Avoid Gaining Weight on Your Cruise: The Buffet

Avoid Gaining Weight on Your Cruise: The Buffet

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Believe it or not, the buffet is actually a great place to save calories on your cruise. You control what you eat, how much, and when. In part two of our series “Avoid Gaining Weight on Your Cruise”, we will show you how to be smart and make the buffet your best bet for controlling your weight on a cruise with healthy options.

Buffet Strategies

Deserts by Heather Cowper - www.cruisemood.com
Deserts on the MSC Splendida. Photo by Heather Cowper/Flickr

Take what you love. By design, buffets are laid out to get diners to fill up on cheaper food. They know that hungry cruisers are far more likely to fill up their plates with the first items they see at a buffet. Those items are usually bread, soup, crackers, and the salad bar. If you fill your plate with these items, it stands to reason you will take less of the more expensive food.

However, you are at an all-you-can-eat buffet stocked with a wide variety of delicious food. With all due respect to the salad and roll fanatics out there, who fills up on a roll and salad and then doesn’t also go back for the prime rib and mashed potatoes? Why not just take the prime rib and potatoes to start? If you need your veggies, by all means make room on your plate for a small side salad, or better yet, opt for steamed veggies which pack a much lower calorie punch. Don’t let the layout of the buffet control your dining destiny.

Disney Magic Buffet. Photo by Ricky Brigante/Flickr
Disney Magic Buffet. Photo by Ricky Brigante/Flickr

My strategy? I walk the buffet and actually mentally design my meal before I ever even touch a plate. If I really want a roll or salad, I will definitely take it, but I also won’t spend the calories on those items if there are more appealing options.

SEE ALSO  Avoid Gaining Weight on Your Cruise: The Dining Room

Don’t fall for “the salad trap”. A lot of people choose salad at a buffet because veggies are good for them. However, unless your salad is comprised entirely of green leafies and vinegar, the salad bar is a calorie trap. A ladle of ranch dressing? About 300 calories. 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds? 190 calories. 1/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese? 140 calories. Factor in garbanzo beans, sliced olives, croutons… you get the picture. And remember, low fat dressing does not mean low calorie.

To get my vegetable fix, I reach for steamed veggies or cut-up raw veggies I enjoy without dressing or dip. If I do opt for the salad bar, I will use at the very most half of a ladle of dressing or mix my own oil and vinegar.

Avoid Gaining Weight on Your Cruise: The Buffet
Breakfast at the Horizon Court Buffet

Use a small plate. I have been reading a lot lately about how we are likely to feel just as satisfied with the contents of a full smaller plate as we are the contents of a full larger plate. Consequently, the only reason I can see to justify grabbing one of those massive, oval buffet plates is if you are repelled by your food touching. But, if you are worried about going hungry, remember that you are at a buffet! If a small plate isn’t enough, go back for more.

Just a little (to start). In addition to the small plate strategy, I follow the half-spoon strategy. If something looks tasty, I take no more than half a serving spoon of it. Not only do I know I can go back for seconds, but if I don’t love something, I am not wasting as much food.

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Buffet aboard the Costa Romantica. Photo by David Lisbona/Flickr
Buffet aboard the Costa Romantica. Photo by David Lisbona/Flickr

You don’t know what’s in that… One of my favorite things at the buffet on our last cruise was an asparagus tomato salad. Are asparagus and tomatoes healthy? Yes! Was this dish low-calorie? No! I could tell that lovely salad was swimming in a blend of balsamic and some sort of oil. I enjoyed every bite, but I kept myself in check. Just remember, unless you are looking at cut-up raw fruit and veggies, there is a high likelihood that your food has added cream, butter, oil, mayo, cheese, or sugar.

Hopefully these tips will help you manage your weight at the buffet! You may not disembark without gaining any weight, but being an informed eater may help reduce the damage.

Need more advice on eating smart while on board? Check out “Avoid Gaining Weight on Your Cruise: The Dining Room” to learn how to eat what you really love without the guilt!  Also, see our general tips for cruising and diet “Avoid Gaining Weight on Your Cruise: Tips“.