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All You Can Eat
I went to an all you can eat buffet the other day with my family and my husband said, "You need to write a blog about this!" I asked him if the point of the blog would be to show what a hypocrite I am that I write a blog called the Diet Dish and I overeat at a buffet! He likes to remind me that no one is perfect and that most of the time I have good control over what I eat but that most people are in a buffet situation occasionally and would like to know what to do to survive it.
Now that the cat is out of the bag that I do occasionally eat at all you can eat buffets and that I also consume entirely too many calories while I am there, you know that I am giving advice as a dietitian but also as a restaurant patron. The buffet that brought up the whole conversation is a middle eastern buffet that has all of my favorites: feta cheese, greek olives, hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, chickpeas, etc. YUM-MY! And every time we go there, I swear to my husband that it is the last time because I feel so lousy for hours afterwards from overeating rich food. Did I forget to mention the baklava?
The problem with buffets is that it is a seductive line of tempting, scrumptious dishes that are in unlimited quantities. We always feel like we need to "get our money's worth" and so we load up. Even if you have one or two plates full of food, it is likely much more than you would have eaten if you were at home. Research also shows that the larger the selection, the more likely you are to indulge. For example, if there was only one dessert offered, you may or may not have some of it. If there are six different desserts, there is a higher chance one looks irresistible to you and an even greater chance that you want to try several of them. So it is not just quantity of food, but also the variety that is the one-two punch that leads to overeating in a buffet situation.
Here are my "Surviving the Buffet" tips:
- Survey the entire buffet before you start loading up. Do not take regular old salad and rolls that you can get anywhere. Look for unique items that you can only find on that buffet.
- Eat only your favorites. Again, don't eat a plain old hard roll. It is a waste of calories. Choose foods that are worth the calories.
- Drink liquid. Make sure you drink plenty of water before and during your buffet experience. This will help with digestion, but it will also help to temporarily fill you up a little bit.
- Eat your veggies. Vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein will fill you up. High sugar items will add lots of calories without much fullness.
- Know when to quit. You are going to physically be miserable for hours afterwards if you eat too much, not to mention the psychological guilt and agony you will instill upon yourself for the next week.
- Go back in a few months. If there are still items on that buffet that you want to try but you have had enough this time around, tell yourself that you can go back again in a few months to taste those items. You don't need to eat everything this trip.
- Visit infrequently. I enjoy buffets, but only because I go to them about four times a year. If you are visiting buffets often, it can be a problem, especially if you don't know when to quit.
- Take "tasting portions." Take small portions so you get to taste lots of different things but don't fill up on things that aren't worth the calories.
- Waste if needed. If you taste something new and you don't like it, leave it. I am not an advocate of irresponsibly throwing food away, but I would rather waste it than have it go around your waist!
Photo courtesy of binaryape