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Nautical Dining – It is not what it used to be

Photos courtesy BC Ferries.

Spirit Ship

Some people are natural born travelers. They are able to sleep pretty much anywhere and will happily eat just about anything that’s available - making up for any nutritional lapses at journeys end. While it seems we could all simply follow the lead of such a person and adapt to mealtimes with merely an attitude adjustment, there are those who legitimately have a more difficult time dining.

It’s not because they’re just picky - there are some people who actually do have specific dietary needs that can’t be simply met with traditional traveling cuisine such as a hamburger and fries.

So with spring in the air, I became a traveler myself. While I might be considered picky, I am free from a health standpoint to enjoy most foods without issue. However I can understand those people with less flexibility and thus decided to investigate alternatives while crossing Georgia Straight aboard BC Ferries.

Having heard rumours that the ferry would be void of all choices bar a hamburger and fries, I was pleasantly surprised by the menu choices that do exist.

Beef Stir Fry

Lower fat/lower calorie diets

For those who have to reduce the fat or calories in their meals, BC Ferries offers a number of choices. Although the buffet does offer a wide selection of salad options, there are too many other tempting items that are certainly not low-fat. Instead, I opted for one of the new Coastal Sensation menu dishes. The spring and summer Coastal Sensation menu offers several lower fat, lower calorie items. Presently available is a filet of cod with a tomato-based Mediterranean sauce, fresh mashed potatoes and vegetables. For even further fat and calorie reduction, you may order the fish poached and served with steamed rice instead of potatoes.

Similarly an order of beef chow mein can be served over rice and with a request for less sauce. Other Coastal Sensation dishes include a vegetarian pasta (you can ask for it without or with less feta cheese), a wild salmon (it comes baked but you may order it poached) with steamed mussels, rice and vegetables, and a chicken and prawn stir fry (again you can order it with rice instead of noodles). If a snack is all that’s needed, there are also options such as fresh fruit, yogurt, and salads (choose the raspberry vinaigrette dressing). BC Ferries is now trans fat free for their salad dressings, margarines, oils and baked goods and have recently teamed up with Health Check.

Cod Mash

For the Vegetarian

Vegetarians can actually go for that burger and fries as there’s a veggie burger available from the BC Ferry’s White Spot menu. There are also several vegetarian sandwiches, a vegetarian pasta dish, and ordering some of the items from the Coastal Sensation menu on their own. The buffet also has the salad bar, and some vegetarian items, but it can be somewhat limited depending on which ferry you travel on with one vegetarian menu item per ferry.

Low sodium

Many of the items on the ferry are appropriate for low-sodium diets as little salt is used in the kitchens in order to accommodate varying tastes. Diners looking for low sodium foods can safely navigate the buffet as long as they avoid any of the heavily sauced items. The Coastal Sensation menu is also a low sodium option. Other items such as sushi (which doesn’t use the soya), fruit, yogurt and salads are also good choices for low-sodium meals.


While it seemed that the majority of diners were still choosing those tasty burgers and fries, there are many other menu items for people with special dietary needs or those simply looking for healthier choices. While a burger and fries is a great treat once in awhile, I suggest the next time you are at sea, think outside the burger and try some healthier choices. BC Ferries has indeed come a long way in serving the diverse needs of the traveler. You too might be pleasantly surprised.

by Cassandra Anderton

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