My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

8 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Cruise

2011/11/17by Donna Hull

This is the last in our boomer travel fitness series from Nora Lynch of Fit Travelers Have More Fun. Yesterday, when I reported on my travel fitness progress, I confessed that maintaining weight and keeping fit while on a cruise is a real challenge for me. I’m guessing that many boomer cruisers have the same problem. That’s why today, Nora is advising us on how to eat healthy while on a cruise. I’m paying special attention to this one.

inside-passage-alaska-cruise-deck

Save time for walking the deck

The key to eating healthy on a cruise is confidence. And how do you bolster your boomer confidence? Use my top eight tips for eating healthy while on a cruise:

1.  Know the Dining Style

Look at menus online ahead of time if possible. Check the interactive TV in your cabin, you’ll find menus there, too. Are the plates and portions huge? Is buffet dining the norm? We tend to go along with whatever we’re offered – it’s human nature. You need to remind yourself that you’re in charge.

Boomer Travel Tips:

  • Ask for a smaller plate or ½ portion
  • Transfer 1/3 of the meal to your bread plate, then ask the waiter to remove it
  • Use a smaller salad plate for the buffet
  • Survey the buffet first and put only items you’d rate as a “10” on your plate
  • Eat a low calorie, high volume food first: a non-creamy soup (watch the sodium here though) or salad with vinegar only or light dressing so you’re less hungry

2.  Information is Power

Contact your agent or the cruise line itself and inquire about healthy eating options and any fitness or health activities available.

Boomer Travel Tip:

  • Even if you don’t find something that you love, asking the question registers your interest in healthy choices with the cruise operator so they can add more options.
healthy-meal-american-safari-quest

Start your meal with a healthy soup

3.  Balance is Key

Consider how you’ll balance the excesses so readily available on a cruise.

Boomer Travel Tips:

  • Big meal? How about a walk on deck?
  • Choose one, not both- appetizer OR dessert, wine OR bread, (_____________create your own here)
  • Can’t help ordering a giant, high-fat breakfast? See if 30 minutes at the fitness center first thing in the morning doesn’t curb your yen for all things high-fat immediately after.

4.  Prepare Before You Go

Pick the can’t-miss excursions that make your heart pitter-patter and start preparing for them ahead of time (with your doctor’s ok), if they sound physically challenging.

Boomer Travel Tip:

  • Increasing activity in the weeks before the cruise can positively impact mood, memory, mental clarity, and well-being which will help you make healthier choices in other areas too — such as eating. Why not start your cruise with some healthy eating momentum?
active-cruise-excursion-skagway-alaska

Make active excursions the theme of your cruise

5.  Create a personal theme

Will learning new skills or trying new activities aboard ship float your boat? Or is the ship offering active adventures that will make once-in-a-lifetime memories? Are you here for the evening lectures or shows? Perhaps you love to play the social butterfly?

Boomer Travel Tip:

  • Don’t overemphasize fine dining. Keep your mind busy anticipating other activities and make sure your eating choices support them.

6.  Avoid Temptation

Sleep and alcohol – too little of one, too much of the other, and your decision-making suffers at the table.

7.  Beware of Your Mindset

What unconscious stories do you tell yourself that will interfere with good eating choices on the cruise?

  • Story: I’ve paid for it all, I’m going to eat it all.
  • Story:  I can’t help it; I have to clean my plate.
  • Story:  If I don’t eat x, I won’t be getting my money’s worth.
  • Story: (your story here)

These stories aren’t helping you! It’s time they were sent packing, or you’ll keep packing on the pounds.

8.  Use Your Family and Friends

Some of us just do better when we share our plans and goals, triumphs and challenges. Create a health competition with family or friends traveling with you. Many cruise lines now offer wi-fi (though it can be expensive — check carefully) so you can post Facebook updates about your healthy choices or pedometer steps.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to eat healthy on a cruise. But so many of you don’t make a plan at all because you’re afraid you won’t get it right. Try this:  be playful. Experiment. Take the pressure off. Identify a few things that work and use them on the next cruise — and the one after that. It’s much better to smile as you craft your own perfect plan than to grit your teeth as you try to follow someone else.

Do you have tips for maintaining weight and staying fit while cruising? Post a comment to share your tips. Alan and I are paying attention!

Nora Lynch, MS, RD, Certified Wellcoach, is the founder of Fit Travelers Have More Fun and creator of The 4 Week Travel Tune-Up and The Travel Oomph Assessment. She helps boomers get a little fitter and more energized for travel so they can see and do everything they’ve dreamed and feel great doing it! Her most recent trips have been to Oregon wine country, Cozumel, Mexico; San Diego, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Rome, Italy.

Thanks, Nora for a wonderful series on boomer travel fitness:

Want to keep up with us on our upcoming Silversea cruise? We’ll be posting photos and reports at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Be sure to like us while you’re there!



