I’ve probably taken ten years off my life expectancy by eating a lot of hot dogs, hamburgers, and French fries. There is no excuse for this. It was my choice.
But I’m ashamed to admit that I ate a lot of those greasy fast foods in casinos. You might ask why but if you’ve never eaten a gourmet hamburger in a major casino resort you don’t know what you’re missing.
The land-based gambling industry is famous for its food. High profile chefs have been cooking up great food in casinos for over 50 years. We can thank the mob for that innovation.
I’ve eaten almost everything I could find at a major casino’s restaurants. I’ve had steaks, seafood, salads, dishes I can’t name, and great breakfasts.
A local small-town casino probably only has a sandwich shop. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve tried some of those too. I just had to know what the food was like.
In my opinion, if you’re traveling by car, eat at the local restaurant before you hit the sandwich shop at the small casino. My apologies to the hard-working people at an unnamed road-side casino, but I’ve had better food from Sam’s Club.
We Should Always Eat Healthy
It’s not my fault the food companies load up our food with sugar, salt, and chemicals whose names we can’t pronounce. But it’s my fault if I don’t read the labels and choose foods with healthy, natural ingredients and few additives.
The same rule holds true for casino food. It may be prepared by a chef in restaurant style but they add sugar and salt to their dishes too.
I’ve learned to eat light and healthy in casinos. It’s no less expensive, especially if you’re grabbing food from a buffet. But you’ll feel better throughout the day.
The first time I visited a casino buffet I was overwhelmed and I gorged myself on every kind of protein I could grab. I nearly fell asleep in the car on the way home.
Just because you’re looking at foods you’d never buy in the store or pay for at a restaurant doesn’t mean you should abandon your reason. Even sampling a lot of dishes – as most people do – can leave you with several pounds of food on your plate.
You can’t eat it all. You shouldn’t eat it all. So don’t try.
Eat a Hearty Breakfast When You Can
When I take my wife to a casino resort for a weekend stay we’ll eat at the casino buffet. I limit my choices because I’ve seen it all before. But breakfast is an easy meal to plan for buffet eaters.
I eat eggs and bacon but I also grab fresh fruit. A few years ago I wouldn’t have touched fresh fruit for breakfast. I’ve always read you should eat it but thought it wasn’t my thing.
Buffet breakfasts taught me to appreciate fruit. My wife urged me to try it out and now we eat more fruit at breakfast at home.
Instead of loading up on cereals and sugar we add some fruit.
The important thing about eating hearty breakfast is that it helps your body manage cravings throughout the day.
If you spend the entire day in the casino you could easily fill up on junk food if you get the munchies.
We’ll do other things like visit local stores and an attraction. I have plenty of energy because I ate a good breakfast.
Begin Lunch and Dinner With a Salad
When I was a teenager I wouldn’t have touched a salad bar if my life depended on it. If I ate at a buffet at all I dove into the meats and looked for easy carbs like macaroni and mashed potatoes.
Now I’ve developed the habit – thanks to my wife – of using the salad as a base for the meal. You don’t have to settle for chopped ham as a salad topping. There is no reason why you can’t put a slice of roast beef on your salad.
Through experimentation I’ve learned that many of the food items you find in a casino buffet work great as salad toppings. You can avoid the bacon bits and shredded cheeses and dress up your food so that it looks more like a gourmet meal and less like a $6 fast food entrée.
I fill up on the greens because I don’t want to become sleepy in the middle of a game.
Some casinos stock sushi items on their buffets but their sushi bars keep the good stuff for themselves.
Try Something from the Grill
There will always be fried chicken nuggets and potatoes. You’re not a kid anymore. Try something different when the menu offers an alternative to deep fried foods.
My wife and I were pleased to find paninis on a few casino menus. We came to enjoy eating those instead of chicken wings and French fries. And I never ate a panini until I had one at a casino.
It’s a matter of taste but one of the great things about visiting even a small resort is you have an opportunity to try foods you normally wouldn’t eat.
After that I looked for panini grills in our home town. I’ve enjoyed eating them ever since. Now anyone who studies healthy meal plans will say a panini isn’t the healthiest meal you can have.
Maybe not, but I’d rather eat an olive-oil soaked grilled sandwich than a bucket full of fried chicken. And not all paninis are the same.
The less bread you consume the better. But if you’re ordering a meal on bread ask for whole grain or multigrain bread. It’s an acquired taste but much healthier for you.
Sushi Is a Healthy Option
If your casino has a sushi bar chances will be good it’s popular with the customers. We’ve stood in line as much as an hour to get to the sushi.
All fishing jokes aside, there is much more to sushi than raw seafood. You don’t want to fill up on rice but you can eat vegetables and rice with your protein.
Seaweed is a popular sushi wrap.
If you’re eating healthy you should avoid the tempura. This is battered, fried food and it’s high in fat and calories. It tastes so good but restrain yourself.
Ask for low sodium soy sauce if you can.
Choose brown rice over white rice.
If you’ve been ill or your immune system is weakened for any reason, you should skip the sushi bar. Don’t put your health at risk when you know you are vulnerable.
Do You Really Need Dessert?
Like every bistro and fancy restaurant in town, a casino resort with a rich selection of foods has a dessert menu to die for. I know warning you not to eat the dessert is a waste of time. Here are a few tricks my wife and I have learned to cut back on desserts without losing the experience.
Pick one dessert and share it. Even if you’re not dining with someone you normally share food with, use clean utensils to cut the dessert in half. Most restaurants now gladly split desserts for their customers.
Make your own dessert. Topping a standard fruit cup with whipped cream is healthier than most desserts. A single scoop of ice cream also goes a long way toward satisfying that dessert craving.
Skip the apple crisp and ask for oatmeal with honey sprinkled on top. Or try oatmeal and 1 scoop of ice cream. They can usually add cinnamon too.
Another cool variation we’ve tried is apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon and 1 scoop of ice cream.
Ask the server if can request these kinds of dishes. The worst she’ll say is “no, sorry” but once she knows you want a health dessert she can suggest something.
The buffet should provide you with a few choices. I wish it were as easy to assemble a healthy dessert from a buffet but it’s not. Just take small pieces and split them with someone, or leave some on the plate.
You don’t need to feel guilty about taking care of yourself.
Every casino is different. A casino built for travelers offers better food than a casino built for locals. That’s my opinion and I hope I don’t offend anyone who works at a smaller, local casino.
If you’re eating casino food you should avoid fried, breaded, sugary, fat-soaked foods as much as possible. If you can, combine their healthier choices into something you normally wouldn’t see.
If it’s Las Vegas you’re visiting, check out our Vegas guide for more information and advice.