21 Tips to Eat Healthy on A Cruise Ship



Marcello De Lio

I’ve been cruising since I was 11 years old. I love the freedom that cruising provides, meeting new people, and exploring amazing new ships. I love to share my passion for cruising and travel with readers.
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Some people look forward to going on vacation to break some self-governed rule and indulge completely. However, there are many reasons why you may want to eat healthy on a cruise ship. Sadly, eating healthy on a cruise ship isn’t always easy.

With 24-hour room service, the sensationalized dessert buffets, or the many choices you want to try, cruise ships have earned their reputation as potentially an unforgiving choice for your waistline.

But eating healthy at sea isn’t impossible! While plenty of tasty treats are on board, there are several ways to stick with a healthy diet and not miss out on the delicious food.

Here are some tips to eat healthy on a cruise ship so you can indulge a little without going overboard!

Eat Breakfast, Preferably with Protein

A person who is Eat healthy on a cruise ship
Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Eating a high-protein breakfast can help regulate your blood sugar and help with weight loss and weight management.

Ordering a big, protein-filled breakfast is no problem when you are on a cruise ship. Even if you have to get off the ship early for an excursion, you can usually order room service for early morning breakfast in your room.

Drink Plenty of Water

Hydration is essential when traveling in general, especially in warmer weather destinations.

Getting enough water is critical for preventing dehydration and ensuring your natural detox systems work correctly. Hydration needs vary from person to person, but just ensure you aren’t getting thirsty as a rule of thumb.

Minimize Alcohol Intake

Pina Colada on a Cruise Ship
Photo by YesMore Content on Unsplash

There is a reason why most diets don’t allow alcohol consumption; it’s terrible for your waistline and can also cause you to make less than ideal choices.

Don’t worry; we aren’t telling you not to drink.

You are on vacation after all! 

A little alcohol is OK in moderation. Just make sure that you’re aware of how much you are drinking, and a glass of wine is better than a sugar-filled mixer.

You Don’t Need to Order Every Course

Many of us don’t regularly eat four-course meals. If you don’t want every course, or if nothing on the menu is to your liking, don’t feel pressured to order more than you want to eat.

Ask for Smaller Portions

Passengers sharing a healthy meal on a cruise ship

There are no restrictions on how much food you can order in the main dining room. If you see two entrees you like, you can always ask for both.

What if you don’t want to be tempted by the full plate of food? 

If you only want a small portion but know you do not have the strength to stop yourself after a few bits, ask the waitstaff for a half-portion. And as we said earlier, you don’t need to order every course.

Fill Up On Salads

Salad bars on cruise ships contain fresh lettuce, vegetables, and toppings. Take advantage of the salad bar at least once a day to ensure you get vital nutrients in your diet and reduce mid-day snacking.

Skip the Sauces and Dressings

That healthy piece of salmon you ordered can become a nightmare for your waste line after it has been drenched in dressing. Even that salad you put together at the salad bar won’t be so healthy once you’ve added the caesar dressing, cheese, croutons, and dried fruit. 

But, let’s face it; a plain salad is boring, and you are on vacation after all! If you can, scrape off some of the high-calorie toppings, or ask for the dressing on the side to keep your calories in check.

You don’t need to eliminate the sauces and dressings, but reducing the amount you consume will go a long way!

Skip the Fried Foods

Cruise ships offer food from all over the world, and that includes everyone’s favorite fried food. But fried food is high in fat, calories, and salt making it very unhealthy.

Avoid greasy fried foods and opt for grilled options instead. 

And if you want to go the extra mile, choose a side of salad or veggies instead of fries.

Pace Yourself at the Buffet

Royal Caribbean's Windjammer Cafe

On your first visit to the buffet, it will be hard to contain your excitement. Pizza! Pasta! Burgers! Cookies! Cake! 

You will be tempted to try everything all at once, and how could you not? It all looks sooo gooood!

After you’ve finished with the buffet, you may feel a little uneasy about all of the food. And trust us, you don’t want to be doing this at every meal. 

To eat healthy on a cruise ship buffet, spend some time on your first day getting to know all the options available. When you’ve decided what you want to eat, prepare a portioned plate of food.

Only if you are still hungry once you’ve finished eating can you go back for more. Remember, there will be plenty of time to try all the food, and you don’t need to try everything on the first day.

Tip: Sit facing away from the buffet. This way, you aren’t spending the whole meal gawking at all of the incredible food.

Swap the Buffet for the Restaurant

If you know that the all-you-can-eat buffet will tempt you into making bad choices, stick with the main dining room for meals.

The dining room meals will be portioned and plated so you won’t be tempted to pile your plate full of fries. In addition, the slower pace of the dining room gives your body time to digest before the next round of food.

