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How To Eat Healthy On A Cruise


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Augusta Tapp



Embarking on a cruise is an exciting and relaxing vacation option that offers an array of amenities, entertainment, and unparalleled views of the open sea. However, with the abundance of delicious food and dining options onboard, it can be challenging to maintain a healthy diet while on a cruise. The temptation to indulge in decadent desserts, unlimited buffets, and specialty dining experiences can often lead to overindulgence and unwanted weight gain.


But fear not! With a little planning and mindful decision-making, it is entirely possible to eat healthy on a cruise without feeling deprived or missing out on the culinary delights that are a trademark of the onboard experience. In this article, we will explore various strategies to help you make healthier choices during your cruise vacation.


From researching the cruise line’s dining options to navigating the buffet and staying active onboard, we will provide you with expert tips and practical advice to help you maintain a balanced and nutritious diet while enjoying your time at sea. So, let’s delve into the world of cruising and discover how you can eat healthily and stay on track during your voyage.


Researching the Cruise Line’s Dining Options

Before setting sail, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the dining options offered by the cruise line. Most modern cruise ships provide a wide range of restaurants and eateries, from casual buffet-style dining to specialty restaurants featuring gourmet cuisine. By conducting some research beforehand, you can identify the dining venues that offer healthier options and plan your meals accordingly.


Start by visiting the cruise line’s website or contacting their customer service to inquire about their dining options and any special dietary accommodations they provide. Many cruise lines now offer vegetarian, gluten-free, and other dietary restriction-friendly menus to cater to a variety of dietary needs. Inquire about the availability of these options and whether they need to be requested in advance.


Additionally, consider reading reviews or joining online forums and communities dedicated to cruising. Fellow cruisers often share their dining experiences and provide valuable insights into the best dining venues for healthier choices. Take note of any recommendations and keep them in mind when planning your meals onboard.


By doing your research and familiarizing yourself with the cruise line’s dining options, you can make informed decisions and choose venues that align with your dietary goals. This knowledge will empower you to navigate the culinary offerings more successfully and increase your chances of maintaining a healthy diet while onboard.


Choosing Healthier Options from the Ship’s Main Dining Room

The main dining room of a cruise ship is often a focal point of the dining experience, offering a diverse menu and elegant ambiance. While it may be tempting to indulge in every decadent dish, there are plenty of healthier options available to help you stay on track with your diet.


Start by scanning the menu for dishes that are grilled, baked, steamed, or roasted, as these cooking methods generally involve less added fats and oils compared to fried or sautéed dishes. Look for lean protein options such as grilled fish, skinless poultry, or lean cuts of meat like sirloin or tenderloin. Pair your protein with steamed or roasted vegetables and whole grains like quinoa or brown rice for a well-balanced meal.


Additionally, be mindful of portion sizes. Cruise ship portions can be quite generous, so consider asking for a smaller portion or sharing an entrée with your dining partner. Don’t be afraid to ask your server for modifications or substitutions to make a dish healthier. For example, request a side of steamed vegetables instead of mashed potatoes or ask for sauce or dressing on the side to control the amount you consume.


As tempting as the dessert menu may be, opt for healthier alternatives such as fresh fruit, sorbet, or a light yogurt parfait. If you do indulge in a richer dessert, consider sharing it with others at your table to satisfy your sweet tooth without overindulging.


Remember, dining in the main dining room is meant to be a leisurely and enjoyable experience. Take your time to savor each bite and engage in conversation with your dining companions. By making deliberate and thoughtful choices from the menu, you can enjoy a delicious and healthy meal amidst the elegant surroundings of the ship’s main dining room.


Exploring Specialty Dining Options for Healthier Choices

In addition to the main dining room, many cruise ships offer specialty restaurants that provide a more intimate and unique dining experience. These venues often feature a specific cuisine or concept, and they can offer a variety of healthier options for those looking to maintain a balanced diet.


