What are some ways I can make healthy choices at a buffet?

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LeAnn Heise, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
First, walk around the buffet and observe all of the offerings before even getting a plate. Oftentimes, when you’re at a buffet, you’ll grab a plate and fill it up with everything in sight within the first few dishes. It’s better to observe everything and select two favorite foods you can’t go without. Add those to your plate and fill the rest with vegetables that are prepared as simple as possible.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Use buffet-table strategies. You're less likely to inhale hearty helpings from every dish if you check out the entire spread first. We call it "eye your pie before you try." Stake out a seat where you can't see the feast, and choose only one or two specialties (Uncle Eddie's meatballs or Aunt Edna's spinach dip, for example) instead of three or four. You eat more calories when you have more choices.
Dr. Andrea Pennington, MD
Integrative Medicine
In a cafeteria or food-buffet restaurant fill your plate with steamed vegetable side dishes before you go for the meat. Remove the skin from chicken before you eat it and remove all visible fat from meats. Look for grilled, broiled or flame-cooked meats and avoid anything breaded, batter-dipped or fried. Take just enough gravy to moisten the meat. Choose a baked potato over home-fried or French-fried. If there's a salad bar, concentrate on crisp, crunchy vegetable and bean mixtures; leave the potato, macaroni and tuna salads behind.
Holly Brown
Fitness

I love the Beat the Buffet Game by Dr. Oz. We expect salad dressings to be somewhat high in fat, but they can also be loaded with sugar!

When you know you are going to be tempted at special event where foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt will be served, there are some steps that you can take to make sure your weight loss goals aren't completely derailed. If breakfast items are available head for the eggs, fresh fruit, and oatmeal whenever possible. Look for whole wheat toast and remeber even bran muffins can be loaded with calories. If the event is later in the day try these suggestions;

  • It's best to avoid foods swimming in heavy cream sauces or anything fried!
  • Take a few minutes to survey what is being offered, "all you can eat" doesn't mean that you have to eat it all!
  • Fill half your plate with salads and vegetables, one quarter with complex carbohydrates like whole wheat pasta, and one quarter with good lean proteins.
  • Relax and eat your meal mindfully, meaning you take your time and really enjoy what you have chosen.
  • After you have finished, give yourself a few minutes to sit and relax before you decide whether or not you are still hungry.
  • If you must have dessert offer to share it with someone.

If all else fails, do not throw in the towel! Simply return to your healthy eating plan at the very next meal. Try not to let one weak moment turn into a whole weekend. When you make healthy choices you feel good about yourself and can be proud of your efforts.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Do you want to know which salad is the healthiest choice at a buffet?

Watch the video to learn from Dr. Oz about healthy choices you can make at a buffet.

Continue Learning about Dieting For Weight Loss

Dieting For Weight Loss

Dieting For Weight Loss

Losing weight quickly is OK as long as you do it safely, not through a crash diet. You can lose three or more pounds a week by burning more calories than you eat. If you burn an extra 500 calories per day through eating less and i...

ncreasing your physical activity, you can lose about one to two pounds of fat per week. Dietitians recommend a daily minimum of 1,200 calories per day (a 200-pound person might need 1,400 calories). Anything less makes you lose muscle as well as fat, which slows your metabolism. Instead, minimize your intake of starches, added sugars like high fructose corn syrup and animal fat from dairy and meats. Focus on eating fruits and vegetables, soy products, egg whites, skinless poultry breasts, shellfish and fish, nonfat dairy foods and meat that is 95 percent lean. Drink lots of water, don't skip meals, and eat only from a plate while seated at a table.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.