, now offer healthier options each evening. If you don't see one on that day's menu, don't be afraid to ask. The cruise is there to serve you and most likely will have an option available.

13. Go small. Ask if you can have a half portion or appetizer portion of a main dish instead of the full plate. This way, you can enjoy the meal, but not go overboard.

14. Start with a soup. Soups tend to be low-calorie and filling. Begin with a vegetable soup to kick off a meal with a healthy starter. You'll get in some veggies and it'll help you eat less of the main dish.

15. Skip the bread. Why waste your calories on bread? Bread is yummy, but save the calories for a dish that you can't usually get at home.

16. Share and share alike. At our table on the cruise, we liked to share dishes. This way, we could try a little of everything, but not overindulge.

17. Don't ignore your sweet tooth. Instead of skipping dessert, get one or two items for the entire table and share everything. Round out the dessert platter with some fresh fruit or low-fat sorbet and you'll be able to enjoy that nice end to a meal.

18. Food is great, but fun comes first. Cruises are great for making new friends, especially at dinner when your seated with other shipmates. Instead of  burying your head in your food and gorging, chat with your neighbors. Concentrate on something other than food while you're there. Cruise food is great, but make sure you take in the ENTIRE experience! 

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