A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon Hurst Lane
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 5:52 am

Love these tips on staying fit and eating healthy while on a cruise. I’ll be keeping these in mind on my cruise next month.
Shannon Hurst Lane recently posted..A Progressive Dinner in New OrleansMy Profile

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 9:43 am

Have fun, Shannon. The trailer for your cruise is great! Just think of us when you’re eating healthy.
Donna Hull recently posted..Boomer Travel Fitness: How is Donna Doing?My Profile

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Annette
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

Where was this list before I went on my cruise :)
The dessert buffet line threw me over the edge every time!
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Nora Lynch
Twitter:
November 19, 2011 at 9:39 am

Hi, Annette! Now that you know the dessert buffet is your Achilles Heel, try asking yourself this one question before your next cruise: ‘what step(s) can I take so that I feel better about how I handle the dessert buffet next time?’ When the focus is on feeling proud of ourselves rather than being perfect, a lot more is possible!
Nora Lynch recently posted..Travel Photo: Finding Your Travel Magic #8My Profile

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
November 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Annette, desserts on cruise ships are dangerous, period. And, oh so good!

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Patty November 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Great to have these tips. I’d like to add our personal favorite: Avoid the buffet entirely!

We’ve been on 10 cruises on six different cruise lines and have yet to eat at a large buffet. We sit, are served, enjoy the ambience. And gain a minimal amount of weght (more wine when on vacation!)
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Nora Lynch
Twitter:
November 19, 2011 at 9:42 am

Sounds like you’ve found the perfect system for you – nicely done, Patty! And thanks for showing it can be done – many cruises, minimal pounds!
Nora Lynch recently posted..Travel Photo: Finding Your Travel Magic #8My Profile

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
November 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Great tip, Patty. The cruise lines that we sail don’t offer buffets at night, or very rarely. I don’t mind a buffet at breakfast or lunch because there are so many healthy choices.

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Heather on her travels
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I must say that I always thought one of the joys and the perils of cruising was all that free food – as you say, I’ve paid for it so I’ll eat it. I find the same issue with hotel breakfast buffets and try to get around it by having just small tastes of anything I fancy and then having a late lunch if I’m still feeling full.
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Nora Lynch
Twitter:
November 19, 2011 at 9:54 am

Lately I’ve been suggesting to my clients that they eat with the goal of feeling good AFTER they’re done eating. It just doesn’t feel good to be overfull! See if shifting your focus from the food on the buffet to how your body feels and will feel 20 minutes after you’re done eating helps. Small tastes is a good start, Heather!
Nora Lynch recently posted..Travel Photo: Finding Your Travel Magic #8My Profile

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
November 22, 2011 at 7:41 pm

It’s certainly true that excellent food is abundant on most cruises. I just try to remind myself about the price my body will pay if I insist on getting my money’s worth :-).

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Jane Boursaw
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm

I’ve never been on a cruise, but the whole idea sounds lovely. Though I’m sure I’d pig out on all the food available. Thank goodness I’ve got you as a resource if I ever go anywhere, Donna.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
November 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Jane, when you finally start traveling, I’ll be your bodyguard :-).

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Roxanne
Twitter:
November 18, 2011 at 8:21 am

I’ve never been on a cruise, but I can see how those buffets and other temptations could really add up. Great ideas.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
November 22, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Roxanne, I’m lucky that the cruises we frequent don’t go in for big buffets. Yes, we find them at breakfast and lunch but not at dinner. The buffet items are varied enough that I can always find healthy choices. It takes a bit of discipline, though.

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MyKidsEatSquid November 18, 2011 at 8:33 am

I so fall into that trap of–I paid for it, I’m going to eat it. We’ve been doing better as a family–we usually split entrees and everyone gets a side salad when we’re eating while traveling.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
November 22, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Alan and I split entries sometimes. And, at home, we’re cutting our meat consumption by splitting a chicken breast, etc.

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NLM
Twitter:
November 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Oh, I’m probably a terrible, terrible person and will go to hell—but when I realize I’m in danger of overindulging too many times, I look around and find the heaviest person with the fullest plate…and generally that’s enough to make me grab a piece of fruit and take a walk.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
November 22, 2011 at 7:33 pm

I say find motivation where ever you can.

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Deb Schaffer November 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm

These are great tips! I’d add one more – check out the fitness classes on board, particularly while at sea. I took a yoga class while on board, and my husband loved the treadmill that looked out over the ocean. Then avoid the buffet!
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
November 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Great tip, Deb. I’ve taken some fun fitness classes at sea. It’s also a great way to make friends with other cruise guests. Unfortuantely, I have a problem on the treadmill if there’s much movement on the water. It makes me seasick.

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Adelyn Lee November 19, 2011 at 10:33 am

Heck, these tips are useful for people of all ages. When people ask me about advice for cruising I’m just going to send them here. Obviously one of the best things about a cruise is the luxury and the pampering, but I hate arriving at my home port feeling bloated and gross. This is a great plan for how to enjoy but take care of yourself, too.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
November 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Glad you enjoyed our information, Adelyn. Please send any of your cruise friends our way. With over 250 nights on board ships, Alan and I have plenty of advice to share.

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