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Buffet Do's and Don'ts for Weight Loss

Buffets can be the bane of a dieter's existence. So many foods, so little nutritional information; it's no wonder many dieters avoid buffets altogether.

But sometimes you just can't turn down an invitation and this is why losing weight is so difficult with temptations.

If your friends and family want to take you to a buffet, don't panic! Just eat smart, and remember these helpful do's and don'ts for buffet dining:

Do have a healthy snack before you leave home.

Buffets are designed to make you eat and keep you eating. The colors, smells, and sheer variety of dishes appeals to the human appetite. Don't make it worse by showing up starved.

Grab a small snack before you leave home. Choose something with a little protein and fat to satisfy your hunger, like a piece of cheese or a yogurt cup.

When you lay eyes on the massive buffet, you'll be glad you ate a little something to take the edge off of your hunger.

Do start out with a serving of salad and fruit.

Before you dive into the meat and pasta dishes, pile your plate with leafy green vegetables, fresh fruit, and low-fat cottage cheese.

The fiber from the fruits and vegetables will fill you up at a low calorie cost. Cottage cheese and boiled shrimp are protein-packed low-calorie salad toppers.

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If you use dressing, put it in a cup or bowl on the side rather than drizzling it all over your salad. Choose a flavor with reduced calories if one is available, or use a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Do get plenty of lean protein.

For your protein, choose simple lean meats like grilled or roasted chicken, or lean cuts of steak. If you're at a breakfast buffet, look for low-fat alternatives like turkey bacon and turkey sausage.

Avoid dishes made from ground beef, like meatballs or meatloaf. They could contain lots of hidden fat and calories. Likewise with fried chicken or smothered steaks. Breading and sauces can add a lot of calories to an entree.

Do get a cup of soup to fill you up.

A warm cup of soup can help fill you up faster. Choose a broth-based soup that contains plenty of vegetables. At a Chinese buffet, hot and sour soup is a good choice because it contains vegetables and protein-rich tofu, and its bold flavor quickly satisfies your cravings.

Do exercise discretion at the potato bar.

An average-sized baked potato contains about 80 calories. Large baked potatoes like those found at buffets could easily contain two or three times that amount.

Still, potatoes aren't bad in and of themselves, and their skins contain important fiber and nutrients. If you eat one, choose healthy toppings like fat-free sour cream, chives, and salsa.

Avoid piling your potato sky-high with cheese, chili, and bacon. Those toppings are typically high in fat and calories.

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Don't load up on fried foods and creamy sauces.

Speaking of calorie-dense foods: Deep fried anything is bad news at a buffet. Chinese and southern-style buffets are notorious for their many fried offerings. The best thing you can do is pretend they don't exist.

While you're at it, turn a blind eye to heavy cream-based sauces, or any dish drenched in butter or cheese. There are plenty of tasty, healthier alternatives to choose from.

Don't go crazy at the dessert bar.

If you made healthy choices throughout your buffet meal, don't undo your good work by gorging on desserts. It's certainly tempting; there are just so many to choose from! But there are ways to enjoy a yummy treat without going overboard on calories.

Many buffets offer low-fat frozen yogurt and chocolate syrup. Add some nuts or sprinkles, and you've got a surprisingly virtuous dessert. (Just pay attention to your portion size!)

If you see a sweet dish you just can't live without, serve yourself a very small portion of it, or share some with a friend.

Don't keep eating just to get your money's worth.

Buffets can be pricey, which causes some people to eat beyond the point of satiety in order to get their money's worth instead of trying to outsmart your cravings for food.

Just accept that fact that you might be paying a little more than usual, but that the price does not obligate you to overeat. If you have an enjoyable experience at the buffet, you'll have gotten your money's worth.

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