You must be careful at buffets because they can be terrible traps, causing all manners of problems.
From long-term risks like diabetes and increased chances for obesity to more immediate ones such as lethargy and food poisoning, these all-you-can-eat scenarios require some know-how to navigate.
Buffets are tricky since by nature, the concept forces you to adopt a gluttonous mindset that isn’t always discerning.
Whether you’re incredibly hungry or not, you might find yourself feeling a strong urge to eat everything in sight because you’ve already paid your bill before you ate.
As a reasonably experienced buffet diner and good Samaritan, I feel I need to encourage you, fellow food lover, to take a step back.
Assess your level of hunger, your personal culinary tastes, and your physical ability to recover from gut-wrenching experiences.
To assist you in evaluating your buffet choices, I have compiled several categories of food that I recommend skipping unless you feel strongly otherwise.
I hope this helps make your next buffet visit more rewarding.
Fried foods at a five-star restaurant aren’t exactly healthy, so you can imagine the same types of foods at a buffet would be so much worse. Cooked in large amounts of oils with high levels of saturated or trans fats, these dishes tend to derail any sort of desire to maintain a balanced diet. While you might be tempted to serve yourself large helpings of fried rice, noodles, fries, and egg rolls, resist! Greasy, caloric, and generally devoid of nutritional value, fried foods from the buffet can only mean trouble. Instead, opt for baked options that are cooked in less fat.
Salad is a reasonable option at a buffet unless you add dressing to it.
Salad dressings may seem innocuous, but they are major diet killers. The commercial varieties used at buffet-style restaurants are likely to be fatty and full of additives, sodium, and sugar. Since homemade dressings are the only way to really ensure you’re not consuming unhealthy ingredients, you’re better off skipping the dressing. If you must, drizzle your greens lightly with olive oil and vinegar, then season with salt and fresh pepper.
Many buffets offer sushi options, but raw fish at a place that lets you eat as much as you want? Really? Don’t do it!
Uncooked seafood can be a cesspool of food-borne illness.
The risk is high at the most reputable of Japanese restaurants charging top dollar.
Proper handling of raw fish requires high-quality seafood to start with, which I doubt you’re getting at the price the buffet is charging you.
Secondly, safe sushi preparation requires extensive expertise. Since everything about a buffet is about economy, I highly doubt they have employed top-level sushi chefs. Pass!
Any beverage other than palate-cleansing water
In an unlimited eating situation where you already feel unfettered, you are likely to eat more than you’re used to.
That said, try to drink plenty of water in between bites to both cleanse your palate and keep you full enough to eat more moderately.
Avoid filling up on beverages such as iced teas and sodas since they are loaded with sugar and empty calories.
Add these calories to the ones from your limitless meal and you have yourself a giant bellyache.
While adding a spoonful of sprouts from the salad bar to your plate seems like a healthy choice, keep in mind that they are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses than other, heartier veggie offerings.
Since sprouts grow in damp environs and the strands can be difficult to wash thoroughly, there is a higher chance that they may still contain harmful bacteria.
To avoid any risk of food poisoning, just skip the sprouts altogether.
Opt for vegetables that grow in drier conditions and appear heartier in texture. Think bell peppers, cucumbers, and carrots.
The truth? Most foods at buffets are probably less than good for you. Since dishes at buffets sit out for long stretches of time, they are especially susceptible to food-borne illnesses.
If you do plan to eat at one of these establishments, keep in mind that dairy-laden, cream-based dishes comprise a category that should be avoided.
Since these dishes are likely prepared with milk, cream, sour cream, or mayo, they tend to spoil more easily.
Moreover, they are likely to be high in saturated fat, contributing to increased cholesterol levels and poor heart health.
Furthermore, these types of foods look pretty disgusting once the film of dairy starts to form and the edges become crusty from exposure to room temperature air.
Instead of creamy pastas and soups, opt for ones made with a tomato base that’s lower in fat content and more likely to provide some nutrients.
If you find yourself with no option but to eat at a buffet, do try to steer clear of these problematic foods.
This will decrease your chances of getting sick, and will help you look at yourself in the mirror the next morning without pangs of guilt.
While your best bet is to avoid buffets like the plague, I understand that’s not always possible. Choose foods wisely and use your discretion.
Cold foods that aren’t placed over fresh ice? No. Hot foods that aren’t kept consistently warm? No. Anything with a strange-looking food film over the top? No.