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Healthy Menu Navigator: Resort buffet

What should you steer clear of besides the sundae bar? Here's how to eat healthy at any resort buffet over spring break or any vacation.
We wish all buffets looked like this. (Photo: Jumby Bay Weddings and Honeymoons)
If only all resort buffets looked just like this… (Photo: Jumby Bay)


Even if you know to steer clear of the bread basket, it turns out the average restaurant meal clocks in at a whopping 1,128 calories—yep, 1,128—making it easy for even the most health-savvy among us to think we’re eating well while eating out, when we’re not.

Enter nutritionist-author Heather Bauer, of Bread is the Devil and Bestowed fame—and our culinary compass. Each week, Bauer steers us toward the healthiest choices on restaurant menus of any type.

HealthyMenuNavigatorFinal21Last time, it was what to eat at a gastropub. This week, it’s a resort buffet! Here’s what you need to know before you grab a plate and get in line over spring break or any vacation.

Heather Bauer’s resort buffet navigational nugget

The danger with buffets at resorts and hotels is that they’re all-you-can-eat. But Bauer says that has its advantages—really! You can see the whole spread and make great choices. “Walk down the whole table and check out all of the options before loading your plate. The healthiest are usually at the end.” That way, you’ll avoid filling up on potato salad before you’ve even seen the healthy veggie kebabs waiting just down the line.



1. Ceviche. If you’re at a resort, there’s a very good chance you’re somewhere close to the ocean. Take advantage of that and fill up on fresh, clean fish.

2. Shrimp cocktail or peel ‘n eat shrimp. Same thinking—just don’t go too heavy on the sauce.

3. Any leafy salad—it’s bound to be one of your best bets, Bauer says, but be sure to avoid unhealthy extras, like cheese and creamy dressing.


1. Flank steak plus roasted veggies—a perfect Paleo dinner option that’s tasty to boot.

2. Grilled fish and sautéed or steamed greens. Grilled fish is light and protein-packed, just beware of pairing it with heavy sauces or starchy grains. 

3. Veggie kebabs. A classic, simple, and healthy dish that’s also a crowd favorite (who doesn’t like grilled things on a stick?), that you can find almost anywhere.


1. Anything fried. While Bauer says you should definitely allow yourself some wiggle room on your vacation, scarfing down greasy foods that you’d normally avoid could make you feel sick and, um, unable to enjoy your trip.

2. Pasta—it’s a resort buffet chef’s favorite because it’s easy to produce in large quantities. But it’s also carb-heavy and often topped with mystery sauces. Plus, curbing your serving size can be tricky, so it’s best just to avoid it altogether.

3. The sundae bar—A scoop of ice cream isn’t awful (sorbet is better). But add on a bunch of toppings and things can go from so-so to so-bad very quickly.

Hungry for more? Check out Bauer’s guides to ordering at a classic American diner or a raw and vegan restaurant.