Similar to Atkins and Paleo, a ketogenic (keto) diet aims to increase the body's intake of healthy fats and protein while limiting its carbohydrates and sugars, thereby forcing it to burn the fat instead. Eating keto on a cruise can be difficult, especially when you're surrounded by temptation, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.
Below, we offer some examples of what to eat, tips for keeping up with a keto diet on a cruise and even a list of themed keto diet cruise sailings that will offer support and keep you on track during your vacation.
Updated February 27, 2020
What to Eat at Each Meal
All mainstream oceangoing cruise lines are equipped to deal with dietary restrictions with advance notice. However, because following a keto diet is often possible to do by simply choosing the food items that are already available and adjusting the amounts and what comes with them (sauces and condiments, for example), it's not necessary to alert most lines ahead of time.
Here are some example recommendations for keto-friendly dishes at breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, based on what most cruise lines are likely to offer in their main dining rooms or buffets.
Breakfast: Try an omelet made with eggs, tomatoes and cheese, plus a side of bacon. For your morning cuppa, go with unsweetened tea or bulletproof coffee (black coffee with butter).
Lunch: Head to the buffet's wok or stir-fry station. Although you'll have to pass on the noodles and rice, it's the perfect place to find chicken or beef with vegetables like broccoli and peppers. (Ask for them to be cooked in coconut oil, if possible.)
Dinner: Salmon is an always-available staple in most cruise ships' main dining rooms and steakhouses. Order it with some broccoli or asparagus cooked in butter.
Dessert: You'll find cheese plates on just about every main dining room's dessert menu. It's a perfect option for those staying keto on a cruise ship.
Tips for Avoiding Traps
Even diligent dieters might get tripped up when not preparing your own food. Here's some advice for avoiding pitfalls.
Embrace the buffet. The main dining room offers a lovely, formal dining experience, but it's hard to know exactly what is going into your dishes. When you eat in the buffet, you have the chance to build your own salads and put in special requests at wok and stir-fry counters, carving stations and omelet bars, where your meal is cooked to your specifications right in front of you. It's a great way to monitor exactly which ingredients are being used.
Keep it simple. The fewer ingredients in the dish, the less likely you are to find yourself falling off the keto wagon. Don't be afraid to order something from the menu in the main dining room or a specialty restaurant, but request that it be cooked in butter or olive oil. Keep it as plain as possible, or ask for a special diet-friendly topping or two that you enjoy.
Skip the sauces. Sauces and dressings are notorious hiding places for carbs. Maintain ketosis by opting for olive oil on your salad instead of dressing, and ask your waiter to top entrees with cheese and desserts with berries and/or cocoa powder.
Banish the bread. We know it's difficult to resist, but that tasty-looking basket of bread on the table in the main dining room is totally off limits. If your tablemates are OK with it, avoid the temptation by asking your waiter to remove it (or not to bring it in the first place if you have set-seating dining). This goes without saying -- but we'll remind you anyway -- that you'll have to forgo the dough in the buffet, too. (Butter is fair game, though!)
Bring your own snacks. Pack some walnuts, pecans, almonds or pumpkin seeds to bring with you on your voyage. Greek yogurt is another great between-meal option, and most cabins have mini-fridges to keep it cold. Because international regulations can prohibit the transfer of produce from ship to shore and vice versa, check with your cruise line ahead of time to be sure berries are readily available if they're one of your go-to nibbles.
Low-Carb Keto Cruises
If you're itching to cruise but don't think you can stick to your low-carb diet without help, there's a keto-themed sailing that might be the perfect fit. The Low Carb Cruise, which first sailed in 2008, is now a semiannual event led by renowned keto author and podcast host Jimmy Moore, U.K. certified nutritional therapist Ailsa Marshall and keto-friendly travel agent Debbie Hubbs.
The 2020 voyage sets sail May 17 on a weeklong Eastern Caribbean partial charter sailing from Port Canaveral on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas. It will feature seminars by guest speakers who include doctors, nurses, nutrition specialists and personal trainers, among others. It will also offer support for those wishing to learn, share and maintain their keto lifestyle while at sea.