“Tips for Surviving the Buffet with Your Health Intact”


I was recently fortunate enough to take a cruise on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.  It was a wonderful time, but not without healthy eating challenges.

My husband pointed out that I seem to have a “go to” plan for buffet style dining that helps me stay on track.  I thought I’d share my tips with you.

  1. Do NOT grab a plate right away.
  2. Be a private eye and investigate. First, I walk the entire buffet to survey the area and what’s available, keeping in mind that I’d like to fill my plate with lots of leafy greens and a lean protein. This plan will divert me from the dessert table. In addition, it will ensure that I enjoy my meal.  (Remember how awfully unsatisfying it is to pair a pizza slice with a side of Chinese noodles, a fried chicken wing, steamed broccoli, a pineapple slice, and  tacos simply because it all looked good at the time.)  The confused mind can’t make a decision, so it just piles everything onto one plate… and even more so if the plate is in your hand already.  Having a plan in your head will keep you on track and your whole meal will look and taste better for it.  Also, you won’t be tempted to pile things on your plate as you see them if there is no plate in your hand.
  3. Lines are just a suggestion. Don’t worry about being polite.  Avoid the line-up for plates and survey from afar so you don’t feel pressured to make a quick decision.  You can actually take your time to simmer on all the options and form your plate in your head if you are out of line. I usually take a full lap around the entire buffet before I grab a plate.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. For example, my first trip to this particular buffet, I noticed the only greens available in the salad section were romaine lettuce and iceberg lettuce.  However, upon further investigation, I noticed 2 bowls behind the buffet where the attendants worked (1 with arugula and 1 with spinach).  I nicely asked the attendant if he might be able to give me a plate of the greens behind him.  He said no problem and gave me a HEAPING portion.  True Story.
  5. Make a plan for your plate using the ingredients available. This particular day I made a salad at the salad bar with the aforementioned arugula, tomatoes, red onion, and cucumber.  In addition, I added some Tilapia filets I found in the hot food station.  People were gawking at my plate as I walked by, as it looked like the type of salad you’d find at a fine dining restaurant.  Remember to make your plate look pretty.  We eat with our eyes first.
  6. Be creative and think outside the box. I knew that I wanted to dress my salad with fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper. There was no lemon on the buffet station.  However when I did my initial lap, I noticed that the beverage station had lemonade.  Aha! I asked if they had any lemons back there that I could use to dress my salad.  They surely did and gladly gave them to me.  I proceeded to do this all week without any problems.
  7. Don’t worry about what other people think. Remember at the end of the day, this is your health, so take good care of it. It’s not an inconvenience to give you a lemon, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.  You’ll never know if you don’t ask.  (With that said, please be polite.)
  8. Save Time. Keep in mind that planning your plate before you grab a dish will actually make you more efficient at the buffet as well. You will not stop and pause to think.  You will know exactly what you want and skip directly to those stations without waiting in line.  There is no regretful pause to decide where it will fit on your plate, if you really want it, if it goes with the rest of your choices.
  9. Satisfaction. Since you came in with a plan.  Waited to grab a plate until you formed a plate in your head with the ingredients available.  Made a beautiful plate with those ingredients and asked for what you wanted.  You should be very satisfied after you eat it.  No regret.  No overeating and ready to do it again for your next meal.  If it goes well, you may even want to grab a dessert and a cup of hot tea.

Good luck and let me know how it goes for you!


This is a lettuce wrap I made from buffet offerings. I filled it with tomato bruscetta. I avoided the bread they offered and went with the lettuce at the salad bar.

Royal Caribbean Tilapia Salad

Pictured above is the first buffet salad I made aboard the Navigator of the Seas on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.