One of the most difficult situations for a person who is trying to develop healthy eating habits is eating at a buffet. Whether it is an upscale restaurant or family potluck, the process of making healthy choices and navigating the abundance of food can seem overwhelming. Coupled with the temptations of the sheer volume of enticing food choices may be deeply ingrained habits that have taken the idea of “all you can eat” from mere suggestion to an all-out challenge. It may seem unthinkable to pay the price of the restaurant buffet and not eat until stuffed. Here are seven strategies to help you get through your next buffet experience successfully:
Choose to be successful before you leave home. Willingness and specific planning are necessary building blocks for making healthy food choices. Without a plan, food decisions based on old habits may seem stronger than your good intentions.
Plan your trip through the serving line ahead of time. Decide ahead of time to take one trip through the line. Be aware of the size of plates being used; often they are considerably larger that you would use at home.
Decide on the number of items that you will have. This helps you to bypass some things and really pay attention to your choices. Leave space around your food selections on your plate. Be sure to include some foods that you will truly enjoy. Get out of the all-or-nothing thinking that can leave you feeling frustrated about the whole experience.
Take smaller servings of calorie-dense foods, such as meats, cheeses, and dishes that are likely to contain a lot of fat or sugar. Remember that you are fueling your body, and that while your brain might not be counting the calories, your body always is. Even moderation must be done in moderation!
Sit a distance from the food table, preferably with your back toward it. If the table is out of sight you will be less likely to go back for seconds. If the buffet is a social event and you will be sharing a table, choose to sit with people who will be supportive of your food choices.
Do not spend time thinking about the foods you did not take. Especially if someone sitting close to you is eating one of the items you passed by, make a point of focusing on their company and conversation, not on the contents of their plate.
Eat slowly and enjoy your meal. Congratulate yourself for the good choices that you have made, and savor every morsel. Think about how you good you will feel later knowing that you made healthy choices at the buffet.