A Nutritionist’s Healthy Buffet Strategies

Enjoy your buffet experience without overindulging. Use these nutritionist-approved tips to guide your next visit.

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Healthy Limits

Although an all-you-can-eat buffet may sound tempting, you may be singing another tune when the reality of eating thousands of unnecessary calories sets in. Here are 10 healthy eating strategies to keep in mind before heading to your next buffet.

Eat Smartly Before Hitting the Buffet

Many folks skip all their meals before heading to a buffet. However, studies show that when you skip a meal, you tend to overeat at the next one. Your best bet is to eat regularly scheduled small, balanced meals throughout the day and arrive hungry — but not famished.

Eye Your Choices Before Making Final Picks

Don’t head into the buffet and pile your plate with the first food you lay your eyes on. The "good stuff" is usually hidden at the other end of the buffet! Take a stroll to examine all your choices, and then make your picks.

Remember the 2-Tablespoon Rule

You'll undoubtedly find numerous high calorie choices that make your mouth water. Choose 2 or 3 of your favorites and take only 2 tablespoons of each. This way you can have a taste of many foods without overindulging.

Savor Every Bite

Look around the buffet and you'll find many folks shoveling as much food in their mouths as possible. The food is disappearing at light speed that it's impossible to enjoy. Don't treat the buffet like it's your last meal. Choose your favorites and then take the time to relish every bite.

Don't Assume Salad Is the Healthiest Option

Although it's important to take in the recommended amount of veggies, some salads contain over 1,000 calories per serving. With ingredients like creamy dressings, bacon bits, cheese, or fried chicken, it's easy to get those calories to climb so high. Take the time to read the list of ingredients or ask what’s in the salad. You may learn you're actually off reaching for a piece of grilled fish or chicken with sautéed veggies instead.

Ask Questions

Oftentimes it is assumed that if a dish is labeled "vegetarian" or "gluten-free" that it’s healthier. But these dishes can still be fried and filled with high calories ingredients. Don't be afraid to ask the staff about the ingredients and cooking methods.

If you can't get a straight answer, then choose something else.

Measure Out Sauces

Many of the calories in meat, fish, and poultry dishes usually come from heavy sauces. They may not look creamy, but may be slathered in butter or oil. Ask if you can get the sauce on the side, or drain off most of the sauce before you eat it. If you are able to measure it out, opt for 1 to 2 tablespoons.

Watch Out for Oil

A batch of steamed veggies may seem like a safe choice, but some chefs toss oil to keep them looking pretty while they're sitting out. One tablespoon of any oil contains 120 calories, and there's much more than 1 tablespoon of oil on a batch of glistening veggies. Instead, look for veggie dishes that have a dull finish.

Opt for Low-Cal Beverages

Besides having a lot of food within your reach, you can end up guzzling hundreds of calories from liquid calories too. Juice, regular soda, sweetened iced tea, and alcoholic bevies can all contribute even more unnecessary calories. Opt for low- and no-calorie beverages like water, seltzer, fresh brewed iced tea or coffee. If you need an alcoholic beverage, stick with 1 glass of wine as opposed to a mixed sugary cocktail which are tougher to control, and can have upwards of 450 calories each.

Desserts Count Too!

It's tough to resist those mouthwatering desserts all lined up on buffet tables. However, there's no need to grab everything your heart desires. Instead, choose 1 or 2 of your favorites and share with your tablemates, or limit yourself to 2 bites. Oftentimes, a small taste will satisfy that sweet tooth.