When exploring specialty dining options, look for restaurants that offer seafood, as it tends to be a healthier choice compared to heavier meat dishes. Freshly caught fish, shrimp, and shellfish are typically prepared in a lighter manner and can be a great source of lean protein.


Additionally, specialty restaurants often have a focus on fresh and locally sourced ingredients. This means you may find a wider variety of colorful salads, vegetable dishes, and lighter fare on the menu. Take advantage of these offerings and choose dishes that incorporate a variety of vegetables and plant-based ingredients.


It’s also worth noting that some cruise ships offer specialty restaurants that cater specifically to wellness and healthy eating. These restaurants may have menus that are designed with nutrition in mind, featuring dishes that are low in calories, sodium, and added sugars. Consider making a reservation at one of these restaurants for a truly health-conscious dining experience.


Lastly, keep in mind that specialty dining options typically come with an additional cost. Budget accordingly and decide which restaurants are worth the splurge based on your personal preferences and dietary goals.


With a little exploration and planning, specialty dining options can provide a delightful and healthier dining experience during your cruise vacation.


Navigating the Buffet for Healthy Eating

The buffet is often a highlight of the cruise experience, offering a wide array of food choices and the flexibility to build your own plate. While it can be tempting to load up on all the delicious offerings, it’s important to navigate the buffet with a mindful approach to maintain a healthy diet.


First and foremost, take a lap around the buffet before picking up a plate. This allows you to survey all the available options and plan your selections in advance. Look for stations that offer fresh fruits, salads, and vegetable-based dishes. Fill a significant portion of your plate with these healthier choices before adding smaller portions of other dishes.


When it comes to protein options, opt for grilled or roasted selections rather than fried options. Choose lean proteins like grilled chicken or fish, and be aware of portion sizes to ensure you’re not overindulging.


Pay attention to portion control – it’s easy to get carried away at the buffet. Start by taking smaller portions of each dish to avoid overeating. Remember, you can always go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. Focus on quality, not quantity.


Be mindful of dressings, sauces, and condiments. Many dishes at the buffet may have hidden calorie bombs in the form of heavy sauces or dressings. Consider asking for them on the side or using them sparingly to control the amount you consume.


Don’t forget about the dessert section. While it may be tempting to try every sweet treat on display, exercise moderation. Select smaller portions or share desserts with your dining companions. Alternatively, choose fruit-based options or lighter desserts like sorbet to satisfy your sweet tooth.


Finally, be mindful of your alcohol consumption. Alcoholic beverages often flow freely on cruises, but they can contribute to excess calorie intake. Opt for lighter options like wine or light beer, and remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.


By approaching the buffet with a strategic mindset and making mindful choices, you can enjoy the variety of options while still maintaining a healthy eating routine during your cruise vacation.


Taking Advantage of Onboard Fitness Facilities and Activities

Staying active during a cruise vacation is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, most cruise ships are equipped with excellent fitness facilities and a plethora of onboard activities to help you stay active and burn off those extra calories.


Start by exploring the ship’s fitness center or gym. These facilities often feature a range of cardio machines, weightlifting equipment, and group exercise classes. Take advantage of the equipment and engage in activities that you enjoy, whether it’s running on the treadmill, cycling, or joining a group fitness class like yoga or Zumba. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of your cruise.


Take advantage of the onboard recreational activities as well. Many cruise ships offer options such as rock climbing, swimming pools, basketball courts, or even ice skating. Participating in these activities can be a fun way to burn calories and stay active while enjoying your time onboard.


Consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible, as it can be an easy way to add extra steps to your daily activity. Additionally, go for walks around the ship to explore its various decks and take in the ocean views.


If you’re interested in more structured fitness activities, some cruise lines offer fitness programs or personal training sessions for an additional fee. These programs provide guidance, support, and personalized workouts to help you achieve your fitness goals while onboard.


Remember to stay hydrated during your workouts and activities by drinking plenty of water. Proper hydration is essential for overall well-being and can help you maintain your energy levels throughout the day.


By taking advantage of the onboard fitness facilities and activities, you can stay active, burn calories, and maintain a healthy lifestyle while enjoying your cruise vacation.


