Raise your hand if you’ve been to an all-you-can-eat buffet and left with a few regrets that you didn’t get your money’s worth.
I should’ve gone to the fancy steak area. I shouldn’t have started my meal with sushi. I should’ve started with a light veggie salad. I should’ve prepped my tummy. I should’ve tried and done this and that – we all have our own share of “I should have” stories from our first few overwhelming buffet dining experiences. And yes, we want redemption.
And this holiday season is the perfect time to redeem yourself from your previous defeat. Chances are that you’re going to attend close family and friend gatherings, and corporate Christmas parties that call for a huge buffet experience.
Here are 10 all-you-can-eat hacks to make the most of your buffet dining experience and get your money’s worth.
1. Prep your stomach and appetite
Listen up if you’re someone with a smaller “storage” and who’s likely to feel full immediately. Eat something heavy, like a pasta dinner, and drink lots of water the night before your anticipated all-you-can-eat meal. This will stretch your stomach and prepare it for the big meal ahead. Prep your appetite too by working out.
Once you get in the game, don’t shove everything in your mouth. Give your tummy enough time to digest. You can chat with your friends, enjoy the ambiance, take pictures, and use the idle time to prepare for the next round.
2. Don’t starve yourself prior
Almost everyone who plans to eat in a buffet restaurant has the same mindset: don’t eat prior and be as hungry as a bear. Unfortunately, this trick backfires every time: the size of your stomach automatically shrinks when it’s empty. When the surge of food comes in, you’ll be full in an instant. It could also lead to dyspepsia.
Instead of eating nothing, fill up with light snacks during the day. Eat clear soup, salad, and crackers. You should also leave room for more food by “purging.”
3. Skip enticing carb-loaded appetizers
No matter how amazing they look, never ever grab that sushi roll for your appetizer. Those beautifully plated carbs are meant to trick you into eating something less but heavy before actually getting to the more expensive main courses.
Go for small servings of soups and greens that are just enough to stimulate your appetite. You can even skip the appetizers totally and head to the main event.
4. Taste test by taking mini servings of everything
Roam around and take very small portions of the dishes you find appealing. It’s wiser to turn your plate into a color palette with mini servings of everything than filling it up with big servings of one to two dishes per plate. This will allow you to eat more, taste everything in one sitting, and decide which ones to go back for.
5. Quality vs quantity: Hoard the golden items
Don’t spend too much time and tummy space on the cheap, useless carbs you eat on normal days – go for the pricey ones to make the best value for your money.
It’s not every day that you get to eat a rack of lamb and fresh oysters so go for it. Those expensive items often are proteins, grilled items, cheese, and of course, seafood! Reach for the most expensive thing on the bar list too: the wine.
6. Don’t let soda drag you down
Ditch the soda and juice fountain – it’ll make you full in no time. Instead, drink a few sips of hot tea to soothe the stomach and eliminate bloating, stimulating digestion. It cleanses your palate for the next round too.
7. Eat dark chocolates
Reach for the fondue – chocolates, especially the dark ones, have fewer calories and sweetness. They’re enough to relieve nausea from eating a lot of savory dishes. They’ll also help you regulate your sugar levels.
8. Time your visit
Unless they have a time limit (like you need to eat everything in your power from 11 to 2 pm and leave), make sure to have perfect timing. Most buffet restaurants have lunch and dinner menus. To get the best of both worlds, the best time to come in is at around 3:30 in the afternoon.
Help yourself to your first plate of the top Asian food, which is the best offerings from lunch, and the premium steaks of the West for dinner.
9. Lunch is the best time to dine
If you don’t have the whole day to sit and eat, choose lunch over dinner. Next to being often cheaper than dinner, you’ll have more time to burn it off before the day ends. It will also be a great reason to skip your dinner, a smart move both for your fitness and budget.
10. Try the ones you haven’t tried before
With a buffet restaurant offering almost complete cuisines from around the world, things can get overwhelming. Chances are, you’ll go for the safest bets – the ones you’re familiar with. But buffets are the way to explore different cuisines.
Don’t leave the place without trying the unfamiliar ones. Explore the area and ask the chefs about the food you’re not accustomed to. What are the ingredients? Is it spicy? Does it contain allergens? Get a small serving. Who knows, it might be your new favorite!