8 Tips To Make Good Choices At A Buffet

Do you have a special event coming up? But you are worried you will pack on a few extra pounds? Eating out is a fun and sociable experience. However, it also makes it easier for you to make poor food choices. Especially when you binge eat.

In fact, 30% of people looking to try weight reduction treatment most likely exhibit symptoms of binge eating disorder. Besides, no matter the occasion, there will still be plenty of food on the table. So, you might want to treat yourself to something nice that won’t take a toll on your health (1).

Luckily, there is a way for you to make healthier and well-informed food choices. You can fill your plate with goodies that won’t compromise your weight. If you have no clue how to do that, then you’ve come to the right place. The tips below will show you the ropes.

1. Attend the Buffet Well-Prepared

According to the CDC, you should plan ahead before you go to a buffet. Planning gives you a different perspective and allows you to control your food choices. Make a plan of the meals that you think will be served and decide which of them are better to avoid (2).

Experts advise that you read the menu before going to the restaurant. Research shows that there are many external and internal cues, not just the stimulation from hunger or foods, that make us want to eat more (3).

But, when you create a psychological boundary and you understand your tendency towards energy-dense foods, then you can have an easier time making the right food selection. Choosing a dish before arriving at a buffet can give you that control. You can use the plan to avoid making snap decisions that you’ll regret later (4).

2. Be Selective With Your Choice of Food

When you get there, walk around and observe all your options. One of the most common mistakes people make is grabbing a plate and filling it up with everything in sight. These first couple of dishes often don’t have the nutrient value you need.

The way the food is prepared also matters. It significantly affects the number of calories it has. Dishes that are crunchy, sautéed, fried, or crispy often are packed with calories and fat. Healthier choices mean opting for food that’s:

  • Roasted
  • Grilled
  • Poached
  • Steamed

That’s why it is better to observe and pick the two foods that you can’t go without. Then, fill in the rest of the plate with simple veggies. If, for example, you take a 10-inch plate, which is the size of a typical dinner plate, then half of it should be filled with veggies.

Non-starchy and colorful veggies work best. Such as green beans, bell peppers, broccoli, turnips, carrots, spinach, etc. Ideally, you should be opting for steamed or fresh veggies. They are light on cream, cheese, and salad dressing.

Research indicates that steaming keeps the highest level of nutrients in any vegetable. Boiling them, on the other hand, forces folate, B1, and vitamin C to leach into the water. But, steaming cooks them gently maintaining their nutrient potency (5).

For those who want to add a bit more flavor, then adding your own dressing with some vinegar and olive oil can come in handy. It will give you that oomph factor and satisfy your taste buds. It is best to avoid veggie dishes packed with cheese and butter. Like veggies with sauce or casseroles.

3. Swap the Sugary Drink With Water

Drinking water during and before a meal increases satiety. It suppresses your appetite and controls cravings. Whenever you drink it, it takes up space in the stomach, causing a feeling of fullness. This is a great way to trick the mind. But, there is more.

Data shows water can (6):

  • Increase calorie burning
  • Remove excess waste
  • Curb the liquid calorie intake
  • Metabolize the stored fat properly

A 2018 study decided to evaluate the impact of water on satiety in non-obese adults. When people drank water before a meal, they ended up eating less than those who didn’t. Drinking water didn’t necessarily give them more energy, but it seemed to be an efficient weight control strategy (7).

Sugary drinks have the exact opposite effect. They don’t fill you up as fast as solid foods do. So, it is a lot easier to consume a ton of calories than you normally would. The more you drink them, the sooner the glucose will rise and drop. This will make you feel hungry and overeat (8).

If you need a different tactic, then start off with warm soup. Soup is a practical option for hydrating the body and calming hunger. A lot of people think that they are hungry, when in fact, they are thirsty. This is what experts call false hunger.

Increased liquid volume satisfies the system and stimulates better blood flow and digestion. Healthy soups are packed with vegetables but are low in fat and calories. They supply the system with everything you need, like vitamins and minerals.

Most importantly, when you drink soup, you are less likely to choose caloric beverages. Soup is simply filling and delicious. The body digests it relatively quickly and won’t upset the stomach.  To really get the benefit you are looking for, you might want to skip the cream-based soups.

They are high in calories, fat, and sodium. What you need is high veggie content with as few heavy oils as possible. So, judge the ingredients based on what you can see, or ask one of the employees at the buffet about what it is that you are getting.

4. Choose to Eat Mindfully

A buffet will present you with countless challenges. There is no doubt that a lot of people, like yourself, will have trouble choosing and enjoying one dish. But, when you are mindful of the meals you eat, controlling the cravings becomes a piece of cake.

Mindfulness has a plethora of benefits. When going to a buffet, it will be your best friend. Research shows that mindful eating helps control compulsive overeating behavior and gives you more flexibility. This behavioral flexibility is crucial when trying to manage cravings (9).

Another 2019 study showed similar results. Mindfulness provided some effectiveness in managing obesity-related eating behavior, such as binge eating. It could also prove useful in reducing the extra pounds and promoting well-being (10).

Mindful eating is about making conscious decisions about what you will eat. Then give your full attention to the dish you consume. Take your time with every bite so that you can savor the flavor and aroma of the meal.

The more you practice, the easier it is to develop feelings and emotions with the food you munch on. You get to establish self-control, particularly when met with difficult and tempting situations.

