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Your Cheat Sheet to Enjoying a Buffet on a Diet

by Pia Mercado

Are you up for a challenge? This one doesn’t involve taking a video of yourself dancing or require jumping out of a moving vehicle. All it involves is food, glorious food—all laid out in a nice, appetizing buffet.

Unless you’re a hermit, chances are that you have a friend, a relative, or a co-worker celebrating their birthday or any other special occasion soon. We are Filipinos, after all; a large part of our culture revolves around celebrations and bonding over food. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a tricky situation when you’re on a diet and you're invited to a get-together at an unlimited-dining concept restaurant. Part of you just wants to turn down the invitation to avoid temptation, especially when you’re already making progress with your diet.

But over here at DG Traveler, we believe you should enjoy the best that life has to offer—diet notwithstanding—so we've put together this guide to help you navigate a roomful of culinary delights without falling off the wagon. Go ahead and eat, drink, and be merry!

1. Stay focused.

You’re up for the challenge, so you accept the invitation and make your way to where the feast is. Expect numerous food stations with hundreds of choices for you and the whole gang, ready to take you on a gastronomic adventure. There'll be tons of options available, but try to keep your focus. You can do this!

2. Take advantage of the variety.

In order to ace the “Buffet on a Diet” challenge, the key is actually the plethora of dishes available—the many options actually work for, not against you, as long as you're mindful of what items to put on your plate. You may not realize this right away, but once you do, you’ll actually enjoy the scavenger hunt for dishes that won’t break your diet.

3. Break it down.

Whether or not you’re on a diet, buffet veterans would always advise to make several trips, visiting one or two stations at a time. After all, it’s not a sprint but a marathon! Don’t make the mistake of putting twelve kinds of food in one small plate—you’ll just end up losing your appetite or confusing your taste buds.

4. Avoid carbs and sugar.

If you’re on a ketogenic diet, you’re probably already aware of what dishes to avoid even before stepping inside the restaurant. Steer clear of starchy food like rice and bread, most fruits and almost all types of desserts since sugar is a big keto no-no, as well as sodas and alcohol. Even if you're not on keto, opt for high-fiber, healthy grains (you'll feel full longer, too!), and keep your sugar intake at a minimum.

5. Eat your greens.

Start your experience at the salad station, where almost everything is keto-friendly. Once again, be mindful when it comes to the dressing you’re mixing with your greens. Before going back to your table, pass by the appetizers station and take your pick from finger foods like hungarian skewers, stuffed tomatoes, and cold cuts. If your diet allows it, go ahead and help yourself to some cheese.

6. Make the right choices.

Hit the Asian stations (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) for round two. You can never go wrong with tuna and salmon sushi, but unfortunately, you’re going to have to pass on the shrimp tempura because of the breading. The beef bulgogi and a lot of other viands await you at the Korean station, and it’ll be easy to forget about eating rice since pairing some courses with kimchi and pickled side dishes is a good alternative. At the dimsum area, choose the "lesser evil": steamed over fried, seafood and vegetables over red meat.

Skip the Italian station (sorry!), and substitute pizza and pasta for a healthy bowl of shabu-shabu paired with freshly grilled seafood and meat like chicken fillet and pork belly. If you can't bring yourself to walk past the shiny, spotlit carving station, opt for leaner cuts of meat and control your portion size.

7. Think before you drink.

Bottomless drinks are usually already included in the buffet fee. This is yet another challenge since who would want to pass up on the chance to wash down all that food with free-flowing, ice-cold beer? Keep in mind though that chugging beer (or soda, for that matter) racks up tons of calories you're better off allocating elsewhere. Opt for a cup of tea or black coffee, and drink a lot of water instead.

Lastly, going back for seconds or a third round is not really an issue here—that’s what these buffets are for in the first place. What matters most is portion control, and constantly reminding yourself that you’re there to have an enjoyable time without making all your hard work go to waste.

So the next time someone in your circle invites you to an all-you-can-eat dining experience, you can accept knowing you're smart and disciplined enough to treat yourself while sticking to your personal health and fitness goals. Win-win!

For fine feasts to enjoy with family and friends, be sure to check out our list of Acclaimed Buffets.

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About Pia
Pia Mercado is a Marketing & Communications professional with over eight years of experience in the Philippines and abroad. After successfully and passionately running an art organization in Cebu for several years, her wandering feet and cultural curiosity brought her to the melting pot that is New York City. Three years later, she’s back in her hometown, the Queen City of the South, taking along her wisdom and experience from the United Nations as well as another non-profit art organization working with artists and real estate developers. Aside from being passionate about art, the business side of art and its various disciplines, Pia loves to write about her adventures as a foodie and as a traveller. She is currently doing freelance work and studying another language in preparation for another escapade.

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