Cruising is an amazing way to vacation, yet the 24/7 access to food can be a health challenge. I’m sharing my secrets about how to not gain weight on a cruise while still enjoying amazing food!
I recently returned from a cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway. While I received some perks onboard, I was not compensated to write this post.
Cruising is my favorite way to vacation. There’s something for everyone. All your food and entertainment (for the most part) is included, there’s very little pre-planning required, and you are transported to multiple exotic destinations without having to arrange your travel. Sounds like a perfect vacation, right?
What’s the average weight gain on a cruise?
However, when I speak to clients, the one downside of a cruise vacation is the (nearly) inevitable weight gain. Some are so concerned about gaining weight that they avoid this style of vacation entirely. I assure you, weight gain is not a foregone conclusion if you practice my secrets How to Not Gain Weight on A Cruise.
From what I can gather, the average weight gain on a weeklong cruise ranges from 5-10 pounds. That’s quite a bit depending on your size. 10 pounds on a 150-pound person is 6.7% of total body weight which can have a significant effect on blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood lipids. Trust me, this does not HAVE to happen!
My secret for minimizing cruise weight gain:
I recently returned from a fabulous cruise aboard the Norwegian Breakaway from New Orleans to Cozumel, Belize and Costa Maya! To be honest, I was not looking forward to the after effects of my week of indulgent eating. We have embarked on 10 cruises over the past 20 years, and on average, I gain about 6 pounds every time. And this is taking into account drinking only a little alcohol, eating breakfast and lunch similar to my regular diet at home, and indulging more at dinner with a daily dessert (or two). Percentage wise, that’s a lot of weight on me, my body just can’t handle that increase in calories. I wasn’t worried about it on this cruise because I figured out the secret- FIBER!
Recently, I decided to focus on increasing my fiber intake from foods that have the predominant amount of carbohydrate grams from fiber, at least 35 grams per day to keep me satisfied, promote a healthy gut (microbiome), and even manage blood sugar and cholesterol for those who need a little help. That means lots of non-starchy veggies, high fiber breads/tortillas/pitas/cereals, beans and fruit like berries.
Tip: pack specialty products you need to be successful!
For a cruise, that meant choosing high protein, higher fiber items when dining. I did bring some products with me to assist in the process and honestly, I was shocked at how easy it was to adopt this eating philosophy. The key is finding protein and fiber filled foods at each meal while limiting refined starches and added sugars to a little bit each day.
Here is a sample day in the life of my cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway:
(1) An egg white and veggie omelet freshly made at the omelet station with all the available veggies and a tiny bit of cheese. Cut into 4 pieces and eaten over 4 GG Fiber Crackers I brought from home (16 grams of fiber right there).
OR in the dining room, order a bagel with smoked salmon and ditch the bagel to enjoy on GG crackers.
(2) ½ cup of unsweetened mixed berries that were previously frozen and defrosted over a small amount of cottage cheese.
(3) Decaf coffee with a packet of no-calorie sweetener, milk and a scoop of Prebiotin prebiotic fiber powder (4g fiber) brought from home.
Survey the offerings first!
Fill the plate with salad greens and veggies, top with a variety of bites of protein sources from the buffet like grilled salmon, Asian chicken, or chicken tandoori plus additional steamed, roasted or grilled veggies and beans for more fiber. One day the specialty restaurant Moderno Churrascaria served a complimentary BBQ lunch buffet (during dinner there’s an extra fee to eat there). Moderno has the best salad bar on the ship and I filled a plate with a ton of greens and veggies topped with grilled fish and meats.
Didn’t really need one, but if I was hungry, we would go for another cup of coffee with fiber powder or have a piece of fruit in our cabin.
(1) Ask the server to keep the bread basket, the rest of the food is far more interesting
(2) Choose a broth-based soup, salad or high protein items such as shrimp cocktail or ceviche.
(3) For the main entrée, order the meat, poultry or fish without the starch and ask for extra veggies. If there is a higher fiber option like quinoa, have a few spoonfuls.
