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The Best and Worst Menu Items at Golden Corral

A registered dietitian analyzes the menu so you know what to order when you're dining at the buffet.
golden corral restaurant

In 1973, the first Golden Corral restaurant opened in Fayetteville, North Carolina and the mission of the restaurant was to offer guests real, wholesome foods in a family-friendly atmosphere at a great value. Golden Corral's legendary endless buffet serves up breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner where diners can choose from over 150 items to load up on their plates. With such a vast selection, there are some not-as-good choices you'll want to avoid, but some that are better-for-you foods, too.

Here is a rundown of what you should order and what you should skip the next time you're dining at Golden Corral.

Beef

Best: BBQ Beef

golden corral bbq beef
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 3 oz: 120 calories, 5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 490 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 18 g protein

If you're craving beef, this is certainly a dish to put on your plate. The calories are very reasonable for a 3-ounce portion and 18 grams of protein. The BBQ flavor does add a bit of sodium, so if you're watching your sodium then opt for the Roast Beef (below).

Best: Roast Beef

golden corral roast beef
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 3 oz: 110 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 19 g protein

A really nice choice in the beef category with only 1 gram of saturated fat and 115 milligrams of sodium, which is the lowest of all the beef choices.

Best: Sirloin Steak

golden corral sirloin steak
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 3 oz: 130 calories, 8 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 13 g protein

If you're craving some steak, opt for this sirloin cut which is leaner choice. Avoid topping it with any buttery sauces though, which will just add artery-clogging saturated fat.

Worst: Cheeseburger (6 oz)

golden corral cheeseburger
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per burger: 580 calories, 34 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 810 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (1 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 36 g protein

If you're heading to Golden Corral, then there's a good chance you're going to try several of the options on the buffet, which is what dining at a buffet is all about. If you opt for this cheeseburger though, you won't have many calories left to try other items. You're better off selecting four or five healthier options instead.

Worst: Roast Beef Stacker

roast beef stacker
iStock
Per 1 each: 410 calories, 22 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 960 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (1 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 25 g protein

Skip this roast beef stacker which contains 23-percent of the daily recommended maximum of artery-clogging saturated fat and 42-percent of the recommended daily maximum of sodium.

Worst: Smoked Beef Short Ribs

golden corral short ribs
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 3 oz: 340 calories, 27 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 25 g protein

Short ribs are a higher fat cut of beef. You can see the saturated fat is 50 percent of the recommended daily dose in a 3-ounce portion. There are certainly healthier beef options to choose from on this buffet.

Bread

Best: Basil Parmesan Flatbread

parmesan basil flatbread
iStock
Per 1 each: 70 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 2 g protein

A flatbread is well…flat, so you are getting a reasonable portion, flavor from the basil and parmesan, and fewer calories than most of the other bread options. If you're craving bread, it's a great way to go!

Best: Mini Yeast Rolls

golden corral mini yeast roll
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 1 each: 80 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 3 g protein

Another good choice is this mini roll with only 80 calories, which is equivalent to 1 slice of store-bought bread. Just avoid taking two or three!

Best: Flour Tortilla

flour tortilla
Shutterstock
Per 1 each: 100 calories, 3 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Of all the bread choices, a flour tortilla has only 100 calories. Most store-bought tortillas have around 170 calories, which means this is a smaller sized tortilla and the perfect portion to put on your plate.

Worst: Blueberry Muffin

blueberry muffins
Shutterstock
Per muffin: 330 calories, 14 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 420 mg sodium, 54 g carbs (1 g fiber, 29 g sugar), 3 g protein

Although the muffin may seem healthy because it contains blueberries, it's actually one of the worst choices. The 54 grams of carbs it provides is equivalent to eating about 3 1/2 slices of store-bought bread.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

Worst: Caramel Pecan Sticky Roll

pecan caramel sticky buns
Shutterstock
Per roll: 310 calories, 9 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (1 g fiber, 27 g sugar), 4 g protein

Skip the sticky roll which contains lots of calories, fat, and especially added sugar. This bad boy contains close to 7 teaspoons of sugar!