5. Skip Dessert and Choose a Cup of Coffee

You will be tempted to reach out for that chocolate treat. But, after a heavy meal, you might want to opt for a cup of coffee instead. It all boils down to your blood sugar levels. These levels can drop, which is why that chocolate dessert looks downright mouthwatering.

But, if you want to skip the sugar intake, yet still get that energy boost, coffee can definitely help. Although having a single dessert won’t significantly affect your weight, it is still a good idea to use this opportunity to give your body a healthy boost.

Coffee is not loaded with sugar and calories. Plus, it is a great choice for the digestive system. Studies suggest that coffee brew could provide multiple effects on the digestive tract. It also has a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (11).

Now, there is a reason coffee is the most popular beverage on the planet. Since it can aid with muscle contraction, it could allow the body to remove the food and waste a lot quicker. In other words, it speeds things up a bit (12).

Of course, the way coffee affects the body may vary from person to person and the type of beverage you select. At one end, the beverage is acidic in nature, which means it could provide heartburn and acid reflexes. If you have a gastrointestinal problem, then you might want to skip it.

Whereas for others, coffee is here to instantly energize the body after a meal. It speeds up blood flow and body metabolism. It can stimulate the fat-digesting enzyme lipase and regulate glucose levels. So, those who want to keep their blood sugar in check could benefit from an option such as this.

Thus, turning to the “right amount of coffee” could indicate a proper benefit. Experts believe that 400mg of caffeine is the maximum daily intake. For most women, it is safe to drink 3 to 5 cups a day. An average cup of coffee (8-ounce cup) features about 95 mg caffeine. When breastfeeding or pregnant, different rules apply. Consult with your doctor whether you should be adding caffeine to your diet (13).

6. Avoid Pre-Dinner Bread Basket

If you think you need better control, then you don’t want to eat the nibbles. It is so easy to reach out for the bread basket and munch on a few slices. Freshly baked bread is definitely delicious. It is a great way to start the meal. But, all those carbs before the main course will surely ramp up your appetite and increase glucose.

The truth is, bread is a sign of hospitality for every restaurant or buffet. It may be free, but it is a staple for many cuisines. When going somewhere to grab a bite, you will almost always receive bread for starters. This is a custom and a popular choice for keeping the customers fed and happy.

But, when you are watching the carb intake and what you can and can’t eat, then bread may not be the best choice. You see, the worst thing you can do on an empty stomach is to supply it with extra carbohydrates.

Not only will it decrease digestion, but it can also make it more difficult to curb cravings. If you really love breadsticks or bread in general, then you might want to eat it at the end of the meal. That way you are less likely to go overboard and still have plenty of space left to enjoy the crusty and soul-warming bread (14).

7. Don’t Go “All-In” With Alcohol

Drinking adds plenty of calories to every meal. It may seem fun at first, but it will take a toll on your digestive system. For example, a big glass of red wine (250ml or 1 cup) and 13% alcohol by volume, features 280 calories. That’s the exact same calorie count as a Snickers chocolate bar.

Based on reports from the NHS, beer, wine, spirits, and cider are packed with natural sugar and starch. Distillation and fermentation is the one that creates the alcohol content. So, the drink ends up containing plenty of calories – 7 calories in 1g to be exact (15).

Then, pair that with cola, and you are getting a lot more calories than you thought you would. When you drink more than the recommended amount, you are most likely to notice significant changes in your waistline circumference, health, and weight gain.

Replacing the alcohol with water is a great way at preventing this. The body remains hydrated and less likely to overeat. If you do want a drink, then order a smaller cup. When mixing drinks, combine spirit with a diet beverage. That way you can amplify its fruity taste and avoid the high sugar content.

8. Consider Your Entire Diet When Making Decisions

At times you will be facing plenty of challenges at a buffet. If you already have a diet that you follow, make sure to stick to it. It’s completely normal to be flexible from time to time. But, it is crucial to avoid breaking good healthy habits for a temporary treat.

So, when making any decisions, think about what food you can and can’t eat. Does the meal you selected fit your dietary pattern? Base the occasional indulgence according to the foods you’ve eaten. If you are on keto, then make sure to eat a product that’s keto-friendly. When you are familiar with a certain food, you can control the cravings and avoid staying hungry. That’s why it is very important to make worthwhile choices. Anything that resonates with your personal needs and preferences.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. The best tactics at making good food choices at your favorite buffet. Most people just pick a plate and fill it with the first dish that comes to mind. It may look messy for some, but it is one of the most popular ways of spending time with friends and enjoying a meal. Those who are worried about overeating tend to avoid buffets like wildfire.

But, with a tactical approach, you can always make notable changes. Even if you decide to go to a buffet super hungry, you can still end up fed without overeating. All the tips listed here can help you achieve the desired result. Have you tried the options covered here? Which one worked best for you? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder-statistics#Risk-Factors-
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/ndep/pdfs/ndep_buffet_table_tips_aa.pdf
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11707550/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/20-healthy-tips-for-eating-out#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722699/
  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322296#six-reasons-why-drinking-water-may-help-you-lose-weight
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6209729/
  8. https://www.massgeneral.org/children/weight-loss/rethink-your-drink-how-sugary-drinks-cause-unhealthy-weight-gain
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5890263/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6886952/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7824117/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791892/
  13. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/9-reasons-why-the-right-amount-of-coffee-is-good-for-you
  14. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/06/29/417500957/curb-your-appetite-save-bread-for-the-end-of-the-meal
  15. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calories-in-alcohol/
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