Stereotypically, cruising is synonymous with overindulgence: relaxing, gambling and especially eating and drinking. Buffets on many ships serve as the mother lode for everything from light bites to dense delights, featuring lots of cuisine choices and the ability to go back for seconds, thirds and so on. But with all of the mouthwatering options, which offerings are best avoided?
To help us with our choices, we consulted Ali Shapiro, a Pittsburgh-based integrated health coach, who offered some tips on how to better navigate the warren of options that abound at the buffet. Here's our list of foods we recommend you skip on your next cruise.
Although cruise lines take safe food handling extremely seriously, nothing is foolproof. If you're feeling lucky, take it to the casino; don't gamble with the freshness of that spicy tuna roll. If there's sushi on the buffet and you don't know how long it's been there, consider giving it a pass for something you can see being made right in front of you.
2. Soft Serve Ice Cream Cones
If you're like us, you use your dominant hand to work the lever on the soft-serve machine -- a lever that sees a lot of other hands, both clean and otherwise -- before switching the cone to the same hand that just touched said lever. Avoid the ick factor by using a napkin or switching to a bowl instead of a cone.
3. Scrambled Eggs
That vat of scrambled eggs you see on the buffet at breakfast each morning is likely powdered, and powdered eggs can often be wet and/or squishy. Opt instead for a trip to the made-to-order egg and omelet station. But, "Don't just eat the egg whites," says Shapiro. "Eat the egg yolks, too." Despite what we've always been taught, egg yolks won't raise cholesterol, and they contain "good" fats, which help to stabilize blood sugar early in the day so you'll be less likely to snack on sweets from the buffet later on.
4. Old Pizza
If the pizza has that congealed-cheese look, it's probably been sitting out for a while, particularly if it's a non-peak dining time. Don't feel bad about asking for a new pie or heading to the onboard pizza shop -- just about every ship has one -- for a slice.
5. Communal Condiments
Giant bottles of shared ketchup, mustard and other condiments can breed germs since so many people touch them. Ask buffet staff for individual single-serve packets. If they aren't available, use a napkin to dispense what you need.
6. Compromised Food
If you notice the person in front of you touching food and putting it back, realize that someone has contaminated a vegetable-only dish by using utensils meant for meat or if you see that the tongs have fallen completely into the food, handle and all, alert a crew member, and avoid taking any of the potentially contaminated dishes until they've been replaced with fresh ones.
7. More Than One Plate at a Time
We know you're probably excited about all the free food at the buffet, but there's no need to hoard plate after plate as if eating is going out of style. You can always go back for additional helpings. It's better to take one plate at a time so you'll waste less if you suddenly find yourself full. It also leaves one hand free for you to grab a drink.
8. Dessert During the Day
If you're concerned about avoiding a few extra pounds, try limiting your dessert intake to dinnertime only. "Wait until evening to eat dessert so you crave less sugar," Shapiro advises. "The more sugar you eat, the more you're going to want." If you wait until the last meal of the day to indulge in sweets, you have bedtime to eliminate cravings before the following day.