Staying Hydrated and Avoiding Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being, especially during a cruise vacation when you may be spending a lot of time outdoors and engaging in various activities. It’s important to prioritize hydration and avoid excessive alcohol consumption to ensure a healthy and enjoyable experience.


Start by carrying a refillable water bottle with you throughout the day. Most cruise ships provide access to filtered water stations where you can refill your bottle. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water daily to stay adequately hydrated. If you’re engaging in physical activities or spending time in hot weather, increase your water intake accordingly.


While it can be tempting to indulge in alcoholic beverages during your cruise, excessive drinking can hinder your health goals and overall well-being. Alcoholic beverages are often high in calories and sugar, which can contribute to weight gain and poor health.


If you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation. Stick to recommended guidelines, such as no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Opt for lighter options like wine or light beer and avoid overly sugary cocktails that can be packed with empty calories.


Remember to pace yourself and be aware of the effects of alcohol on your body. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water to stay hydrated and minimize the negative impact of alcohol. It’s also important to know your limits and avoid binge drinking, as it can lead to numerous health and safety risks.


Additionally, be mindful of any medications you may be taking and their interactions with alcohol. Some medications should not be mixed with alcohol, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any concerns.


By staying hydrated and making responsible choices when it comes to alcohol consumption, you’ll not only feel better physically but also be able to fully enjoy your cruise vacation and make the most of all the exciting activities and experiences it has to offer.


Making Healthy Food Choices during Shore Excursions

Shore excursions are an exciting part of any cruise vacation, offering the opportunity to explore new destinations, immerse yourself in different cultures, and taste local cuisine. While it may be tempting to indulge in local delicacies, it’s still possible to make healthy food choices during these excursions.


Researching and planning ahead can be key to making healthier choices while ashore. Look for restaurants or eateries that offer fresh, local, and nutritious options. Seek out establishments that focus on using locally sourced ingredients and traditional cooking methods that emphasize healthier cooking techniques.


Opt for dishes that include plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Look for grilled or baked options rather than fried or heavily sauced dishes. Choose fresh salads, seafood, or vegetable-based dishes whenever possible.


If you’re unsure about the healthiness of certain dishes, don’t hesitate to ask the restaurant staff about ingredients or cooking methods. They can provide valuable insights and recommendations to help you make healthier food choices.


Additionally, remember to practice portion control. It’s easy to be tempted by large portion sizes or multiple-course meals while dining ashore. Share dishes with your travel companions or ask for half portions to prevent overeating. Don’t be afraid to leave some food on your plate if you’re satisfied, and honor your body’s cues of hunger and fullness.


Stay mindful of your beverage choices as well. Opt for water, unsweetened iced tea, or other low-calorie options instead of sugary or alcoholic drinks. Beware of sugary cocktails or local specialty drinks that may contain high amounts of added sugars.


Lastly, remember that exploring a new destination involves more than just food. Engage in physical activities while ashore, such as walking tours, hiking, or beach activities. Incorporating movement into your shore excursions will not only help burn calories but also provide a greater appreciation for the destination.


By researching, planning ahead, and making mindful choices, you can enjoy the culinary experiences of shore excursions while still maintaining a healthy diet during your cruise vacation.


Packing Healthy Snacks and Supplements

Packing healthy snacks and supplements can be a game-changer when it comes to maintaining a nutritious diet during your cruise vacation. Having these items on hand can help you resist unhealthy temptations and ensure you have nourishing options readily available.


Start by packing a variety of portable snacks that are easy to carry and don’t require refrigeration. Some great options include fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, granola bars, protein bars, whole grain crackers, and individually portioned nut butter packets. These snacks can provide instant energy and keep you satiated between meals.


Consider packing some dietary supplements that complement your nutritional needs. For example, if you struggle to meet your daily recommended intake of vitamins and minerals, consider bringing a multivitamin or specific supplements like vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian before starting any new supplements.


