Buffet Dos and Don’ts

by in Dining Out, February 20, 2012
all-you-can-eat buffet
Don't feel pressured to eat all you can at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Tired of rolling home after an all-you-can-eat buffet? Use our tips to keep your waistline in check when you visit a buffet or salad bar.

DON’T: Skip all your meals and arrive famished.
DO: Eat well-balanced small meals before hitting the buffet.
Studies show that when you skip meals, you tend to overeat at your next meal. It’s best to eat your regularly scheduled small, balanced meals and arrive hungry but not out-of-control famished.

DON’T: Pile your plate with the first food your eyes land on.
DO: Take a stroll around the buffet to examine all of your choices.
Oftentimes, we start by eating the first thing we see but realize later that the “good stuff” is hidden at the other end of the buffet. Take the time to check everything out before you make your decisions.

DON’T: Treat the buffet like it’s your last meal.
DO: Savor every bite.
If you’re shoving down food at light speed, you won’t be able to taste it, let alone enjoy it. Choose your favorite foods then sit down and take the time to relish every bite.

DON’T: Think a salad is your best choice.
DO: Keep your options open.
We do encourage eating plenty of veggies, but sometimes salads can be deceiving. If you add high-fat ingredients like cheese, creamy dressings, bacon bits or fried chicken you can end up with over 1,000 calories! Perhaps there’s a piece of grilled fish or chicken with a side of sauteed vegetables that may has fewer calories and is just as healthy as a salad.

DON’T: Assume foods labeled as “vegetarian” are healthy.
DO: Ask questions.
Oftentimes, we assume that the food is healthy because of its title (i.e. vegetarian egg rolls). A meatless dish can still be fried and filled with high-calorie goodies. To be certain, ask about the ingredients and cooking method. If you can’t get an answer, then it’s best to skip it.

DON’T: Overdose on sauces.
DO: Measure them out.
Many of the calories in meat, fish, chicken and other dishes tend to come from heavy sauces. They may not look creamy, but many are made with loads of butter and oil. Instead of skipping the dish altogether, either ask for very little sauce or drain off most of the sauce before you eat it. If you can measure out a sauce (like gravy on turkey) then opt for 1 to 2 tablespoons.

DON’T: Guzzle liquid calories.
DO: Opt for low-calorie beverages.
The buffet table is full of potential calories. There’s no need to fill up on juice, regular soda or other high-calorie beverages. Water, seltzer or freshly brewed iced tea are all good lower-calorie choices.

DON’T: Go nutty over dessert.
DO: Taste a few yummy options
Who doesn’t love dessert? But there’s no need to take full servings of 5 different kinds. Instead, use my 2 tablespoon rule—take 2 tablespoons of 2 or 3 desserts that you must have. Sometimes a little taste is all you need.

TELL US: How do you maneuver your way through a buffet?

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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