Learn how to avoid overeating at buffets even if the sign says all-you-can-eat

How to Avoid Overeating at Buffets

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.


The one question every client who has ever been on a cruise or stayed in an all-inclusive resort has asked before booking the next one is: “How can I avoid overeating at buffets?” Their concern is justified. Any dining establishment that promotes “all-you-can-eat” does not have your best interests in mind.

The whole idea of eating unlimited amounts of food is just plain wrong.

I avoid those places like a failed health inspection sign. But every so often I find myself in a buffet line. It may be the only (or fastest) option for breakfast in a hotel when I’m traveling for business. Or it could be a wedding or other affair where quests are asked to serve themselves from long tables decorated with food.

Unless you know this is going to be your last meal, there’s no need to stuff yourself. Fortunately, research has been done to help identify the traps that can lead us to overeat and the steps that can help slow us down.

Tips to Avoid Overeating at Buffets


  • Select a table as far away from the buffet as possible. The longer it takes to make a return trip, the fewer of them you are likely to make, and the more obvious you feel as you pass through the dining room.
  • Take a seat at the table that does not face the buffet. Seeing what others are taking increases the chances you will feel compelled to get your share.
  • Take the inside seat in a booth so you have to ask someone to move in order to get out.

Food Options:

  • Walk past each table and serving station before taking a plate. Since you don’t get a menu at a buffet, think of this as a virtual menu. Decide what you would take if you could only sample 3 things, and start with those items, even if it’s a chunk of cheese, a fried oyster and gooey dessert. If that satisfies you, the meal is over!
  • Use a small plate to take tasting portions of anything else you’re interested in. You can go back for more if you love it, and should not don’t finish it if you don’t.
  • Plan to eat in courses and serve yourself only one course at a time just as you would be served if ordering from an a la carte menu. As you become satisfied you can opt to stop eating without having piles of food in front of you.
  • Place food on your dinner plate as if you were serving someone else and wanted to make it look appetizing. Don’t pile one thing on top of another.
  • Skip anything you can have anytime, like a plain dinner roll or baked ziti. There’s no need to consume any extra calories.

Social Skills:

  • Pace your alcohol consumption so you don’t lose your inhibitions about the food.
  • Engage in conversation while at the table to help slow down your speed of eating. The more time that passes, the more likely your satiety signals will kick in.
  • If others from your table are still on line, wait for them to return before sitting down to eat.
  • Wait for a server to clear the plates you are finished with before getting up for more food.
  • Don’t worry about “wasting” food by not finishing what’s on your plate. It is a far greater waste to eat something you don’t like, want or need.

And for help when eating in restaurants without a buffet, see Calories Control Means Weight Control When Eating Out.

Posted in Calories, Diet and Disease, Dietitians, Eating Out, Eating Right, Food Selection, HEALTH GOES STRONG, Healthy Lifestyle, Meal Patterns, Mindless Eating, Moderation, Obesity, Servings Sizes, Weight Control and tagged , , , , , .

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