When choosing snacks and supplements, be mindful of any customs or immigration restrictions that may apply to your destination. Some countries have regulations on the importation of certain food items or dietary supplements, so it’s best to research and follow any applicable guidelines.


Another tip is to allocate space in your luggage for an insulated bag or cooler. This way, you can bring perishable snacks like Greek yogurt, fresh vegetables, or pre-made salads to enjoy while onboard or during shore excursions.


Having healthy snacks and supplements readily available can make a difference in your ability to make nutritious choices and resist the temptation of less healthy options. It’s all about being prepared and having those nourishing options right at your fingertips.


Remember to stay hydrated by packing a reusable water bottle and refilling it regularly throughout your cruise. Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being, especially in a warm and potentially dehydrating environment like a cruise ship.


By packing a combination of healthy snacks and supplements, you can maintain a balanced and nutritious diet throughout your cruise vacation, even when healthy options might not be readily available.


Seeking Assistance from the Cruise Line’s Dietary Team

If you have specific dietary needs or restrictions, seeking assistance from the cruise line’s dietary team can be incredibly helpful in ensuring you have a healthy and enjoyable dining experience during your cruise vacation. Most cruise lines have dedicated staff members who are trained to accommodate various dietary requirements.


Before your cruise, reach out to the cruise line’s customer service or dietary team to inform them about your dietary needs. This could include allergies, intolerances, vegetarian or vegan preferences, gluten-free or lactose-free diets, or any other specific requirements you may have. Communicating your needs in advance allows the dietary team to make the necessary arrangements to accommodate your request.


Upon embarking, make sure to introduce yourself to the dining room staff or the ship’s dietary specialists. They can provide you with information about specialized menus, offer recommendations, and address any particular concerns or questions you may have.


The dietary team can guide you through the various dining options available onboard and help you navigate the menus to make informed choices. They may be able to customize dishes or prepare specially tailored meals to meet your specific needs. Don’t hesitate to ask for modifications or substitutions to ensure that your meals align with your dietary requirements and preferences.


During meal service, it’s important to communicate any allergies or dietary concerns with the waitstaff. They can provide you with detailed information about the ingredients in the dishes or assist you in making appropriate selections from the menu. They are there to support you and ensure that your dining experience is both safe and enjoyable.


If you have any concerns or questions throughout your cruise, don’t hesitate to reach out to the dietary team. They are there to assist you and ensure that your dietary needs are met. Remember, they have experience in accommodating various dietary requirements and have the knowledge to help you make the best choices for your health.


Seeking assistance from the cruise line’s dietary team is an excellent way to have a stress-free dining experience and enjoy your cruise while staying in line with your dietary needs. Don’t be afraid to communicate and advocate for yourself to ensure a satisfying and healthy dining experience.



Embarking on a cruise vacation doesn’t mean you have to abandon your healthy eating habits. With a little research, planning, and mindful decision-making, it is entirely possible to maintain a nutritious diet while enjoying all that cruise ships have to offer.


By researching the cruise line’s dining options and familiarizing yourself with the various venues, you can choose eateries that align with your dietary goals. Opt for healthier choices in the main dining room, exploring specialty restaurants for lighter fare, and navigating the buffet with portion control and mindful selections.


Stay active during your cruise by taking advantage of onboard fitness facilities and participating in activities that keep you moving. Staying hydrated and making responsible choices when it comes to alcohol consumption are just as important for overall health and well-being.


During shore excursions, make an effort to find restaurants that offer healthier options and be mindful of portion sizes. Consider packing healthy snacks and supplements to have on hand, and don’t hesitate to seek assistance from the cruise line’s dietary team if you have specific dietary needs.


Ultimately, it’s about finding a balance that allows you to enjoy your cruise vacation while prioritizing your health. Embrace the opportunity to try new foods, explore new destinations, and engage in physical activities while making conscious choices that support your well-being.


Remember, a cruise vacation is meant to be a time of relaxation and rejuvenation. By incorporating these tips into your cruise experience, you can have a fulfilling and healthy journey that you’ll cherish for years to come.