Look at the Dinner Menu in Advance

The Main Restaurant Onboard the Celebrity Silhouette

Most cruise ships will post the dinner menu for passengers to view in advance. Knowing what you want to eat at dinner will help you make better daily decisions.

If you know that you want to splurge on the 5-course, 2-dessert dinner, go light on lunch and breakfast. Planning your meals lets you dream about the beautiful food you will enjoy and makes the dish taste even better.

You’ll eat less because you’ll want to save room for dinner.

Snack on Fresh Fruit & Veggies

Passengers ordering fruit for dessert on a cruise ship

Cruise ships almost always have a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables, especially if your cruise is going to a tropical location.

If you feel hungry in between meals, try snacking on some fresh fruit rather than an ice cream cone or slice of pizza. Not only will it satisfy your appetite, but also any sugar cravings you have during the day.

Switch Up and Space Out Heavy and Light Meals

If you plan to have a big meal for dinner, have a light meal or salad for lunch. If you plan to indulge for dessert, skip the deep-fried appetizers.

If you plan to splurge, pair the splurge meal with light foods throughout the rest of the day. This way, you enjoy a meal you’ve looked forward to, and you won’t feel so bloated during and after your trip.

You’re on vacation, and it’s fine to pamper yourself. Sometimes the buildup to the meal makes it all the more exciting.

Tell Waitstaff About Your Dietary Preferences

Depending on your dietary requirements, it may be essential to advise your cruise ship or travel agent about your unique nutritional needs ahead of time. You will need to notify them when booking or even inquire before booking.

By disclosing your dietary preferences ahead of time, the waitstaff will be made aware of your preferences and make the necessary changes to your menu.

Common dietary preferences include dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian selections. Although most cruise lines will do their best to accommodate special dietary needs, some may be more accommodating than others.

If you are concerned about your cruise line adjusting your nutritional preferences, giving them a call before booking doesn’t hurt.

Learn The Menu Symbols

Most cruise lines offer “healthier” dining options. These indicate choices that typically contain less salt, fat, sugar, and/or cholesterol. 

Limit Your Snacking

With the constant flow of food on the cruise ship, it becomes easy to lose track of your meals. The breakfast buffet, mid-morning pastries, mid-day lunch, 2 pm ice cream, afternoon snacks, dinner, and late-night desserts can quickly add calories.

These quick snacks may seem small, but over the day, you will consume far more food than you remember. 

If you want to eat healthy on a cruise ship, it helps to limit or eliminate snacking between meals. 

Cut Back on Sweets

We’ve all been there! One more cookie can’t hurt, right?

A cookie, a muffin, and those poolside drinks will take you over the recommended daily calorie intake. We aren’t saying that you need to avoid all sweets (you are on vacation after all), but we recommend a limit of one or two sweets per day to lower the amount of sugar you consume.

Sharing dessert is another excellent way to limit on the calories while still getting to enjoy all that the cruise has to offer.

Choose Healthy Desserts

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to avoid eating dessert altogether. Dessert can be fine in moderation, but you will want to splurge a little while on a cruise. Try choosing desserts like gluten-free cookies or a fruity sorbet as a substitute for ice cream and cookies. 

Many cruise ships offer sugar-free desserts, although if you are health conscious, you may need to ask what they use to sweeten their desserts.

Healthy Desserts on a Cruise Ship

Avoid Midnight Snaking

Midnight buffets aren’t as common as they used to be, but almost every cruise ship has a 24-hour or late-night dining option.

Late-night snacking is ok once in a while, but it often adds unnecessary calories to your cruise diet. At night, when our willpower is lowest, we are more prone to making poor food choices, and that’s before considering the after-dinner cocktails.

What’s more, eating foods high in sugar before bed can result in a spike in blood sugar. The subsequent crash will increase appetite the next day, making controlling your diet difficult. If you are trying to stay healthy while cruising, avoiding snacks after dinner is a simple 

Bring Healthy Snacks or Staples With You

While there is usually an abundance of food on cruise ships, it might not be food that fits within your healthy guidelines or snack preferences.

That’s why I always try to take easily packable snacks with me, including beef jerky, dark chocolate, nuts, and seeds. This way, when I need a midday snack, I don’t feel as tempted by the pizza or cake in the buffet.

Enjoy the Experience

As always, treat yourself!

You are on vacation and deserve a break. If you see something you want to eat, go for it. Just make sure that you eat in moderation and avoid overindulging.

And in the off-chance that you do splurge, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remind yourself that you will get back to your routine soon and in the meantime, enjoy the new adventures and experiences.

So go out and have a good time!

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About the author

Marcello De Lio

I’ve been cruising since I was 11 years old. I love the freedom that cruising provides, meeting new people, and exploring amazing new ships. I love to share my passion for cruising and travel with readers.

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