Veggies, veggies, and more veggies
Raw vegetables at the salad bar are “fair game,” says Mills, but even among the main dishes, be sure to load up with produce. Dishes like Buddha’s delight, garlic broccoli, and green beans will help balance out any fried foods and noodles you indulge in. At an Italian buffet, go for the sliced tomatoes before you hit the pasta.
Fun salad toppings
A plate of tomatoes and cucumbers might not be the most inspiring salad choices (no matter how healthy they are), but you don’t need to pile on the bacon bits and pasta salad to make it tasty. In addition to plenty of raw veggies, Braddock recommends adding low-calorie, high-flavor items you might not get at home, like pickled vegetables or banana peppers. A sprinkle of sunflower seeds and cranberries can also transform those leaves, she says, but Mills adds a warning about portion size. “It’s very easy to put a quarter cup of sunflower seeds in, but that’s really throwing the nutrient balance off,” she says. “It’s too much fat and, in terms of the overall buffet experience, too many calories.”
Both Braddock and Mills agree that if you’re going to have something fried, make it fish. “Seafood is naturally pretty light in calories, it’s a great source of protein, and it’s usually really delicious,” says Braddock. Of course, you don’t have to seek out the breaded options; some steamed shrimp or baked tilapia will be even lower in calories.