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Buffet strategies for staying buff!!

Monday, November 11, 2013


I don't like eating at buffets. Generally speaking I don't go to buffet style restaurants, or attend buffet-service events at my golf club by choice. I don't like the thought of other people sneezing all over my food, or maybe even sticking their fingers in it. Just to "have a taste". I don't even like watching other people load up their plates with all kinds of dishes running into each other. "Getting their money's worth, " seems to be the end goal. People have even told me that they'll very lightly for several days before going to a Mandarin . . . and not at all the day of the "big feast".

OK, I 'm sorry if that sounds judgmental . . . but gotta admit, I felt that way even before I lost weight.

However, I do absolutely get it: sometimes for a hostess, particularly over the holiday period, serving buffet style makes sense. Especially when there are lots of people with different food preferences. Or maybe it's a pot luck, with family members sharing the work and the cost of hosting a big family event.

So supposing I've just got to eat at a buffet, whether I want to or not: what's the best approach if I want to eat healthy?

New research tells us what we might have anticipated: that if the first foods I encounter at a buffet are high calorie, I'm likely to end up eating more calories than if I start with the healthier stuff.

Most of the time we don't survey all the possibilities before we start filling our plates. Particularly at a person's home, it seems somehow kinda rude; scoping out all the "good stuff" (the fresh jumbo shrimp) and by-passing the not-so-great stuff (neon bright marshmallow Dream Whip canned fruit cocktail jello moulds).

But -- it's better if we do. Meaning that I should walk past the deep fried and heavily sauced stuff, start with the fresh veggies and the fruits. Makes sense.

Not so self evident: if I do start with the high calorie foods, I'm also way more likely to load up my plate to excess. So it's not just high calorie choices -- starting with the high calorie items encourages me to take more food by volume than I really need too. Seventy-five per cent of people will take the first item they see; 66 per cent will take some of the first 3 items they see; and people who take high cal items first will help themselves to 31% more items than people who start with veggies.

And if I'm hosting a buffet myself?? If I want to help out the guests who are trying to eat healthy, I'm thinking that I should organize the sequence of offerings with the healthiest items first. And maybe cut down the number of choices. Because I know if there are six fancy holiday cookies on the cookie platter, I'll want to try one of each.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    My favorite way to entertain is to make one hot dish...say a couple roasted chickens, and a "salad bar." People exclaim over all the work I did (it can all be done a few days in advance) and we all eat healthier fare.
    Of course, I can't resist making a fancy dessert...such as a low-fat trifle in a glass dish. emoticon
    1617 days ago
    I agree completely. In fact I could have written that first paragraph exactly about myself. I do scope out all the choices first from a distance. It's my survival strategy.
    1618 days ago
  • KLONG8
    So true. I've crammed my plate before to eat "a little of everything" and it's crazy! In the last few years I try (if at all possible) to zip through the line to scope it out and then go back and make my selections. But it still is hard to control and not overeat!.
    1618 days ago
    I like the idea of organizing the food at a potluck to showcase the healthy stuff first. I don't throw or attend many potlucks or buffets. They're pretty dangerous for my (lacking) self control.
    1619 days ago
    Perfect timing for a very well written blog! I am going to use some of your stategies over the holidays. Thank you!
    1619 days ago
    emoticon I really Do Enjoy loading up my plate at a Buffet with the Fresh Spinach Salad and other Raw Veggies before I even LOOK at anything else. For one thing, the line at that end of the Table is a LOT Shorter, and by the time I finish a plate of Spinach, Strawberries, Carrots, and Chickpeas or Sweet Peas I feel much more in Control of the other Choices I make. I do have a rule that IF I go back for 2nds I have to put at least One Serving of Fresh Spinach on the plate before I add anything else.
    1619 days ago
    I agree wholeheartedly...if I can't eat everything then there is just too much food to choose from. So I keep my buffets simple. We have buffets at my place of work every month (birthday celebrations or holiday get togethers). They are killers...need the sensible approach you outline but not always possible since I don't have control over the placement. So I try to pick and choose carefully.

    Buffets at restaurants are never an enticement to me...I figure I can't eat enough to warrant there cost and the ever frugal me says "I'd rather have control" over that. I know whatever I order will be twice as much as I need so I start making plans for the 2nd full dinner I can have the next day with my leftovers. Most of the time at buffets the food just doesn't look that good...picked over, re-warmed, dried out and just plain unappetizing.

