This Is the 1 Food You Should Never Eat at a Buffet

When you’re really hungry, a buffet (like Golden Corral) sounds like a great idea. But the typical buffet perfectly exemplifies the maxim that just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. You can find all kinds of food at the typical buffet. But hiding among the gems — or at least the dishes that are passable — are a few things you should never eat at a buffet. And no matter how carefully you make your plan of attack, you should pretty much never load these dishes onto your plate.

Below, check out the worst foods you can add to your plate as you make your selections.

1. Fried foods

fried shrimp
Fried foods won’t stand up well under the heat lamps. |

Hoping to indulge in some delicious fried foods at the buffet? Mashed strongly advises against it. Fried foods even at a pricy restaurant have few health benefits. That’s no different at a buffet, where these foods are packed with oil and calories, and perhaps a little lacking when it comes to the flavor you’ve been craving. Instead of hoping that the fried foods are fresh (and haven’t been sitting out for hours) look for healthier dishes from the get go.

Next: Don’t add this potentially dangerous salad to your plate.

2. Caesar salad

Caesar salad
You’re more likely to get sick if you eat Caesar salad from the buffet line. |

Does anyone eat a salad at a buffet? We’re not sure. What we are sure of is that we’d recommend steering clear of the Caesar salad. As the FDA reports, buffets can pose a number of food safety hazards. One of those involves recipes that traditionally use raw or lightly cooked eggs, like the dressing for Caesar salad. If you make that dressing at home, you can ensure that the eggs are handled correctly to minimize your chances of ingesting harmful bacteria. You can’t do the same thing at a buffet. So we think you should pick a different salad — or a different dressing, at least.

Next: Skip this traditional dessert.

3. Rice pudding

creamy rice pudding with cinnamon
Creamy rice pudding with cinnamon | Molnar

Another item that sometimes uses lightly cooked eggs is rice pudding. Like other egg-containing desserts — including custards, chocolate mousse, and even ice cream — improperly handled rice pudding can put you at risk of foodborne illness. That’s especially dangerous if you have a weakened immune system (which applies to pregnant women, young children, older adults, those who have undergone an organ transplant, or people with diseases like diabetes, cancer, or HIV/AIDS).

Next: A buffet isn’t the place to try these French dishes. 

4. Quiche and soufflé

delicious slice of quiche
Egg products and buffet lines shouldn’t mix. |

Similarly, the FDA points out that quiches and soufflés, which both use eggs, need to be handled properly if you want to safely consume them at a buffet or a party. They can be refrigerated before serving. But then they need to be thoroughly reheated before you actually eat them. In fact, they need to get all the way back to 165 degrees when reheated. Are you confident that your buffet of choice is following those rules? If so, go right ahead! If not, perhaps skip these egg-based dishes.

Next: These may sound like a semi-healthy side, but they aren’t.

5. Fried vegetables

tempura vegetables
Tempura-fried vegetables |

If you walk around the buffet to plan what you want before you grab a plate, you’ll probably see a lot of things you want to try. So adding some fried vegetables can sound like a good idea. You get the fried flavor you crave, but don’t completely miss out on the nutrients, right? Wrong. Deep fried foods are a notorious source of free radicals, which can injure cells in your body. So don’t fool yourself: You’re much better off with boiled or steamed vegetables.

Next: Don’t eat this pasta dish at a buffet.

6. Fettuccine Alfredo

Pasta with chicken
Say no to cream sauces in buffet lines. | morgan23

SheKnows spoke to René Ficek, lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. Ficek considers buffets “hazardous to your health” because they encourage overeating and may put you at risk of foodborne illness. But if you insist on eating at a buffet? Ficek advises steering clear of cream-based dishes. These foods — like fettuccine Alfredo — use fatty ingredients that give you a hefty dose of saturated fat. So if you want to pick something healthy? Go with a red sauce instead of a white sauce.

Next: Never reach for these sides when you eat at a buffet.

7. Potato salad and pasta salad

Potato Salad in a bowl
Creamy salads are at bigger risk for spoiling on the buffet line. |

Two other cream-based dishes you might want to avoid at the buffet? Potato salad and pasta salad. These sides aren’t particularly light. Plus, they give you a hefty dose of starch (more on that in the coming pages). But you also have to keep in mind that potato salad and pasta salad often include mayonnaise, eggs, and dairy products. These ingredients spoil easily and really need to be safely handled and stored. If either of these salads sit out too long at the buffet, you stand a very real risk of contracting a foodborne illness.

Next: This delicious dessert is unsafe to consume at a buffet.