Worst: Chocolate Chip Muffin

chocolate chip muffin
Shutterstock
Per muffin: 430 calories, 19 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 420 mg sodium, 65 g carbs (1 g fiber, 39 g sugar), 3 g protein

Skip the muffins at this buffet, especially these chocolate chips ones. With over 20 percent of your recommended daily calories (based on a 2,000 calorie diet), choose 1 or even 2 other bread choices instead.

Breakfast

Best: Oatmeal

plain oatmeal
Shutterstock
Per 1 cup: 120 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 10 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 4 g protein

Oats provide soluble fiber, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol and keep you feeling satisfied after a meal. It's a home run choice on this buffet table.

Best: Made-to-Order Eggs

golden corral made to order eggs
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 1 egg prepared: 130 calories, 11 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 6 g protein

Enjoy a made-to-order egg and then pile your plate with fruits and veggies! Now that's the way to do a breakfast buffet.

Best: Raisin Bran Cereal

raisin bran cereal
Shutterstock
Per 1 container: 110 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (4 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 3 g protein

If you're looking for the healthiest choice at breakfast, grabbing this high fiber cereal is the way to go. Pair it with skim or low fat milk and sprinkle with a small handful of nuts and you've got a nicely balanced meal.

Worst: Breakfast Pizza

golden corral breakfast pizza
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 1 slice: 400 calories, 24 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 810 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 20 g protein

This breakfast pizza provides close to 55 percent of the recommended daily saturated fat and 35 percent of the recommended daily maximum for sodium. Let's not forget that the calories are also rather steep, especially if you're looking to try other items on the buffet.

Worst: Chorizo and Egg Burrito

egg chorizo burrito
Shutterstock
Per 1 burrito: 310 calories, 18 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 760 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 16 g protein

There's just too much going on in this burrito. It contains close to 32 percent of the daily recommended amount of saturated fat, 33 percent of the daily recommended maximum of sodium, and practically no fiber. There are certainly better choices on the buffet table.

Worst: Sausage and Egg Burrito

golden corral sausage and egg burrito
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 1 burrito: 320 calories, 19 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 760 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 16 g protein

Sausage is a high-fat meat that provides not only calories but way too much artery-clogging saturated fat for one dish (here it's 36 percent of the daily recommended max).

Chicken/Turkey

Best: Pulled Chicken in Poultry Gravy

pulled chicken in gravy
Shutterstock
Per 3 oz: 80 calories, 1.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein

Chicken that isn't fried is typically a good choice on the menu. Surprisingly, this pulled chicken with gravy weighs is at a very reasonable 80 calories and practically no saturated fat.

Best: Chicken Strips

chicken strips
Shutterstock
Per 3 oz: 60 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 11 g protein

These non-fried strips are another good choice on the buffet table and provide 11 grams of protein for a very reasonable portion of 3-ounces.

Best: Pulled BBQ Chicken

pulled bbq chicken
Shutterstock
Per 3 oz: 110 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 450 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (0 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 14 g protein

This BBQ Chicken is slightly higher in calories and sodium than the other two choices, but you're also getting that delicious BBQ flavor. It's still one of the better choices available.

Worst: Mini Chicken Pot Pie

mini chicken pot pie
Shutterstock
Per mini pie: 400 calories, 24 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 1,140 mg sodium, 34 g carbs (5 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 11 g protein

There's no need to pick up this miniature version of a chicken pot pie. It provides 36 percent of the daily recommended amount of saturated fat and a whopping 50 percent of the recommended daily maximum of sodium.

Worst: Nashville Hot Fried Chicken Thighs

fried chicken thigh
iStock
Per 1 piece: 520 calories, 29 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 1,670 mg sodium, 42 g carbs (1 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 20 g protein

Another no-no on the buffet table is fried food, especially chicken thighs. These babies are typically served with the skin on which means that you'll be getting more saturated fat than you bargained for. The sodium is also out of control with close to 73 percent of the daily recommended maximum in only one piece.

