Hungry Girl Diet Expert Answers 5 FAQs on Cruise Dining

Can You Cruise without Busting your Diet?

Small plates at the Holland America Line Canaletto Italian Restaurant
Photo Courtesy of Holland America Line

One of the most frequent questions cruise travel writers receive is, "How can you cruise so much without gaining weight"? It's not easy, and everyone who cruises is tempted by all the food available on a cruise ship. I'm an expert on cruise travel, but those who know me all agree I'm certainly not an expert on making good food choices on a cruise. I try, but often it's two pounds up and one pound down.

Sound familiar?

Since I'm not an expert on food or dieting, I consulted with Lisa Lillien, who is best known as the Hungry Girl. Lisa is a self-proclaimed "foodologist" who is obsessed with food (as many of us are). She's not a nutritionist, but she has learned to eat right, enjoy food, and still be able to button her pants — worthy goals for all of us. Lisa may not be a nutritionist, but her millions of social media followers and subscribers to her daily newsletter love what she has to say.

In addition to her Hungry Girl Web site, social media presence, television, magazines, and books on eating and dieting, Lisa also is one of the expert contributors to VeryWell.com.

Lisa Lillien's Tips for Eating on a Cruise Ship

As a frequent cruiser, I've heard these five questions over and over on cruise ships, and Lisa was kind enough to answer them for all of us who are also obsessed with food.

  • What are some ways to avoid gaining weight when on a cruise vacation?

    Lisa says: "The best thing you can do is learn how to navigate a buffet! It’s too easy to overeat there — especially if you’re the type who just starts to fill your plate up as you pass the selections.Your best bet is to first size up all the offerings, and then decide which foods to go for (choose wisely!). You should also stick with lighter foods like fresh veggies, lean proteins, and fruit. You’ll feel better eating foods like that while on vacation — they won’t weigh you down.

    It’s also a good idea to plan your food for the day, or at least think about what you’ll be eating that day. Planning is key!

    You should also try to move around a lot — get some exercise to burn extra calories!

    And finally, limit your alcohol intake, because calories from cocktails add up fast! Stick with wine, champagne, or clear alcohol mixed with club soda and a splash of fruit juice."
  • Cruises have food available 24/7. When you know you've paid for the food as part of the basic cruise fare, how can you keep from eating all of it?

    Lisa says: "It’s a bad idea to think about the food in terms of it being “free” while on a cruise — especially if you’re the type who feels the need to eat more in order to get your money’s worth.

    Eat when you’re truly hungry, not just because food is being offered to you. Buffets may be offered around the clock, but that doesn’t mean you have to partake in all of them!

    And, if you do decide to snack late at night, go for fruit, veggies, or another smart choice. You’ll feel better and sleep better, too!"
  • What are some of the best ways to burn calories on a cruise vacation?

    Lisa says: "Choose excursions that include a lot of walking. Take advantage of the gym onboard the boat. And "deckwalk!" A lot of ships have decks that they encourage you to do laps on — that’s a great thing! Wear a tracker or a pedometer so you can keep track of your steps, too."
  • What are your best tips for keeping weight off forever?

    Lisa says: "The absolute best tip I can give is to never ever think of yourself as being on or off a diet. In order to keep weight off forever, you truly have to change your lifestyle. You need to identify healthy foods you love and can live with eating forever. And you need to think about food carefully every day. Pay attention and plan! I live by the 80/20 rule. I make smart food choices 80 percent of the time and loosen the reigns a little bit the other 20 percent. That works for me!"
  • When cruising to the Caribbean, are there any great healthy Caribbean dishes cruisers should try ashore?

    Lisa says: "The Caribbean is loaded with awesome fresh seafood options and so many amazing and delicious tropical fruits and salads — so whenever I vacation there, I mostly stick with those things."