Survive the Free Breakfast Buffet, Clean-Eating Style

Surviving the free breakfast buffet in hotels Oh, how I love free hotel breakfasts. Or to clarify, how I love the price – usually included with the room. It’s rare that I actually love breakfast buffet food. When I’m not busy dodging awkward reaches and jostling by other guests, I’m dodging the horrid food choices.

At one hotel breakfast in a sleepy town near a national park, the buffet began with biscuits and gravy, progressed to all-white bread and cereals, and finished off with buttery eggs, slabs of bacon, and the greasiest of sausages.

Yum! You might be thinking. Who doesn’t love an occasional decadent breakfast? It is vacation after all. But if you’re like me and not used to eating that level of fat and processed ingredients, it can really play havoc with your stomach and energy level. I’ve tried surrendering to this fare in the past and was instantly transformed into a lumbering, sleep-walking slug, dragging behind and dropping hints to sit down.

At the sleepy town buffet I did manage to find a bowl of Raisin Bran and a few grapes, but I will probably never return to that hotel.

Even when you buy a breakfast (like this FitSlam at Denny’s – my favorite), you can’t be entirely sure if the advertised calorie counts are accurate.

Hotel breakfast buffets take a little ingenuity

How to Survive a Hotel Buffet?

Before approaching a buffet, it’s good to know your bottom line: What am I willing to eat versus what will I absolutely not touch? That may seem obvious, but you have seen people at buffets, haven’t you? Buffets seem to trigger people’s need to get their hands on everything. And if you travel frequently, you could very well find your waistline increasing as a result.

Sure, with buffets you may need to accept second best. But if you’ve consciously thought about what your bottom line is beforehand, you’ll be more likely to make healthy choices. (And you’ll feel less guilty about indulging at dinner.)

If you’re enticed by gooey and buttery options at hotel buffets, think about how you feel afterwards. A food coma isn’t ideal for starting a day of meetings or vacation fun. Here are a few examples of foods that will give you energy and health as opposed to fat and toxins.

What to Look For

  • Boiled eggs. Great source of protein and filling.
  • Fruit. Lots of vitamins, antioxidants, short-term energy.
  • Whole-grain toast or English muffins. It’s unusual to find English muffins, bagels, pancakes that are whole grain at hotels, but without loads of syrup and butter, white-flour grains aren’t a terrible second-best choice. Just make sure to get some protein too for long-lasting energy and satiety.
  • Bran cereals. As long as it’s not coated in sugar, whole-grain cereal with skim or low-fat milk is a great choice for energy and satiety.
  • Oatmeal. The flavored packets have loads of sugar. If you can’t get steel-cut or unflavored this is second-best.
  • Low-sugar yogurt. Most flavored yogurts are loaded with sugar. But still, this is a better option than some of the ones listed below. Go easy on granola; it’s usually high fat.
  • Low-fat dairy. Most hotels will usually offer one or two percent fat milk.

What to Avoid

  • Sausage, bacon, and other processed meats. Extremely high in fat and some have nitrates.
  • Buttery scrambled eggs. Guaranteed to make you sluggish!
  • Biscuits and gravy. Do I need to say more?
  • Cheesy eggy foldovers or other cheesy concoctions. We saw cheesy foldovers being pulled out of freezer boxes and reheated so they definitely were not “homemade.”
  • Eggs Benedict. One serving can have over 500 calories!
  • Belgian waffles. One serving can have over 300 calories, and that’s without toppings.

Of course, it won’t kill you to eat decadent breakfast foods occasionally, but it can dampen your energy at a time when you want to be enjoying yourself. Make if fun to find the clean-eating breakfast options and you’ll be glad you did.

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26 thoughts on “Survive the Free Breakfast Buffet, Clean-Eating Style

  1. Great post, hotel buffets (heck any buffets) are tricky. While I don’t mind a delicious breakfast splurge every once & a while, the hotel food is never worse the wasting the splurge on. I always attempt to ask for a room w/ a mini fridge & grab a plain yogurt, fruit & nuts to have on hands. Even a banana w/ pb & protein shake will suffice:)


  2. I go for the eggs and fruit, too. I will add some kind of meat (sausage or bacon) but only 1 piece usually. I also get an english muffin simply because it’s not something I have on a regular basis!


  3. Love these tips and the boiled egg is definitely my go to, I also grab peanut butter to go with the bread if they have it. I agree with Emma and I try to make sure to get a hotel with a fridge and microwave. The place I stay when I visit my family has that and is near a grocery store. The best vacation is one where you enjoy yourself, indulge a bit, but don’t gain. 🙂


  4. Luckily the free breakfast isn’t a huge temptation. If they put bacon IN the eggs or milk in the oatmeal they are simply a no go. Hong Kong was an exception. They served American and Asian style breakfast. Of course I wanted a both!


  5. love this! you know i agree. It’s all about scouting out the options first, don’t just dive in. and I even request for certain items, like plain yogurt, if it’s a legit hotel. Or just bring my own.


  6. Great tips!
    I always travel with a ziploc bag filled with oats, cinnamon and flax seed and make overnight oats in my room. Then I happily join my family for the hardboiled eggs and fruit. Makes it much easier to resist the pastries and pancakes…


  7. Breakfast is my favorite meal…but I know how those hotel offerings can be sneaky carriers of extra calories. when I’m traveling high-end, it isn’t a problem to find healthier offerings like egg-white omelets, etc. So I appreciate your guidelines for choices you can find at any hotel…and I do plan to check out that meal you feature above at Denny’s. 😉


  8. I love you, but this post didn’t work for me. I now want to go to The Country Buffet down the road and eat up all the food. Damn you, woman. Can you at least pick up the tab?


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