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Registered Dietitians Answer Your Questions about Restaurant Nutrition

How Can You Eat Healthy at a Buffet?


Buffets can be great way to enjoy a wide variety of dishes that you may not normally eat, as long as you plan ahead and keep your health goals in mind.
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Q: We like to eat out at buffets, but I’m trying to watch my weight.  How can I eat healthy at buffets?

A: If you like plenty of choices for your diet, buffets can be a great option.  Though they may not always be thought of as “healthy restaurants,” buffets can be a smart way to enjoy a wide variety of dishes.  Whether it's a holiday buffet at a home or a restaurant buffet, they can be a great choice.  The key is to plan ahead with your health goals in mind, and follow these tips to make the best choices at buffets:
  • Do your homework when it comes to nutrition.  Not only do many restaurants now offer nutrition information on site and in pamphlets at the location, but more and more now have it available right on the buffet line.  You may notice this more and more as menu labeling regulations go into effect nationwide in December 2016.
  • Choose only the dishes you really love instead of every choice on display.  Start with a small sampling of those items you haven’t tried before.
  • Opt for smaller portions of higher calorie choices.  Depending on the restaurant, this may include creamy choices, those items that come in sauces, higher fat protein choices, and anything that is battered and fried.
  • Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.  Not only is it a nutritious strategy recommended by MyPlate, but these choices are usually very filling and contain fewer calories. 
  • Savor the dishes you’ve selected.  Giving your stomach and brain time to enjoy the food and register fullness can help you avoid extra fat and calories as well as that overstuffed feeling. 


Buffets are all about choices.  Make the most of the variety without sabotaging your health goals.  For more tips on dining out at buffets and other favorite restaurants as part of your healthy lifestyle, visit our Ask the Dietitian section.  When looking for a little more variety in your healthy diet, try choices like these at participating Healthy Dining restaurants:
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Registered Dietitians Answer Your Questions about Restaurant Nutrition

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