(3) Enjoy 3-4 delicious bites of a decadent dessert and push the rest away. Sip coffee or tea with more fiber powder if you are still munchy.
(We have a trick where we pour water on top of the dessert after a few bites so we won’t continue to mindlessly pick at it after we are done.)
*Optional glass of wine, champagne or single alcohol with no sugar mixer.
Honestly, it’s that easy. Real food, real dessert, real wine, all consumed with attention to protein and fiber while monitoring portions. The good thing is that dining room portion sizes are very reasonable since people tend to order so many things. That’s good news because you won’t be wasteful by trying to eat less.
The shocking thing is that when you focus on your hunger and fullness and consume a significant amount of fiber, the sugar cravings go away – at least in my experience both personally and professionally.
On every previous cruise, I HAD to have the soft serve ice cream EVERY DAY! This trip, I didn’t touch it once all week, not because it was “forbidden”, but because I just didn’t need it. Knowing that a fabulous dessert was part of my dinner was enough.
Cruising is an amazing way to vacation, yet the 24/7 access to food can be a health challenge. I'm sharing my secrets about how to not gain weight on a cruise while still enjoying fabulous food! #NorwegianBreakaway @cruisenorwegian Click To Tweet
Of course, just eating well is one piece, the other is staying active. I never took an elevator unless I was in heels. We walked around the gorgeous outside Waterfront (deck 8) a few times per day for extra exercise. We made sure to walk around each port, taking in the sights as well as garnering extra steps. The onboard fitness center is beautiful with a wide variety of equipment as well as classes. Due to an injury, I didn’t use it this trip, but I have in the past and the view while working out is spectacular.
Choose indulgences and enjoy them.
Of course, there were times where we indulged a little more. In Cozumel, we participated in a Salsa and Salsa cooking class and dance lesson combo. It was a blast and we definitely enjoyed a few margaritas with our chips, salsa, guacamole and quesadillas that day. That’s moderation in its glory. When you have an opportunity to do something special, enjoy the mindful indulgence. No guilt, no reparations. Just live life.
Another bonus of not overeating is better sleep. Just try going to bed after a large evening meal and see if you have a restful night. Doubtful. Plus, there is so much to do at night on this fabulous ship that you want to maximize the fun without being in a food coma!
The entertainment on the Norwegian Breakaway was fabulous. As a theater fan, I’m the happiest watching shows. Each night featured something special including two Broadway shows; Rock of Ages and Burn the Floor. Amazing! Our other favorite evening activities were listening to the dueling pianos at “Howling at the Moon”, getting pulled on stage at by the resident magician, humming along to the amazing harmonies of Tenors of Rock and reliving 80s and 90s music with an incredible band who performed nightly in one of the clubs- what talented artists!
We were also privileged to attend “Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy” which is a Cirque de Soleil style dinner show as well as “Wine Lovers the Musical” which includes lunch and a musical wine tasting with 6 glasses of wine! (No, I didn’t drink all of it) That was a tipsy afternoon 🙂
Overall, it was a magical week. We put down a deposit for a future cruise right there so you will be hearing more from me the next time we cruise with Norwegian. Where should we go next?
Check out some extra pics and a video from my trip below…
To see sample menus from other Norwegian specialty restaurants like La Cucina, Le Bistro, Cagney’s Steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria and Food Republic, check out my post reviewing my family cruise aboard the Norwegian Escape last summer 🙂 https://nutritionstarringyou.com/how-to-stay-healthy-on-a-cruise/
On the last night of our cruise, I had a blast showing our fabulous cruise director, JC Sanchez around the buffet to help him choose healthier options while living aboard the ship. I pieced together a video of our spontaneous culinary adventure 🙂 Some of the dialog is difficult to understand due to the background noise. Next cruise I’ll bring a microphone 😉
If you have difficulty making better choices when traveling, leave me a comment or send me an email and I’ll try to hook you up with some personal suggestions. Thanks for watching!!