Health Advocate Blog

Smarter eating at buffets

It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that dining at a buffet is always a good choice.  While the “all you can eat” factor of buffets may seem like a good value for your money, it can be costly for your health–unless done in moderation and with your wellness in mind.  Check out these tips for smarter, more healthful eating at buffets.

  • Don’t starve yourself.  If you know you’re going to a buffet for dinner, don’t starve yourself the rest of the day in an attempt to “save up” calories for dinner.  By doing that, you’re at risk of throwing off your metabolism.  Eat normal, healthy meals and snacks at the usual times that you eat them.
  • Look it over.  Survey the whole buffet before putting any food on your plate.  Decide what foods are worth eating and which should be skipped.
  • First things first.  Start with a broth-based soup or salad to fill you up a little bit before you dig in to the rest of the buffet.  If you choose a salad, be mindful of the dressing you pick, as many of them are loaded with salt, fat, and calories.  Low-calorie/light options, or vinaigrette, are your best bet.
  • Choose wisely.  Sticking to lean protein like grilled chicken and eating plenty of vegetables is a good idea.  You can enjoy starches (foods like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes), but do so in small portions.  Steer clear of fried foods and foods with heavy sauces, as they tend to be calorie-heavy and less nutritious.  Instead, look for foods that are baked, broiled, poached, steamed, or grilled–these are prepared using the smallest number of calories.
  • Be smart about dessert.  You don’t have to skip dessert, but you should make smart choices about what foods you pick.  Why not try a variety of fresh fruits instead of a piece of cake or pie?  If you can’t resist that sweet dessert, just choose one–don’t sample the entire dessert bar.  Taste your dessert choice–is it delicious?  If the answer to that is “no,” is the rest of it worth eating?
  • Eat your calories.  Don’t drink your calories.  Stick to low- or no-calorie beverages.
  • Don’t feel like you have to clear your plate.  You don’t have to eat every last morsel on your plate, especially if what you’re eating isn’t particularly satisfying.  Don’t feel guilty about leaving a few bites behind.
  • Eat sloooooooowly…and savor it.  It takes 15-20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you’re satisfied and no longer hungry.  Eat slowly so that by the time your belly and brain are talking, you’re not in the process of eating too much, which could lead to feeling overstuffed and uncomfortable later on.  Plus, if you eat slowly, you’ll have time to savor the food, helping you enjoy it more.
  • Get outta there.  Once you’re done eating, don’t linger at the restaurant.  Leaving the restaurant is a good way to make sure you don’t decide to take one more trip to the dessert bar.

Using these tips can help you enjoy the buffet more by knowing that you’re making healthy choices; you’re also reducing your risk of feeling overstuffed or feeling guilty from eating too much or too many unhealthy items.