Golden Rules for Healthy Buffet Eating (+why healthy people don’t diet)

With summer upon us, I’m guessing you may have a road trip or two in your future. We’ve got a few travel plans on the agenda ourselves, and there’s one thing we often seem to be faced with when out of town – buffets. I’m probably stating the obvious here, but not all buffets are created equal! So I’m always hoping the hotel’s breakfast buffet is more of a “made-to-order omelet” type of establishment as opposed to the “here’s the toaster for the box of Eggo waffles” variety, but either way – it’s helpful to have a game plan.

I honestly don’t have a lot of trouble controlling my own impulses when faced with a buffet of food, but I’ve quickly learned that my children are a different story and could use a few helpful guidelines. My kids love to eat, which comes in handy given my career (they are the best taste testers in town!), but I also think it’s important to teach them how to keep things in check when out and about. So here are my golden rules for healthy buffet eating.

Golden Rules for Healthy Eating at a Buffet on 100 Days of Real Food

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Golden Rules for Healthy Buffet Eating

In the past, I’ve always told my kids (for when they’re off at overnight camp or wherever) to …

Eat a lot of what you know is good for you, and eat a little of what you know is not (or aren’t sure about).

I still stand by this, but then I heard another helpful rule (on one of Katie Lee’s Instagram stories) that I’ve decided to adopt. And, I am paraphrasing here because we all know how the Insta Stories disappear on us!

Eat a plate of produce and healthy proteins first, then go back for grains, pastries, and other sweets. 

So, whether you’re traveling or sending the kids off to overnight camp or even a college student using a dining hall for your meals, I think these simple tips can really help! And, no matter where you’re eating, the most important advice of all still stands …

Stop eating when you feel full (or almost full). 

It doesn’t have to be complicated!

Why Healthy People Don’t Diet

On the note of uncomplicated ways to maintain your health, I’d like to share some interesting research I recently came across. I’ve long said our “real food rules” have become a permanent lifestyle for us – with occasional treats, of course – as opposed to a temporary diet. After lots (and lots!) of practice, it has basically become our new normal, which is no longer a challenge to maintain. And above all, it’s how I prefer to eat now even if given the choice.

So I found it interesting that, according to a recent Cornell University project that studied the habits of people who maintain their weight, 74% of those surveyed either never or only rarely diet. Brian Wansink, Ph.D. and author of Slim by Design, was quoted as saying that diets don’t usually work in the long term because, “They end up being temporary, almost like taking medicine. You take it until you feel better, and then you stop.” This can explain why most of those who diet don’t usually end up thinner or healthier in the long run compared to when they started.

So just another vote for a healthy, balanced real food lifestyle built around simple guidelines that are easy to maintain in the long run! Makes sense to me. Do you agree?

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6 thoughts on “Golden Rules for Healthy Buffet Eating (+why healthy people don’t diet)”

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  1. Good tips! My first two years in college, I had a meal plan at the university dining hall, which was always buffet style. They had a salad bar and vegan station, but also a wide variety of desserts, french fries, and a pizza bar. I definitely had to teach myself to make good decisions daily, which can be tough for a college student. This year I am skipping the meal plan in favor of cooking my own meals! Also, good job teaching your kids healthy habits without completely restricting them!

  2. Your cookbook and on-line recipes have changed my life. I never knew what to cook, I was 20 lbs overweight and was on the verge of having high cholesterol. It has been over a year that I have been religiously following the 100 Days of Real Food. So much so, everyone I meet, I tell them about it. I even cook for people, so they know how great the recipes are. I cannot thank you enough for publishing everything you have.

  3. I love the tips for healthy eating while you (or your kids) are away! They truly are simple and not restrictive, which is key, because as soon as you tell a kid “no”, they are going to do it in some form or fashion.

    But by keeping it simple to eat your proteins and produce first then go back and get other stuff helps to keep everything in check. It’s easy to remember, they get their nutrients, and they get their indulgences (but in limited quantity since they are more full). It’s all about balance and healthy choices!

    Thanks, Lisa!

  4. Learning to eat healthy regularly is the key. But following a diet that has too many or too difficult of rules to follow is not usually good for you, either physically or mentally, in the long run. So makes sense to me that dieting isn’t how healthy people maintain their weight.
    Good advice on both the buffet and what to tell your kids to eat when they’re away from home. I will definitely be using that one!

  5. This is very smart. It isn’t about saying no or never, but about prioritizing what’s clearly healthy, and then tasting other stuff if you still have room.
    Also good point to make a second trip, not to load up your plate. You might not want a second trip after eating the healthier stuff.
    The thin people I know instinctively gravitate toward healthy stuff and they stop sooner–they don’t have seconds.