Maintaining your Weight on a Cruise

Maintaining weight when cruising is not a pipe dream. Sure, dining is a cruise highlight, tempting us nearly everywhere we turn. While national recommendations on keeping pounds off are constantly evolving — and sometimes contradictory — a combination of common sense and helpful tips can keep you from overeating on your next vacation.

We’ve got the secrets to success and are happy to share. Pick some or all as guidelines, and get ready to applaud yourself on the post-cruise scale.

Dining Room

Main dining rooms offer — and servers encourage — multicourse meals. Here are 10 tips to avoid overeating.

1. Don’t order an appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert every night. Stick to two or three courses to limit caloric intake.

2. Agree with travel companions to order the same number of courses. Otherwise, a planned two-course meal can become four. Even if you limit yourself while others order more, you could find yourself reaching for the bread basket again while waiting for them to finish.

3. Select the spa dinner menu — especially if you ate a pancake breakfast and lunchtime burger. Or, order one or two spa courses, and indulge in one dish on the regular menu. Think balance, not deprivation.

4. Tell the server no bread basket. Or, take one roll (whole-grain, preferably) and request the basket’s removal (or that the server not bring it round a second time).

5. Avoid salads with cream-based dressings. Same goes for cream-based soups.

6. Request salad dressing on the side. Add sparingly, or dip your fork into the dressing, and then the salad. The flavor comes through with way less calories. Do the same with sauces.

7. Vegetarian isn’t synonymous with low-calorie. Many such dishes contain rich dairy. Nut-based vegan meals can be high-calorie, too.

8. Unless you are gluten-intolerant, skip gluten-free bread. You may think it’s healthier, but it often has more calories than regular bread.

9. Stick to fish, preferably grilled or broiled. If sauteed, ask the chef to minimize oil or butter.

10. Choose one meal per day to splurge, and eat mindfully at others.

Specialty Restaurants

Specialty restaurants are geared for indulgence, and, of course, we want to try everything. Here’s how to dine mindfully at typical alternative eateries.


1. Order whole-grain or high-protein pasta, if available.

2. Fill up on low-calorie soup, like minestrone.

3. Stick to tomato-based, not cream, sauces. Some sauces, with innocent-sounding names like vodka or pink sauce, contain cream. Ask before ordering.

4. Split a pasta for a first course, and order fish or other lean protein as an entree.

5. Have a sweet tooth? Order a skinny cappuccino and enjoy the mini biscotti accompanying it.


1. Seek steamed dishes; they are among the most healthful.

2. Skip high-calorie peanut sauces for dishes like Thai satay.

3. Avoid fried food, such as egg rolls.

4. Pass on dishes named “crispy,” like crispy beef or shrimp. They’re fried. So are orange beef and lemon chicken.

5. Want a stir-fry? Order vegetables only and skip the meat.

6. If watching sodium intake, avoid soy sauce-based dishes. Request low-sodium soy sauce for the table.

7. Fill up on sashimi and limit rice-based rolls.

8. Avoid “spicy sauce” on a sushi menu; it’s made with mayonnaise.

9. Choose teriyaki over tempura. Tempura tastes light, but it’s still fried.

10. Pick steamed and baked dumplings, and skip potstickers. They’re crisped in oil on one side.


1. Onion soup sounds healthful, but has a thick cheese and bread topping. Order it plain; ask for a little grated cheese on top, instead.

2. If calorie-giant Caesar salad calls your name, compromise. Request dressing on the side, and skip or eat half the croutons. Use dressing sparingly, or dip the fork in it, and then spear the lettuce.

3. Order lean meats, like filet mignon, over fattier cuts, such as New York strip steak or prime rib.

4. If steaks are huge, share one. No one needs to eat 16 ounces of beef.

5. Enjoy a baked potato topped with seasoning and chives. Or, ask for plain yogurt as a sour cream substitute. If you crave “the works,” add toppings yourself. Servers can overload spuds, upping calories.

6. Avoid calorie-laden vegetables, like creamed spinach. Choose steamed spinach or grilled asparagus, instead.

7. Forgo or share mashed potatoes — so much butter and cream are whipped in.

Pool Grill

Here are five cool ways to munch lunch when the aroma of sizzling burgers proves irresistible.

