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Cruising Cuisine

28. June 2011

It was our first cruise vacation. Full of anticipation, Tom and I headed out on the trip of a lifetime through Alaska’s Inland Passage. Little did we know, we’d be full all right … full of BAKED Alaska, puff pastries, chocolate soufflé, fettuccine Alfredo and beef tenderloin! And that was just the first night!

Oh, we’d been warned the food aboard a cruise ship was over-the-top. But we weren’t prepared for the endless feast that began as we opened our cabin door (champagne and snacks) and continued with a lavish lunch, Captain’s cocktail hour, an elegant, five-course dinner and midnight dessert buffet complete with an ice cream sundae bar! (Have I mentioned butterscotch sundaes with extra whipped cream and nuts are my weakness?!)

Exhausted and bloated, we took to bed that night only to resume the eat-a-thon eight hours later! Everywhere we turned there was food. Even the pool deck was ringed by a pizza stand, burger bar and ice cream station. There was literally no escape!

The morning of the third day, my slowly expanding husband looked at me in my now too-tight jeans and said, “Honey, we’ve got to get this under control!” I knew he was right. And as I stuffed one last bite of French toast soaked in butter and maple syrup into my mouth, we devised a plan to get us through the rest of the week.

Based on our experience, and with a little help from a great list of travel tips from USA Today, here’s how you can eat healthfully on a cruise – really!

1. Limit Alcohol Consumption. Alcohol, especially the fruity, mixed cocktails popular on cruises, is filled with empty calories. And after a few drinks, it may be hard to make good food choices.

2. Peruse Your Choices. Check out the buffet before loading your plate. Tom and I scoped out our options before each meal. It really helped us avoid impulse choices.

3. Manage How Much You Eat. It can be tempting to fill your plate sky-high. We started with smaller portions knowing we could always go back for more!

4. Take Your Time. Eat slowly and enjoy your food. Put your fork down between bites. We found eating leisurely while visiting with our tablemates made for an enjoyable meal each night in the dining room.

5. Take a Taste. I don’t like to waste my calories on something I don’t enjoy! Then, if I can’t resist a rich, fatty or exotic food choice, I indulge myself … just a bit!

6. Be Colorful. We were amazed at the variety of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables available at every meal. So it was easy to get the recommended three colors of food on each plate. Heck, our plates were virtual works of art!

7. Share a Dessert or rich meal with your partner or travel companion. Sometimes we’d even get two appetizers, then split an entrée. Heck, we often shared desserts with three or four others at our table. That way, everyone gets a taste.

8. Ask Questions. The servers, chef and dining room attendants want you to have the best time possible on your vacation. When I asked about ingredients or other options, the servers couldn’t have been more accommodating.

9. Balance Yourself. If you overindulge at one meal, don’t beat yourself up. Just eat lightly at the next meal. And just because you’re on vacation, don’t forget to exercise. Tom and I took advantage of the onboard swimming and fitness facilities and had a nice steam bath afterwards. You can also get in some good walking at the ship’s ports of call.

Fortunately, we made our “adjustments” in time! Oh, I still had my butterscotch sundaes – I just shared them with Tom after “priming the pump” at the fitness center! Between us, we gained less than 2 pounds. Our strategy worked! And it can work for you!

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.