Are Buffets Sabotaging Your Diet?

Buffets offer a seemingly endless array of food choices and by paying one price you can eat all you want or all you're able.  While this may sound great, it can also be a recipe for disaster!  In order to get more for your money (and who doesn't want that?), you eat more than you normally would, which may mean more calories, more fat, more salt and more sugar. So what should you do when you can't steer clear of buffets? 

Here are some tips to help you eat smart at your next buffet:

1. Scope out your choices.  Before you start filling your plate, check out your choices and have a plan to fill up on healthy choices (see below).

2. Eat balanced at buffets.  Balance your choices by choosing healthy foods from the main food groups, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein (fish, lean meat, eggs, nuts, beans), and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.

3. Remember portion control.  Having so many choices available, it can be tempting to fill up your plate or multiple plates, but you'll end up feeling sick after you eat if you don't pay attention to portion sizes. 

4. Eat slowly.  Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register what your stomach has eaten, so eat slowly and you will feel your fullness and feel better when you leave the restaurant.  You'll eat less by eating slowly.

5. Think before you drink.  Remember liquid calories can add up quickly.  Choose zero calorie water or unsweetened iced tea. 

6. Forget the fat.  Salad dressings, butter, creamy sauces, fried foods, rich desserts - buffets are often full of high fat foods.  And eating high fat foods means eating high calorie foods.  So it's important to limit your intake of fat.  Choose small amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil or low-fat dressings or small portions of nuts or avocado and limit the fried foods and rich desserts.  Choose fish or meat that has been baked, broiled or grilled.  Avoid or limit creamy sauces or soups. Share desserts or eat only a few bites. 

7. Stop when you're full.  Although it's tempting to keep on eating even after you're feeling full, this only leads to overeating and weight gain and you may end up feeling sick.  Isn't this is the classic problem with buffets in the first place? 

Keep in mind that most restaurants that offer buffets also allow you to order off of their regular menu.  You might save money and calories and enjoy your meal more by ordering from the menu instead of eating the buffet.  Don't always assume that the buffet is the best deal.  It's only a deal if you're able to find a variety of healthy choices for a reasonable price.