1. Order burgers wrapped in lettuce rather than a bun. Or, order normally, and eat only half the bun.

2. Try turkey or vegetarian burgers; they typically have fewer calories than beef.

3. Choose raw onions over sauteed.

4. Skip “special sauces,” which typically contain mayonnaise.

5. Ask for a child-size burger, and fill the rest of your plate with salad and fresh fruit.

6. Avoid fried sides like French fries and onion rings. Or, ask for a half-order and share.

Room Service

Eating anything at 3 a.m. is not a good idea for your vacation weight loss plan. If you must dine in your cabin, here are a few ways to keep it healthy.

1. If nightly turndown chocolates are an amenity, ask the steward to not deliver them.

2. Tuck the room service menu into a drawer. When it’s on display, it’s easy to spontaneously order cheeseburgers and ice cream sundaes delivered to the cabin — especially if they’re free.

3. When ordering breakfast in — always handy on early-morning shore excursion days — forget about calorie-whopper croissants and blueberry muffins. Order whole-grain toast or a spa muffin, instead. (And pass or skimp on butter; sparingly add a little jam.)

4. Enjoy a salad or a healthful sandwich, like turkey on seven-grain bread, for a lunchtime meal on that beautiful balcony. Ask for fruit or salad, instead of fries, for a side. Eat half the bread.

5. If you crave a snack, force yourself to walk to it instead of picking up the phone and asking for food to come to you. Hopefully, your treat is sitting on a buffet a few decks (take the stairs) and a long stroll away. Grab just what you came for, ignore the many goodies on display and head back to your cabin to enjoy your “room service.”


Between-meal munching is the gateway to unwanted pounds. Here are four ways to minimize snacking’s caloric bomb.

1. Skip bar nuts and request crudites. Or, take a tiny handful of nuts and have the bowl removed.

2. Order nonfat frozen yogurt, rather than ice cream. At the ice cream bar, skip or limit toppings to fresh fruit. Have only one scoop, and no cone. Should you ignore all of the above, eat spa cuisine that night.

3. Many ships and riverboats have specialty coffee self-serve machines; these beverages often contain whole milk or cream, and sometimes, artificial flavoring. Request specialty coffee skinny-style (nonfat milk), where it’s prepared to order. Besides, the cookie plate sits by the machine — if you avoid the machine, you won’t be tempted to grab one.

4. Limit daily afternoon tea. Those scones with clotted cream and jam — to say nothing of sandwiches and cake — pile on pounds. Indulge once to savor the experience. On other days, stop by for tea alone.


It’s easy to drink too much on alcohol-included or prepaid beverage-package cruises, so think about what you choose.

1. Avoid cocktails, particularly tropical drinks served in jumbo glasses; they’re crazy-high in calories.

2. Choose light beer over traditional.

3. Order low-calorie spirits like vodka. Infused vodkas are great; ingredients like pepper or citrus add flavor, not calories.

4. Sip spritzers — white wine mixed with club soda.

5. Allow yourself one bar drink and one dinnertime glass of wine. On alcohol-included cruises, watch servers who keep topping off glasses. One glass easily turns into three with good service.

6. Skip after-dinner drinks or choose a light liqueur. Nightcaps like White Russians can have more than 400 calories.

7. Need a daytime pick-me-up? Have caffeinated iced or green tea instead of soda.

8. Don’t forget diet sodas; we view them as calorie-savers since they are calorie-free, and then splurge elsewhere.

Exercise is Your BFF

Burning calories tips the scale in your favor. Even if you’re not a gym rat, you can still make exercise fun.

1. Climb stairs; don’t take elevators. On bigger ships, with multitudes of decks, it’s a workout.

2. Exercise early in the morning. Delay it, and a busy day gets in the way of good intentions.

3. Don’t like fitness centers? Walk or jog on deck. At sunrise and sunset, the views are peerless.

4. Choose walking, rather than bus, tours.

5. Sign up for energetic excursions, such as snorkeling, kayaking or hiking. Even a beginner’s horseback ride still works core and leg muscles.

6. Use the pool, even if you don’t love swimming. Walk or jog in place, tread water or hold on to the side and kick your legs. It’s low-impact and rewarding.

7. On barges and riverboats, take a bicycle out for a spin.

8. Feeling too tired or jetlagged to exercise? Commit to a 10-minute workout. Once you get moving, you may wind up doubling or tripling the time.

One Last Tip

Avoid wearing elastic-waist pants and other loose-fitting clothes to meals. They make overindulging extra-easy.

SOURCE: Cruise Critic

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