How to Avoid Weight Gain While on a Cruise

Dr. Fran Cogen Health Pro
  • I am taking a break from a long awaited Alaskan cruise vacation to write about the balancing act (literally and figuratively) that is required to avoid weight gain and/or hyper/hypoglycemia (in people with or without diabetes). I am writing about those of us who are at risk for pre-diabetes as well. In December of 2010, I arranged a family cruise to celebrate my son's graduation from medical school to coincide with a diabetes meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. Everyone warned me about all the "food opportunities" once on board and the multitude of choices available. They were not wrong. Since dining is part of the cruise package, there is no extra charge for multiple appetizers, main courses, and desserts. A buffet is always available for your eating pleasure! Of course, cruisers are the target of multiple jokes and the myth of 1- 2 pound weight gain per day may just not be a myth. Strategies are necessary to survive the barrage of food.

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    The temptation to eat 3 meals per day along with the "light" snacks offered in the afternoon is very real. One may sit down to dine in a traditional dining room or eat at other venues. There is a gym available to work off those extra calories and a deck to walk around the entire ship's periphery. (1 mile=3 laps around the ship). It is interesting to observe how people seem to become somewhat more gluttonous as the days progress...ordering more than 1 appetizer, entrée, or dessert! So, how is it possible to remain euglycemic and avoid the poundage that leads to further insulin resistance?


    1. Buffet strategies-

    a. walk all around the aisles to see just what is available. Often (per my hotel management friend), the best quality choices are harder to find and are in places not as easy accessible. Look for the lean meat choices.

    b. Take the smallest plate available to help with portion sizes.

    c. Try out the lovely fruit choices and avoid muffins/croissants.

    d. Fish appears to be abundant, especially salmon, so take advantage of freshly caught fish!

    e. When you have filled your (smaller) plate, walk as far away as possible to another room to enjoy your meal. This will make you less inclined to get seconds or thirds.

    f. If on an insulin pump, use the combo/extended bolus feature as much as possible.

    g. If on basal /bolus regimens with shots, make sure you try to bolus before eating after estimating as best as possible the amount of carbs on your plate (same is true for pumpers).

    h. Test blood sugars at least every 3-4 hours if on basal bolus therapy (pump and multiple injections) to take advantage of "correction opportunities." After all, you do not know those hidden carbs packed into that delicious appetizer or soup.

    i. Try to fill up your plate with pretty veggies (did not always work for me, despite the sage advise of my wise Children's Diabetes team dietician)!


    2. Traditional dining strategies

    a. Order one appetizer, main course, or dessert. DO NOT succumb to temptation (that is really hard). Peer pressure should be avoided.

  • b. Watch out for huge portion sizes. Just because "all you can eat" is included in the package, you are not required to do so!

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    c. Bolus before eating!

    d. Choose something that you have never eaten previously.

    e. Enjoy the cuisine native to the geographic area (fish, venison, moose).

    f. Salad dressing on the side.

    g. Have a taste of everything. (I had a small tasting sample of two to three of my son's desserts each night.)


    3. A word about alcohol

    a. Illegal under 21 years of age (they card you, so don't try it)!

    b. Mixed drinks/beer have carbs.

    c. It is easy to keep that wine flowing and to order those sugary lemontini's.

    d. It gets expensive.

    e. Intoxication may be confused with hypoglycemia. So, please make sure you do eat if you imbibe.


    4. Exercise

    a. Try to do it everyday. If you are at sea, either try to workout in a gym, or even better, take a quick stroll with a like-minded mate on deck and accrue those miles.

    b. Play games that involve moving, like ping pong. I love to play and actually won the ladies tournament. Then, you meet other people who like to play and set up play-dates!

    c. Be adventurous and go to excursions offered in ports that involve physical activity, like kayaking, hiking, glacier climbing.

    f. Go fishing (takes a lot of work to land a 30 pound king salmon (one of my table-mates caught one and we had it for dinner that evening).


    5. General comments

    a. Take all medications with you. Although there is a ship doctor, visits and medications are expensive.

    b. Bring enough diabetes related supplies to last.

    c. Check blood sugars frequently. You may need to change basal insulin amounts depending on your activity/inactivity.

    d. Have fun!


    Any other tips? Please comment!




Published On: June 07, 2011