Worst: Sweet Buffalo Chicken Thighs

buffalo chicken thighs
Shutterstock
Per 1 piece: 400 calories, 26 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 570 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (1 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 36 g protein

Again, thighs are rather high in saturated fat due to the fact that it is a dark piece of meat and that it is served with the skin on. There is also added sugar in the sauce, which is reflected in the 6 grams of sugar (that's equivalent to 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar).

Fish/Seafood

Best: Carved Salmon

golden corral carved salmon
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 3 oz: 130 calories, 6 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 620 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 15 g protein

Pick up an excellent source of omega-3s on the buffer table. You will find that salmon does provide fat, but it's the healthy type that has been shown to support heart, brain, and eye health.

Best: Honey Chipotle Grilled Shrimp Skewer

golden corral honey chipotle grilled shrimp
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 2 skewers: 140 calories, 6 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 16 g protein

Shrimp is a very low calorie protein choice and a good choice on this buffet table. You will find a small amount of sodium and added sugar from the sauce, but overall it's a top pick.

Best: Salmon Lemonata

golden corral salmon lemonata
Golden Corral/Twitter
Per 3 oz: 140 calories, 10 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 8 g protein

Another smart choice from the fish options, salmon provides those EPA and DHA omega-3s, which have been shown to be the most protective of the heart.

Worst: Crispy Fish Taco

golden corral crispy fish taco
Golden Corral/Twitter
Per 1 taco: 360 calories, 19 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 1,200 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (1 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 11 g protein

One taco provides more carbs than 2 slices of bread and over 52 percent of the daily recommended amount of sodium. For 360 calories and the fact that it is a fried option, it is one to skip.

Worst: Mandarin Orange Shrimp

orange shrimp
Shutterstock
Per 6 shrimp: 220 calories, 7 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 470 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 7 g protein

Shrimp is a very low-calorie protein, yet 6 pieces are way more calories than it should be. Plus, the flavoring contains the equivalent of 2 slices of bread. Skip it for a better shrimp option.

Worst: Buffalo Shrimp

buffalo shrimp
Shutterstock
Per 6 shrimp: 220 calories, 9 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 630 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 10 g protein

The buffalo flavoring on this shrimp option jack up the calories, sodium, and carbs. You'll find over 27 percent of the daily recommended amount of sodium in 6 shrimp and the amount of carbs in close to two slices of bread.

Pork

Best: Boneless BBQ Pork Ribs

bbq pork ribs
Shutterstock
Per 1 each: 120 calories, 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 10 g protein

If you're craving ribs, this option is the way to go. The sodium, calories, and even saturated fat are within reasonable limits. Just make sure you don't pick up more than one or two and compliment it with lots of fruits and veggies.

Best: Glazed Ham

golden corral glazed ham
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 3 oz : 130 calories, 3.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 620 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (0 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 13 g protein

Ham is a nice lean option, but the glaze does come with some sodium and added sugar. Overall, it's a nice selection for the reasonable 3-ounce portion.

Best: Sliced Ham

golden corral sliced ham
Golden Corral/Twitter
Per 3 oz: 120 calories, 4.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 670 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 15 g protein

If you don't want the added sugar of the glazed ham, then choose the sliced version. The added sugar in this variety of less than 1 teaspoon and a nice choice calorie-wise as well.

Worst: Mandarin Orange Pork

mandarin orange pork
Shutterstock
Per 3 oz: 380 calories, 18 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 1,110 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (0 g fiber, 24 g sugar), 24 g protein

Skip this pork dish which has over three times the calories and three times the saturated fat of the sliced ham. It also has an absurd amount of sodium for a 3-ounce portion at 48 percent of the recommended daily maximum.

Worst: Smoked Cajun Sausage

golden corral smoked sausage
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 3 oz: 320 calories, 30 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 560 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 11 g protein

Steer clear of the sausage, which is a high-fat meat choice and has close to 64 percent the recommended daily amount of saturated fat in this 3-ounce portion.

Worst: Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

pork spare ribs
Shutterstock
Per 1 each: 310 calories, 27 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 16 g protein

Another extremely high fat pork choices are these spare ribs with 22 percent the recommended daily maximum of sodium and lots of unnecessary calories. You can choose 2 or 3 other proteins for the same amount of calories.

