How to Enjoy a Buffet Restaurant — the Smart Way

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Who doesn’t love a delicious buffet with all of its tantalizing options: savory mashed potatoes, an array of savory meats, sweet desserts, and even crispy salads. A trip to a buffet restaurant comes with seemingly limitless choices all for one low price. Here are some hints for enjoying your trip to the buffet without uncomfortably overeating or worse yet, getting food poisoning.

1. Choose a Busy Restaurant

When choosing a buffet restaurant, you may be tempted to choose one with a shorter line. After all, who wants to fight the crowds at the steam table? But while an empty restaurant means shorter lines, it also means food sits out longer on the tables. Choose a restaurant that has enough patrons present to keep the food tables refreshed at a good pace.

2. Go in a Good Mood

If you want to enjoy your meal without making food choices you will later regret, don’t head to the buffet while you are feeling blue. We are more likely to overeat and make food choices that leave us feeling overstuffed and bloated if we eat while we are upset. Listen to some happy tunes on your drive over and bring along your favorite companions to make your meal truly enjoyable.

3. Don’t Starve Yourself First

It may seem like you should wait until you are good and hungry before visiting the buffet restaurant, but don’t go feeling starved. When you get to the buffet, you want to be sure you are able to enjoy the foods you really love, not just stuff your face with the first foods you see. So, have a light, protein-packed snack 3 hours before you head out to the buffet. This will ensure you truly enjoy the delights the buffet has to offer.

4. Know Which Foods You Desire

Before you head out to the restaurant, think about which food options you are in the mood for. Most buffets tend to have options such as Italian, Chinese, and roasted meats. You can expect to find fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and flaky biscuits. Have your entrée choice in mind so you are not pulled astray by the myriad of options that first meet your gaze. While it is perfectly okay to try something you hadn’t thought of, don’t fill up on items just because they are in front of you.

5. Cruise Before You Choose

When you first enter the buffet line, walk from buffet to buffet to see what is offered before you even pick up a plate. It is easy to load your plate at the first table, and then find you don’t have room when you run across a delectable at a later table. First, make the rounds of all the choices and narrow down your top picks. Then go back to fill your plate with your favorite choices.

6. Choose the Smaller Plate

It may be tempting to grab the large plate for loading up your choices, but a smaller plate will help you limit your portions and not overdo it. As yummy as all those tempting dishes appear, overloading can leave you feeling overfull, bloated, and miserable. Start small and stop when your plate is full. You can always go back for seconds if you are still hungry.

7. Don’t Use a Tray

There are 2 reasons to avoid using cafeteria trays at the restaurant. The first is the extra space may entice you to load up on foods you wouldn’t choose if you had less space. The second is that cafeteria trays have shown to be highly populated with disease-causing germs and bacteria. The Public Health and Safety Organization reports that plastic cafeteria trays are among the germiest spots in schools, second only to water fountain spigots. Skip the restaurant tray as well and save your health.

8. Plan Your Plate

The American Diabetes Association recommends this tool for visualizing your food choices. A well-balanced plate will contain 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% proteins, and 25% grains and starchy foods. Before hitting the buffet table, plan to fill half your plate with green leafy or cruciferous vegetables. Visualize the next 25% of your plate containing lean meats, and the remainder is for whatever suits your fancy.

9. Start with Fruits and Vegetables

Indulging in a smorgasbord of delights doesn’t mean you can’t also treat your body to the nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants found in leafy salad greens, fresh seasonal fruit, and vibrant berries. Start with antioxidant-rich strawberries, nutrient-packed spinach or romaine lettuce, and non-starchy vegetables. These foods help you feel full while also providing the proper fuel to keep you feeling good, rather than over-stuffed.

10. Sample a Variety First

When perusing the buffet tables, take small sample portions of the foods that appeal most to you. Why waste calories on an item that doesn’t taste as good as it first looked? When you have sampled the items on your plate, you can always go back for seconds of the ones that really tickled your taste buds.

11. Know Large Containers Have Low Turnover

Keep in mind that while that big vat of lasagna may look tempting, the larger size may mean it is sitting out on the table longer. Items that sit out for longer periods of time have more time to go bad—or be sneezed on!

12. Avoid High-Risk Foods

Foods that are high risk for contamination by food-borne pathogens include sprouts, eggs for salad toppings or in salad dressings, and uncooked items such as sushi. Skip these items to avoid risk of food poisoning.

13. Avoid Starches

If you are going to be loading your plate with goodies at the buffet, you may want to avoid starchy foods. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, breads, and pastas all contain starch, which is high in carbohydrates and calories. If you are planning to load up on lots of different types of foods, limit these. That way you can leave room for other delicacies.

14. Take it Easy on Sugary Beverages

Buffet restaurants usually offer sodas, water, milk, and juices. Drinking your calories adds to the sugar rush and bloat that come from over-indulging. Stay away from the sugary beverages. Drinking water with your meal ensures you replenish your body without adding unwanted calories.

15. Consider Bringing Hand Sanitizer

There’s no denying that there are plenty of opportunities for germs to attack food that sits out on a buffet table. Tongs and serving spoons must be exchanged for clean ones on a regular basis. However, the truth is that many people have the opportunity to handle them, which means many opportunities for germs to alight. It may be wise to bring along hand sanitizer to use at the table before digging in.

16. Keep Your Back to the Buffet

If seeing a dizzying array of delectable foods entices you to rush through your own meal, you may want to sit with your back to the buffet. Find a seat away from the buffet so you can concentrate on enjoying the meal you have in front of you. That way, you can determine if you really want to go back for seconds, rather than just responding to the call of the foods on display.

17. Relish Each Bite

Don’t hurry through your meal. Relax, enjoy good company, and savor every bite of food. If you are hurrying to get back to the buffet, you may not enjoy what you already have. Instead, enjoy each texture and taste. When you have leisurely finished your meal, then you can decide which items you like best and which ones might be worth a second trip.

18. Digest Before Returning for Seconds

In addition to savoring every mouthful, take time to digest after you have finished your meal. The buffet isn’t going anywhere! It can take 20 minutes for our bodies to recognize we are full. Give your body time to digest and enjoy your first helpings, then decide if you really need seconds. You may just decide you’ve already had exactly what you need.

19. Be Sure to Tip the Staff

It may seem silly to tip the restaurant staff when you have been serving yourself. But if you stop to notice, the staff keep busy at buffet restaurants as well. Waitstaff clear away used dishes, replenish the buffet with fresh servings, and keep plates and utensils stocked. In some restaurants they refill your beverages as well. Be sure to remember these hard workers with a well-earned tip. 

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How to Enjoy a Buffet Restaurant — the Smart Way. (2022, Oct 04). Retrieved December 1, 2023 , from

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