Buffet Survival Guide
N.B. This blog is also available in Finnish and you’ll find it here
When you walk into a buffet, all you can see is those bowls and piles of tempting foods. Limitless food supplies inspire us to pick far more food on our plates than we actually do and those also make us crave and consume things we never wanted to try in the first place. And just because it’s “free” to eat everything you can see around you! Studies have shown that, if you’re an average person, you’re going to make three trips to the buffet, and five or more is not uncommon. Yes, believe it or not! Making healthy choices when eating at a buffet can be challenging, but it’s not impossible!
If you are watching your weight or simply want to make healthier and nutritionally better choices at your next visit to buffet, check these tips to lighten up your plate!
Scout out your options. Look over the entire buffet before taking anything on your plate. When you already know all the dishes available, you will more likely to make smart decisions from the start rather than, end up eating full servings of everything.
Eat small portions. At the buffet, monitoring portion sizes is the key for successful, healthy eating. Use smaller plates and glasses to avoid taking in too much. Larger plates just encourage you to overeating. Half of the plate should be filled with fruits, salads or veggies, one-quarter with grains or starchy vegetables (such as pasta, potato, bread, porridge), and the last quarter should be protein (eggs, beans, chicken, lean meat, fish, dairy products).
Choose simple dishes. The best choices are the foods that are whole, unprocessed and fresh or more simply prepared, when we talk about nutrition and calories. I normally choose things such as nonfat dairy products, eggs in some form, fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains (usually porridge or rye bread) and lean meats or plant-based proteins.
Choose fruits instead of fruit juices. If you’re at breakfast buffet, opt for whole fresh fruits or freshly made fruit salads. They are low in calories and excellent sources of many essential nutrients like vitamin C, folate, potassium and dietary fiber. Avoid all the syrupy fruit toppings, as they tend to contain a lot of added sugars and empty calories.
Freshly squeezed fruit juice (all the others are quite often pumped up with added sugars) can be a healthy option too, but remember not to consume more than one small glass. Juices will fill you up quickly with extra calories and they lack of fiber compared to fresh fruits, so they won’t keep you full as long.
Skip all deep fried foods. Choose foods that are grilled, steamed, baked or broiled. These dishes will taste more like what they should taste and have less added fats and salt, than dishes that are stir-fried, pan-fried or deep-fried. Foods which are high in salt, saturated fat and cholesterol, can negatively impact your health. Casseroles and pasta dishes aren’t that good choices either, because they typically contain added fats and excess salt too.
Don’t drown your food in sauces. Minimize all the spreads, marinades, sauces and condiments that will add extra salt, sugars, and calories, and are typically full of hidden fat. Choose vinaigrettes instead of oil- or cream-based salad dressings, and skip the dishes in which you can’t recognize the basic ingredients under all that creamy dressing.
Choose your table wisely. As soon as you’ve filled up your plate, have a seat as far away from the buffet as you can. Studies have shown that the more distance there is between you and those tempting foods, the less likely you are craving more and going to get up for second round. If it’s not possible to stick with only one plate, try set yourself closer to the salad bar or fresh fruits than the bread baskets and dessert trays, since we tend to consume more of whatever’s conveniently within reach. Facing away from the buffet may also help to avoid overeating!
Have a dessert. Buffets are always full of different kind of desserts and sweets, and I highly recommend you to have a sweet treat in the end of your buffet visit, if you feel so. Just don’t go crazy with it!
Instead of tasting each one of the options, choose the one you want to taste the most, and enjoy a portion of it without feeling guilty. If you feel that one portion isn’t enough, remind yourself this is not likely to be the last time you ever see these foods!
Listen to your body. Eat slowly, chew well every bite, and pay attention to physical cues from your body. Stop eating just short of the point when you feel becoming full. The reason for this is that stopping at a comfortable point may lower the risks of bloating, indigestion and heartburn.
Have a cup of tea. Peppermint tea or green tea are good tea choices after a buffet indulging. These will help you prevent indigestion, soothe your stomach, reduce bloating and nausea.