8. Homemade ice cream

Spinning steel bowl for making Vanilla Ice Cream
Making homemade ice cream with iced bowl |

If you see that the buffet has homemade ice cream, you probably assume that you’re in for a real treat. That could be true, but that ice cream could also make you very, very sick. Homemade ice cream is made with raw eggs. So if the buffet doesn’t handle and store that ice cream correctly, you could end up consuming harmful bacteria. Our advice? Indulge your sweet tooth by opting for some fruit instead.

Next: You should never, ever eat this food at a buffet.

9. Sushi

sushi roll maki
Sushi and buffets aren’t a good pairing.|

This may sound obvious. But eating sushi at a buffet probably isn’t a good idea. The Daily Meal advises always skipping sushi at a buffet, no matter the buffet type. First of all, sushi is pretty filling, thanks to all the rice. So if you load up on sushi, you probably won’t get to try many other things. But more importantly? Sushi that’s been sitting out for too long can host some pretty serious bacteria. And unless the sushi is kept on ice, that bacteria can multiply quickly. Unless you want to risk food poisoning, buffet sushi is a definite no-go.

Next: Stay far away from this kind of seafood.

10. Tuna

Grilled Tuna steak in sesame and Green salad
Tuna spoils easily. |

Even if the tuna at your buffet of choice isn’t raw, SheKnows still thinks you should skip it. Tuna makes a delicious and nutritious entree under normal circumstances. But at a buffet, it spoils very easily, increasing your risk of food poisoning. As Ficek explains to the publication, “All fish needs to be kept very cold from the second it comes out of the water to when it hits the pan, and tuna in particular is especially susceptible to scombrotoxin, which can cause serious cramps and headaches if it’s stored above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Next: Don’t eat this side.

11. Fried rice

scoop of fried rice
Fried rice dries out too easily under the heat lamps at a buffet. |

Another food that SheKnows recommends skipping the next time you eat at a buffet? Fried rice. According to David Dragoo, MD, buffet fried rice and noodles typically get loaded with extra calories thanks to extra oil. (That oil also contains a lot of unhealthy saturated fat, which can take a toll on your heart and your cholesterol levels.) Plus, rice can pretty easily dry out when it sits under a heat lamp for hours on end. So it seems pretty unlikely that the buffet’s fried rice will taste that great, anyway.

Next: Eat these sides only in moderation.

12. Rolls and rice and potatoes and pasta . . .

Starches are wonderful, but you probably won’t get your money’s worth at a buffet. |

As The Food Network aptly points out, it’s never a good idea to load up on starchy foods at a buffet. There’s nothing wrong with those foods, per se. But think about what happens if you eat too much starch. If you go for the pasta salad, the rice pilaf, the roasted potatoes, and the dinner rolls, you won’t have much room left (on your plate or in your stomach) for the finer foods available at the buffet.

Next: Don’t reach for this cut of meat.

13. Prime rib

Prime Rib
Prime rib at a buffet table |

SheKnows reports that you should also steer clear of the prime rib at the buffet. Dietician Heather Blanchette tells the publication that one slice of meatloaf at the Golden Corral is 45% fat, and Golden Corral’s beef brisket is 63% fat. Blanchette explains, “adults (ages 19 and older) should aim to keep their fat at 20% to 35%, and most of the foods you will find at a buffet will be well above that.” Her recommendation? Skip the prime rib and go for flank steak instead.

Next: Skip these at the salad bar.

14. Sprouts

Bean sprouts carry a higher risk of making you sick than most salad ingredients. | iStock/Getty Images

If you’re going for a salad to try to keep your buffet meal healthy, we’re proud of you! Just know that not everything on the salad bar is safe. SheKnows learned that sprouts can expose you to all kinds of harmful bacteria. And it’s impossible to know by looking at them whether they’re dangerous or not. The buffet also certainly had a tough time cleaning them thoroughly. Plus, they’re grown in a warm and wet environment, which easily gives rise to bacteria growth.

Next: Don’t fill your glass with these drinks. 

15. Soda, juice, iced tea, milkshakes, and more

Woman hand giving glass of cola
Staying hydrated is good, but loading up on sugary drinks isn’t. |

Mashed recommends against choosing any drink other than water when you eat at a buffet. Sugary drinks add lots of calories to your meal. And if you’re eating more than you usually do, you might end up drinking more than usual, too. These drinks won’t add any nutritional benefits. So your best choice is to just drink water. Staying hydrated can help you keep from overeating, too.

Read more: 15 Things You Should Never Order From Hotel Room Service