9 Ways to Avoid Cruise Weight Gain

Cruise food options are plentiful and delicious. Here’s how to indulge and avoid the dreaded cruise weight. 9 tips for how NOT to gain weight on a cruise.

Cruise food options are plentiful and delicious. Here’s how to indulge and avoid the dreaded cruise weight. 9 tips for how NOT to gain weight on a cruise.

how to avoid cruise weight gain

Food offerings on cruise ships are somthing else: 24/7 access to food with new cuisines to try. Oh, and it’s ALL included. Cruises are heaven for anyone who loves food.

If you’re anything like me, you may have spent the last few weeks watching what you eat a little more closely or working out a little bit more in anticipation of that vacation. It would be a shame to put those lost pounds back on in a matter of days on your cruise vacation.

With all of that delicious cruise food on board, is it even possible to not gain weight on a cruise (without being a miserable, calorie-counting, self-depriving, person)?

The simple answer: yes.

Eating well is a serious perk and deciding factor for many people when they book a cruise. If you follow these 9 tips, you can still enjoy yourself without breaking the scale back home.

How to not gain weight on a cruise

1 –  Make Smart Ordering Choices

I don’t want you to stress over the menu on vacation, but here are a couple of quick, easy choices that go a long way:

The other F-Word: FIBER. Fill up on fiber first, and you will have less room for the high-calorie indulgent foods. Hit up the salad bar for lunch instead of grabbing a burger off the grill. Cruise salad bars offer a wide variety of options, so indulge in a fun combination.

Order seafood. This is an easy switch to make. Order leaner seafood instead of the red meat at dinner.

Minimize the courses that you eat during mealtime. You don’t need bread, an appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert at every meal. Just because something is offered, that doesn’t mean you need to eat it.

Limit your bread intake. It can be incredibly tempting to add on a piece of bread with a pat of butter at each meal, which is probably something you don’t regularly eat at home. It can be easy to mindlessly eat a piece of bread or two, especially while waiting for dinner in the formal dining room. Skip the bread basket and save those calories for something you will really enjoy.

2 – Skip the Drink Package

Specialty cocktails, mocktails, and soda are chock-full of sugar and calories that add up quickly. And when you pay for a drink package, human nature leads you to want to get the most out of your purchase.

You could easily add 500+ calories per day just in sugary beverages, drinking them even if you don’t *really* want them. And don’t get me started on those creamy grown-up umbrella drinks!

I am personally a member of the “NO Beverage Package” team when we cruise. We are not big soda drinkers at home anyway, and there is NO WAY I could consume the number of alcoholic beverages EVERY DAY needed to justify a 21+ drink package. I would much rather put that money towards a cabin upgrade or fun excursion.

3 – Choose your indulgences and really enjoy them

Even though it may be handed out regularly at my kitchen table, there are no “clean plate awards” on cruise ships.You can take a few bites of a dessert without finishing it.

I know it seems sinful to waste food. If this is a big sticking point with you, share desserts with another person at your table. My kids and I love doing this. We will grab a few different desserts off the buffet, and we will all have a few bites. This way we get to sample more fun new foods without overindulging or having a sugar crash later. 

4 – Take the Stairs

The benefits of this are twofold: (1) you’re getting in extra steps and burning a ton of extra calories (especially when going UP all those flights of stairs), and (2) you’re avoiding the crowding and annoyance of cruise ship elevators.

Cruise ship elevators, especially at busy times like right before a dinner seating, can be borderline nightmarish. Being crammed in a small space with a bunch of strangers, while the elevator stops at literally every floor is NOT my idea of a good time. 

The only time we really take the elevator is when the kids are tuckered out and we have more than 4-5 flights to climb up. Normally, we just make it a game to count the flights and practice our math skills: If we are on deck 7 and we need to get to deck 14, how many flights of stairs do we have to go? This got especially fun when the kids realized there is no unlucky deck #13!

5 – Walk off last night’s Dinner

Most cruise ships have walking tracks, and they come with gorgeous ocean views. Take a few laps in the morning before breakfast and enjoy some fresh open air.  Or, break up your sea day with a 30-minute walk around the track. It’s such an easy opportunity to grab some extra steps… 

This tip leads right into my next tip, which is:

6 – Use an activity tracker

I LOVE my Fitbit and I wear it every day. It’s great at my day job, since it reminds me to get up and move when I’ve been sitting for too long. BUT it’s really fun to bring on vacation. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your step count at the end of an active day. It’s easy to reach 15,000 steps or more when you stay active on vacation.

Use your activity tracker as extra motivation to stay active and keep moving.

7 – Make use of the fitness center

Most cruise ships have gorgeous spas and fitness centers, so why not make use of them?  Even if you get in a 20-minute mini version of your regular at-home workout, that’s something. And something is better than nothing.

Be sure to check your daily cruise itinerary for new activities to try – Zumba, water aerobics, morning yoga. Most major cruise lines offer a variety of daily activities that will keep you moving.

8 – Choose active shore excursions

This may mean different things, depending on the lifestyle and fitness level of your travel companions.

A great way to balance more low-key at sea days spent lounging by the pool with a cocktail is with a more active day in port.

To this day, one of the best workouts I have ever had took place at an inflatable water park excursion. After 45-minutes, the whole family was wiped out. AND we had an absolute blast doing it!

Cruise excursions come in a variety of activity levels, so choose what you feel comfortable with. Just don’t forget your comfortable walking shoes!

9 – Carry a Water Bottle

On our last cruise I made a habit every morning. I would wake up and wash out our water bottles with dish soap that I had brought on board (I actually made little dish soap sponges to bring with). Then I would whisper to my very groggy children that I was headed up to the buffet, to keep sleeping, and I would be back in 5 minutes. Then I took the stairs (obviously!) up to the buffet where I filled our water bottles (a small canvas tote is super helpful for occasions like these) and fill a plate with a light breakfast for the family to share. 

Water is so important when you travel. Especially on warm-weather cruises. You don’t realize how quickly you can become dehydrated. PLUS – when you fill up on water, you’re less likely to fill up at the buffet!

Bottom Line: How to eat on a cruise and not gain weight… It’s really not that complicated

Lots of filling fiber and water, limit sugary drinks, and keep moving. Don’t forget: you are on your cruise to enjoy your vacation, new experiences, and quality time with family or friends. Don’t let all of that be overshadowed by the stress of gaining an extra pound or two. 

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