7 Ways to Beat the Buffet

By Jim F

Buffets and other social functions can be trying when you want to eat healthy. It pays to have a strategy planned well in advance.

  1. Get your food and go
    Many work and social functions involve a large table covered with tasty looking morsels. Don’t be one of those people who stand next to the table. Get your plate, put your food on it, and leave the table. Period.
  2. Choose a small plate
    Seems obvious – but a large plate typically means lots of food and all hope of appropriate portion size is abandoned (there has been considerable research into this).
  3. Memorize what a “healthy plate” looks like
    Remember the various “healthy plates” that segment out different food groups? Try filling up your plate will salads and vegetables first – whatever is left can go to the other foods.
  4. Check out the buffet before loading up the plate
    Some people start at one end, and by the time they’ve finished loading the plate it looks like Mt Everest. Take a minute to walk around the foods before you grab your plate. Make a mental list of the best foods (lean proteins, salads, vegetables, etc). When it’s time to grab your plate – you can bypass all the other foods.
  5. Find the slowest eater
    Know someone who eats really slow? Sit next to them. It’ll help you pace yourself properly – and you’ll soon know if you’ve been stuffing yourself.
  6. Keep it all in balance
    You want to have dessert? Then ditch any appetizers – or keep your main small.
  7. Drink wisely
    Alcoholic drinks are surprisingly high in calories. If you’re after something a bit more exciting than plain water then go for a soda water (aka seltzer water or club soda). A dash of lime juice in it can make it a tasty drink.

For many people, a buffet meal should be avoided completely – the temptation to get your money’s worth is too strong. Researcher Brian Wansink has also demonstrated that the more variety on offer, the more we tend to eat.

Tables laden with food are a central part of many social gatherings. Don’t use them as an excuse to go crazy. If you do have comfort foods that you can’t do without, then pay very special attention to portion size.

28 Comments

  1. Oyun

    Bring something healthy in that I can eat.

    Reply
  2. Dekorasyon

    I tend to binge off in buffets, but after viewing these quick and easy tips

    Reply
  3. nba news

    Thank you this is vey good way. I will try them

    Reply
  4. lida

    I’ll just wait until the dessert table is set (I’m talking bout family functions here, since I rarely go to buffet restaurants), and do the same thing with the sweets. Just a tiny bit of each dish that appeals to me

    Reply
  5. KADIN

    That is a great point. I know here in my city in Canada we really don’t have many buffets, but the best tip I think would be to stay away from them as when you are there their is only so much you can do 🙂

    Reply
  6. Healthy Weight Loss Girl

    We tend to eat with our eyes so I agree with the idea of picking up a smaller plate. The less food we place on that plate the less we will end up consuming. I know that having a large plate at a buffet will force me to put a little bit of everything on there, a smaller plate will make me think a little more about what I really want.

    Reply
  7. huligan

    thanks for the tips; I tend to binge off in buffets, but after viewing these quick and easy tips, I feel inspired to give them a go. hopefully I can have more self-control the next time.

    Reply
  8. Diyet

    I’m not so sure I fall into the small plate club. I’m more of a “remember the healthy plate” person. How much you eat is not nearly as important as what you eat. I can eat a trough-full of romaine lettuce and consume fewer calories than the small plate of bacon-wrapped water chestnuts soaked in BBQ glaze

    Reply
  9. Supplements Canada

    That is a great point. I know here in my city in Canada we really don’t have many buffets, but the best tip I think would be to stay away from them as when you are there their is only so much you can do 🙂

    Reply
  10. Jim

    Israel said:
    Whats the point of going to a buffet then?[…]

    Not a lot of point – except that many social occasions occur there – generally extended family dinners.

    Reply
  11. Laura

    Huh… I never have problems at buffets. Maybe because there is sooo much out there – I tend to take little tiny portions (about a tablespoonful) of a lot of things, rather than huge portions. That way, I can taste everything that looks good, but at the end of the day, I haven’t eaten much more than if I had made a meal myself. Then, if I still want seconds, I usually gravitate to the fruit salad, or I’ll just wait until the dessert table is set (I’m talking bout family functions here, since I rarely go to buffet restaurants), and do the same thing with the sweets. Just a tiny bit of each dish that appeals to me.

    Reply
  12. jessiemcfarland

    Great Tips. Going to a buffet usually ended up eating more for me. The chefs have spent so much time and efforts to tempt our taste buds so they got it! I love to take small sampling of the foods I like while still sticking to my usual mix of meat,fruits and vegetables. Bon Appetit!

    Reply
  13. Ren

    why? becuase theyre cheap, and becuase theyre popular choices for large groups who have differing tastes and diet issues (ie, vegetarians)

    Reply
  14. Israel

    Whats the point of going to a buffet then? I dont even bother going anymore.

