How Not to Overeat on a Cruise – And Why It Matters

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From gourmet dining rooms to exotic specialty restaurants to every sort of snack imaginable – pizza, tacos, sushi, ice cream, cookies, burgers, gelato, and more – food is everywhere on a cruise ship. Not to mention room service, movie popcorn, sweet shops, elite dining experiences, cupcake decorating classes, and other culinary adventures.

With eating such a big part of cruising, how can you avoid packing on the pounds at sea, and why does it even matter if you might eat a bit too much?

Why It’s So Easy to Overeat on a Cruise

The abundance of food onboard today’s cruise ships is one key factor in why it is so easy to go overboard with a taste of this, a bite of that, an extra helping, even an extra meal.

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas for example, boasts a whopping 27 different dining venues, plus room service. Even eating at a different spot for every single meal on a 7-night cruise, you’d have to eat four meals a day just to sample every venue.

This doesn’t even count different dishes, like the daily specialty pizzas at Sorrento’s (don’t miss the barbecue chicken pizza, it’s a favorite!) or changes in the dining room menus each night.

Royal Caribbean's Sorrento's Pizza Venue
Royal Caribbean’s Sorrento’s Pizza Venue

Because so many dining options are included in the cruise fare – 13 of Icon’s venues – it’s even easier to try to up the value of a cruise fare with some extra indulgences. Yes, I have gotten an extra slice at Sorrento’s “just because” it happened to be open with a short line while I was strolling down the Royal Promenade.

After all, overeating is often a part of vacation, whether it’s a huge sundae at a theme park, a loaded dog at a baseball game, or tapas before a Broadway show.

Why You Don’t Want to Overeat on Board

Despite its popularity, the consequences of overeating are no one’s favorite cruise activity. If you overeat, you’re more likely to feel bloated and lethargic, without the energy to join in the different games, contests, tours, and other activities on each day’s itinerary.

Excessive eating can also lead to sickness. If you have special dietary needs – such as requiring a low-sugar, low-salt, or gluten-free diet – overeating can unbalance your body chemistry with severe effects.

Buffet Line on Cruise Ship
Buffet Line on Cruise Ship

Similarly, if you have food allergies (seafood allergies run in our family), the more you eat, the more likely you may be to accidentally try something your body won’t appreciate.

Overeating will also make you more likely to gain weight. Even a couple of pounds can make a difference in how comfortable your clothes may be at the end of the cruise compared to how they felt when you set sail.

Worth Reading: Can You Bring Food On a Cruise and How Much?

And who wants to get home and go straight on a diet to lose those extra pounds, when it’s better to avoid overeating and never gain them in the first place?

Avoiding Overeating Without Missing Out

You don’t have to go hungry on a cruise to avoid overeating. Simply be sensible – if a dish doesn’t sound appetizing or look appealing, don’t bother ordering it or taking any from the buffet.

While dining room menus offer several courses, there is no requirement that you indulge in every course for every meal. Similarly, try not to fill up on familiar foods, especially if you’re eager to try things you’ve never eaten before or want to indulge in different tastes.

It’s easier than many cruise passengers realize to downsize meal portions, which can be a fantastic step to keep from overeating. Many pasta dishes, for example, are available in both appetizer and entrée sizes, and you can request the appetizer size for your entrée without difficulty.

Carnival Chocolate Melting Cake
Carnival Chocolate Melting Cake (Photo Credit: Eric Glenn)

If that is not an option for the food you want to try, consider splitting any of the courses with someone else – you both get to try the food, but without too much to eat. My husband and I often do this with desserts, such as Carnival Cruise Line’s warm chocolate melting cake (my all time favorite cruise dessert!).

Leaving a few bites uneaten from every course is another way to keep from overeating – just 2-3 leftover bites of the appetizer, entrée, and dessert from every meal will really help you cut down (yeah, I’m not leaving any bites of melting cake behind…).

It can be harder to avoid overeating at the buffet, especially with so many delicious options at your fingertips. To keep from eating too much, start with something fresh – a salad or piece of fruit is not only healthier, but the fiber of fresh fruits and vegetables will fill you up faster, so you aren’t as tempted to overeat.

Cruise Ship Buffet
Cruise Ship Buffet (Photo Credit: Yuliya Yesina)

Deliberately dish up less of each food you want to try. If you really like it, you can always go back for seconds – but you’ll be surprised at how satisfied you can be with a smaller portion, with plenty of room left to try something else without feeling stuffed.

It is also important to be mindful of mealtimes and the signals your body sends you about how much you’re eating. If your dining time is just an hour away, for example, you probably don’t really need to make a quick trip for ice cream first. Pay attention to how full you feel, and stop eating when you’re no longer hungry so you don’t start to feel sick.

When Overeating Happens

A little overindulgence is inevitable on a cruise, and if you do overeat, you can take steps to feel better quickly. A quick nap or a casual stroll around the deck can help your body digest food more smoothly.

Eating Burger on Cruise Ship
Eating Burger on Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt)

You can also plan for overeating by working off calories ahead of time with a trip to the ship’s gym, choosing an active shore tour, or taking the stairs more often (bonus tip – this will help avoid frustration over crowded elevators!).

Read Also: Common Things to Eat on a Ship

While you will still want to avoid eating too much, staying active can help your body process food and keep the pounds from adding up on every day of your vacation.

Of course, be sure you pack appropriate medication for indigestion or other food-related discomfort so you can feel better as quickly as possible and don’t miss any more of your cruise and its delicious treats.

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