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15 tips for eating healthy at a buffet!

Updated on December 28, 2013

There’s something pretty awesome about all you can eat buffets. That silent agreement between you and the buffet that as long as you pile your plate high enough the buffet will continue to magically replenish. It is easy to let your greed get the better of you and eat more than you should, especially more of what is not so good for you! A limitless supply of food encourages us to put more on our plates than we need, consuming things we wouldn’t normally, but do so ‘because we can’.

If you are on a diet, eating well and worried about spoiling all your hard work with a buffet blow out, here’s a few tips to keep your trip to the buffet a little healthier!

Eating healthier at a buffet!

  1. Sit far away from the buffet. Fancy scientific studies have shown that the further away we are from something, the less tempted we are to make more trips than necessary. If you are within arms reach of the desserts tray, you are more likely to reach over for the extra slice than if you had to make the effort to get out of your seat and walk the length of the room to get it! Also, try to take a seat that faces away from the buffet table. This helps you concentrate more on what is on your plate and socializing than eyeing up what you are going to get next!
  2. Take a plate-less walk around the entire buffet before you start to eat! See everything they have to offer and start to consciously make choices about what you want to eat.
  3. Tasting portions are the perfect way to start – if something tastes bad in a tiny amount, it is not going to taste good if you go for a larger portion. A tiny tasting portion will give you a better idea of what you really want to eat!
  4. Use smaller plates! Larger plates mean you will pile more food on, usually more than you need. Larger plates make normal portion sizes look much smaller so by default we pile more on to fill the plate! Our brains are visual things and over the years we have trained ourselves to think an empty plate is the end of the meal – so if you use a smaller plate you will trick your brain into thinking you’ve had a ‘full’ meal.
  5. Choose water over fizzy drinks. Water will fill you up without adding calories to your meal. The fuller you feel the less likely you are to eat unnecessary extras.
  6. Sit with green people, i.e. people who are more likely to make healthier choices. If we see those around us making healthier choices we are more inclined to follow suit and eat similarly.
  7. Slow down! Cut up your food, chew slowly and savor each bite. It can take over 30 minutes for the ‘full’ signals from our stomach to reach our brain, which can explain why we do not feel overly stuffed immediately after several plates of food!
  8. Be adventurous in what you pick to put on your plate! Do not go for the things you would eat normally, opt to try something new or something you do not eat very often. Buffets are a great way to try new things and broaden your palette.
  9. Leave room for dessert! For me, the best part of the buffet is the dessert tray; I have a super sweet tooth so I prefer to eat less off the regular buffet and have a cheeky extra slice for dessert! Avoid adding creams and sauces to your desserts to save on calories. If you want to have/try several desserts, consider putting them all on one plate and sharing amongst the group or taking a small portion of each.
  10. Start with salad and be sure to add salad to your plate on each subsequent visit to the buffet. It fills up space on your plate leaving less room for naughtier treats. Just avoid fattening dressings and opt for oil or light vinaigrette.
  11. Banish breads from your choices. High in carbs and calories, it is usually always white and always plentiful because it’s cheap and fills you up. If you fill up quickly on bread, you will have little room for anything else! The buffet owners want you to fill up on the cheap bread, meaning they are earning more money per guest.
  12. A little of this, a little of that. Think half a ladle. If you have just a little of everything you will feel satisfied that you did not have to miss any of your favorite foods and got to try a bit of everything!
  13. Beware the battered offerings at the buffet! Anything battered or breaded is going to be higher in calories and fats. Go for grilled instead, it will be higher in protein, fill you up more and much healthier for you! The same goes for anything in ‘skin’. If there is no skinless alternative be sure to remove the skin yourself!
  14. If you do not like it, do not finish it! Be a fussy eater; if something tastes unpalatable then do not feel under any obligation to finish it. What is the point if you are not enjoying it? Save the room for something you will actually enjoy!
  15. Starving before the buffet is a BAD idea! You will be more inclined to jump right in on the larger portions and eat much more than you would normally. Have a light snack before you get there to take the edge off your appetite. You will be more likely to make conscious healthy choices once you get there!

Save room for dessert!
Save room for dessert! | Source

Never feel like you have to deprive yourself of the foods you enjoy, as long as you remain in control and eat in moderation you will be able to enjoy all the buffet has to offer without being left stuffed and uncomfortable. Enjoy your food, eat slowly and be choosy with what you eat. Remember; just because it is there, it does not mean you have to eat it!

The above tips sound like a lot, but most of it is pretty straight forward and you will find yourself subconsciously going through the above motions if you are actively making healthier choices in your day to day life!

Don't forget...

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    • Saloca profile image

      Saloca 4 years ago from Liverpool, UK

      @alcosin it's not always easy to avoid a buffet, especially where social functions are concerned! It's nice to be able to go, enjoy ourselves and make good choices too! Thanks for the comment :)

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Great tips, but I think the best way to eat healthy at a buffet is to avoid going to buffets in the first place. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • Saloca profile image

      Saloca 5 years ago from Liverpool, UK

      Glad you enjoyed the hub! If you enjoy buffet restaurants you shouldn't avoid them, it's all about conscious decisions and moderation! Follow the above tips and you can still enjoy yourself there!

    • LostInRevery profile image

      LostInRevery 5 years ago from Maine

      Great hub! I try to stay as far away from buffet style restaurants as possible! Although, after reading your hub I may try them again :)

    • Saloca profile image

      Saloca 5 years ago from Liverpool, UK

      Your completely right; bigger carts really do make us buy more! When we see empty space our initial reaction is to fill the void! Out eyes are very greedy indeed!

    • GiblinGirl profile image

      GiblinGirl 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Good tips - especially about using a smaller plate. It really does make a difference when your portion doesn't look so tiny in comparison to your plate. I think I've heard that even at grocery stores people tend to buy more when they use bigger carts.