Sides

Best: Okra and Tomato Stew

golden corral okra and tomato stew
Jaime D./Yelp
Per 1/2 cup: 60 calories, 2.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 530 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 1 g protein

Many of the vegetables on the buffet table have added oil or butter. However, this stew is a nice combination of okra and tomatoes and provides only 60 calories and lots of good-for-you nutrients. The sodium is on the higher side, but it's most likely from the added flavoring of the stew.

Best: Sautéed Onions and Peppers

peppers and onions
Shutterstock
Per 1/4 cup: 30 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 15 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 1 g protein

Another rather low-calorie choice on the buffet table is sautéed onions and peppers which taste great over steak, fish, or pork.

Best: Diced Sautéed Onions

diced sauteed onions
Shutterstock
Per 1/4 cup: 70 calories, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 50 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 1 g protein

If you don't mind the onion breathe, pile high on this veggie choice which seems to be the lowest in calories than many of the other vegetable choices.

Worst: Breaded Ravioli

breaded ravioli
Shutterstock
Per 4 each: 370 calories, 22 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 800 mg sodium, 36 g carbs (2 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 8 g protein

Just the title of this dish screams too many carbs. Four pieces of this pasta provide more calories and sodium than most of the main dish options on the table.

Worst: Smokehouse Macaroni and Cheese

golden corral mac and cheese
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 1/2 cup: 290 calories, 20 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 630 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 15 g protein

Another choice that is very high in saturated fat and sodium with 36 percent the recommended daily maximum of saturated fat and 27 percent the recommended daily maximum of sodium—and remember, this is only a side dish.

Worst: Sweet Corn Pudding

sweet corn pudding
Shutterstock
Per 1/2 cup: 340 calories, 14 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 400 mg sodium, 50 g carbs (1 g fiber, 26 g sugar), 4 g protein

This corn pudding is made with butter or heavy cream, which is what increases the calories and saturated fat. These are not foods you want to indulge in regularly, and your best bet is to skip it especially if you dine at Golden Corral often.

Salad

Best: Strawberry Spinach Salad

golden corral strawberry spinach salad
Golden Corral/Facebook
Per 1 cup: 40 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 45 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 2 g protein

Get a healthy dose of fruit and vegetables in this salad! Top it with a splash of balsamic vinaigrette for a lovely side dish.

Worst: Macaroni Salad

macaroni salad
Shutterstock
Per 1/2 cup: 280 calories, 11 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 490 mg sodium, 41 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 5 g protein

Made with tons of mayonnaise, this carb and fat-laden dish provides and the same amount of carbs as in three slices of bread. Instead, choose a more colorful side dish filled with fruit or vegetables.

Soup

Best: Cajun Chicken Soup

cajun chicken soup
Shutterstock
Per 1 cup: 70 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 750 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 5 g protein

This spicy chicken soup is a nice choice if you're trying to keep your calories and carbs low. The sodium is on the high side because of the cajun seasoning, but if you're not worried about your sodium it's a tasty choice.

Worst: Green Chili Stew

green chili stew
Shutterstock
Per 1 cup: 230 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 570 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (1 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 18 g protein

One cup of this soup has 18 percent the recommended daily maximum of saturated fat and only 1 gram of fiber. There are numerous other soup options for fewer calories that are more nutritious.

Fruits

Best: Watermelon

watermelon cubes
Shutterstock
Per 1/4 cup: 10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein

There really is no "best" in the fruit category. As 85 percent of Americans don't get the recommended amount of fruit, do pile up on nature's candy for dessert. If you're trying to watch your waistline and want the fruit with the fewest calories, then watermelon is the lowest on the menu.

Worst: Banana

golden corral bananas
John D./Yelp
Per 1 each (101 g): 90 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (3 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 1 g protein

Bananas are certainly a healthy fruit with lots of potassium but if you're looking to cut back on calories either split a banana with a friend or take it for later as an afternoon or evening snack.

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