    1619 days ago
    If I know one is coming I start in the morning and have a high protein breakfast. Then I have a high protein lunch. I eat a pre-dinner before I go so I arrive pretty much not hungry. Then the temptation to eat the bad choices is not too great. From there I pick out the best things. For me, the key is to arrive almost full!
    1619 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    emoticon Quality over quantity rules.
    1619 days ago
  • ANNETTE117
    Great ideas. Thanks for sharing.
    1620 days ago
    Interesting - never really thought about it because I always take a 'taste' of everything. Get's some looks from the person cutting the prime rib, but oh well...
    1620 days ago
  • KANOE10
    I think with buffets heading for the healthy food and filling your plate with that is a good strategy. I do not like most buffets except for Indian food.
    Thanks for sharing excellent advice!

    I do not like most buffets either. It is simply too much food. I do however, have a weakness for Indian buffets as we do not have them in my town.

    The strategy of heading to the healthy foods first is a good one!


    1620 days ago
    Buffets are dangerous for me right now, but I'm hoping to learn to handle them better in time. I will need to -- we are going on a European river cruise next month and breakfasts are always buffet on the ship.
    1620 days ago
  • NANCY-
    I used to be one of those who was there to get my money's worth. But concluded it is not worth it to end up being stuffed and sick.

    We attend an Easter Brunch buffet. Thankfully there are healthy choices available along with the not so healthy. I do scope out what the choices are first. If there is something new or decadent I will take a "No thank you" helping. (that is just a small tablespoon) Often I am disappointed with the temptations, so the tasting sample saves me from making a huge bad choice.
    Most other restaurant buffets offer little for my palate. Okay call me a food snob, but I'm so worth having only the good healthy stuff.
    1620 days ago
  • _LINDA
    All great ideas and advice from everyone! I am certainly guilty of not surveying first. I go straight for my old favorites. One thing I do love about Chinese food is the healthy way they prepare vegetables, with minimal sauce and nice and crisp. So that is the first thing I head for. Putting a heaping pile of veggies on your plate does leave little room for other things.
    Here is to thinking before sinking your teeth into a buffet!
    1620 days ago
    Oh, um... I guess this is a bit of a tangent - but the germaphobe in me can't deal with the idea of a buffet :)

    1620 days ago
    When I decided to eat less and exercise more, the first thing I decided was that I didn't need to eat things I didn't like, or even the items I consider mediocre. I chose to focus on foods I loved.

    And I'm not a big fan of fried, or gravy, or sauced, or anything soggy. Don't like mashed potatoes, or mac'n'cheese, or pasta salad, or pasta sitting in sauce.

    Yup, I've become a picky eater. Which saves me on the buffet line. I'll have rice, fish or chicken (not fried), vegs, green salads. If I skip the starch with the meal, I'll have dessert.

    And if the line to the main courses is too long, I'll eat dessert first. Because, well, buffet lines are uncertain.
    1620 days ago
    There used to be a restaurant in the city that had the most wonderfully tasty and healthy Sunday brunch. It was the only brunch I happily enjoyed. Other than that, I too prefer to avoid them as much as possible.
    1620 days ago
  • DALID414
    We stopped going to buffets cuz the boyfriend had a stalker! Best thing that could've happend emoticon
    People thought it was odd that I would walk all the way through once, without a plate, then come back to the start and make a bee line to the stuff I wanted, which was usually stuff I could get at any fast food chinese place!
    1620 days ago
    I have survived several buffet dinners at church. I look through and plan what I'm going to eat and stick with it. And savor every bite. Avoid seconds, thirds, etc.
    1620 days ago
    I stay away from buffets like the plague. It's a welcome mat that says "overeat."
    1620 days ago
    I'm ashamed to say that I used to feel that my job at a commercial buffet was to put it into bankruptcy. I have a lot of people to thank for disabusing me of that idea. We will follow your suggestions when we entertain this season.
    1620 days ago
    Buffets are a danger zone for me. If I was forced to go to a buffet, like I was a year ago, I try to think about what I would put on my plate on a regular dinner: lean protein, lots of green leafy stuff, and non-starchy carbs. Hope that helps!
    1620 days ago
    I'm actually a fan of the various Chinese buffets because I sail right by all the prepared dishes and head for the Hibachi grill, pick out my fresh veggies & seafood and have them chop, fry & then I spice it up...yum! By the time I've eaten this there isn't any room for tempting high-calorie stuff.

    1620 days ago
    I feel the same way in regard to the sanitary condition of food buffets..however if im forced to eat from one ...for instancence ..at a cocktail hour..i head for the healthy choices first and fill up my plate..!
    1620 days ago
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