    Reply
  15. Ren

    The buffets ive been too always have a cold salads section. i always stack my first plate with vegetables, salads and fruit, a little bit of dressing where needed and go back to the table. When i finish that i go and have some of the other goodies on offer.

    i find that if you fill up on the good stuff first, you eat alot less of the crap later and you feel better for it.

    Reply
  16. Never teh Bride

    When all-you-can-eat is an option, I try to load up on fresh or steamed veggies. Of course, I like fresh and steamed veggies, so it’s more of a treat.

    Reply
  17. Dr.J

    This topic brought Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” to mind. For those who haven’t read it, it’s worth the effort. If I am at a buffet, I don’t feel I have to struggle with what not to eat. I don’t feel, gee, I really want that, but it’s bad for me. I just take healthy items, and it’s easy. I don’t know exactly when I arrived at this point, but it happened over time. At some point I chose that road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

    Reply
  18. Spectra

    I actually prefer buffet style restaurants to other kinds because I can create my own “meal” and I don’t have to worry about the kitchen staff adding things to it. Most buffet places have a salad bar and a good choice of healthy salad components and at least one low calorie dressing. They also usually have at least one or two healthy options, which is what I usually get. Most of the time, I just get a cup of a broth based soup and salad and it’s pretty healthy. The thing is though, most people that frequent the all you can eat buffets AREN’T getting the salads; they’re loading up on the ribs, pizza, mashed potatoes, gravy, and desserts.

    At family/work functions, I always bring a veggie tray and a healthy dip so I know I will be able to at least eat something guilt-free.

    Reply
  19. Brittany

    I live in buffet land (aka: Las Vegas) and try to stay far away from them for exactly that reason. I don’t want to have any excuse to ‘eat my money’s worth’. Also, you generally have no idea what things are cooked in. Those healthy veggies could have been cooked in butter, gah.

    But I can’t resist all you can eat sushi. It’s one of my rare treats. But I try to remind myself “I’m not buying all-you-can-eat so I can eat it all, I’m buying that so I can eat my dinner’s worth and not pay $40!”

    Reply
  20. Ann

    I definitely fall into the “wanting to get my money’s worth” trap. I feel like if I don’t eat more, I’m somehow getting ripped off … even at a party or something where I didn’t pay! I’ve tried to compensate by getting my money’s worth of fruit and veggies … but it doesn’t always work. Especially when those options aren’t available. My other trick is to know when an occasion for buffet is coming, and sort of compensate with the rest of what I eat that day. Maybe just an apple for breakfast if I know there’s a big lunch party.

    Reply
  21. Paul Young

    Buffets always use small plates. They are not the size like the ones in my kitchen.
    Buffets offer lots of fruits and vegetables. They can be the healthiest place to eat.

    Reply
  22. Bob

    I’m not so sure I fall into the small plate club. I’m more of a “remember the healthy plate” person. How much you eat is not nearly as important as what you eat. I can eat a trough-full of romaine lettuce and consume fewer calories than the small plate of bacon-wrapped water chestnuts soaked in BBQ glaze.

    Reply
  23. top weight loss site

    Choosing a small plate is my approach to eating healthy. It eat things here and there are not the healthiest choices but only eating a little portion in the key to everything.

    Reply
  24. Mark

    Great tip, Jennifer. I think we should also remind ourselves that food is not in short supply in this country – we can always eat more. There’s always going to be another buffet, snack, drive-thru, etc. If you remind yourself that the food or snack is always going to be available, the desire to overdo may be diminished – or at least the momentary craving.

    Reply
  25. libertate

    To expand on this – “all-you-can-eat” restaurants are definitely to be avoided if you lack the self control.

    Reply
  26. Jennifer

    One trick I have learned is to look around the room, spy the healthiest looking person I can find (the one I envy and want to like like) and eat exactly what they eat. The thin healthy people eat much less than I would if I were on my own.

    Reply
  27. 60 in 3

    I’ve found that the “eat slow” advice is best. I can wolf down two or three plates of food before I even start feeling full, but if I eat slow, I’ll barely get through one plate before my body tells me “no more”.

    Gal

    Reply
  28. Michelle

    Our “other” social functions do not provide any healthy options. Everybody brings in something baked…brownies, cinnamon buns, donuts, cookies, cake, etc. On occasion somebody brings trail mix, dried fruit, or fresh fruit, but it’s pretty rare. I tend to do one of three things:

    1. Not bring anything in. My philosophy has been, if you don’t bring something in, you don’t get to eat what’s on the table.

    2. Bring something healthy in that I can eat.

    3. Try to pick around the bad stuff and have the healthiest thing at the table.

    Reply