So you’ve been eating within your calorie ranges, working up a sweat a few days a week and you’ve dropped a few pounds. You’re more in control of your health than you’ve been in a looooong while and you’re feeling/looking amazing. Then you get a call from your Aunt Susan reminding you of your beloved Uncle John’s birthday and he’s requested that you all go to… a buffet (cue the theme to Psycho).
Your eyes grow wide, your palms get sweaty. You reply, in a small voice: “A buffet?!”
A BUFFET?! Don’t they know how hard you’ve been working?! They just mentioned the last time they saw you how great you look and were impressed at your new lifestyle habits and now they expect you to go to a buffet?! WHAT THE HELL?!?!
Okay, now breathe… This is what’s known as “real life stuff”. When it comes to getting fit and losing weight, tips and tricks usually work in ideal situations but the fact of the matter is, life happens! Shockingly, it happens daily! And aside from deciding to never eat out with your family and friends ever again, you’re going to have to learn how to deal with it. But, remember one of my favourite sayings: failing to plan is planning to fail and it’s perfectly doable to live your daily life AND remain as healthy as possible. This includes navigating the dreaded buffet and here are a few things you can do to not go overboard at the buffet and still enjoy yourself:
- Where possible, order from the menu. Some buffet restaurants, although they market their buffet, actually have a menu you can order from. Let your buffet-loving friends and family know that you’re not in the mood and order from the menu instead.
- Set rules for yourself. Obviously you’re going to be tempted when you’re around all of that food and self-control is going to be key and nothing I can say is going to make you have self-control but you can set rules for yourself. I have a two-plate rule, I can only visit the entrees twice and the dessert table once. Other rules I have are that half of my plate MUST contain veggies, preferably raw. When it comes to dessert, I only choose desserts that I don’t eat often (in other words, no cookies, ice cream, cheesecake, etc.). You could make other rules like your first plate can ONLY contain veggies so you fill up on that first before you go for the more calorie-laden carbs and proteins. Another option is that you get one “unhealthy” treat per plate in small quantities. Whatever it is, set your rules before you walk into the restaurant because if you make it while standing in front of the food, those rules will go right out the window.
- Choose the healthiest food items as possible. Honestly, I don’t believe anything at a buffet is healthy. Healthy items can take time to prepare and buffet restaurants don’t have the time but you can at least try your best. Look for steamed veggies, lean meats and proteins, baked or grilled food and food items with light sauce. My rule of thumb is that if, when you look at the item and it feels heavy in your stomach (as in, you can picture how you feel after you’ve eaten the item and you feel sluggish or heavy) then it’s probably not good for you. If it feels light in your stomach then it’s most likely the healthier option.
- Buddy up! If there’s someone going with you that’s also health-minded or at least supportive of your decision to be healthy, tell them of your rules and/or work together. My fiancé and I both adhere to the two entree plate + one dessert plate rule and we both know it which makes us accountable. We also tend to go up together to choose our food. If you have a buddy, tell them how they can help you. Do you want them to be a bit more aggressive in making sure you don’t break your rules? A more gentle approach? It all depends on where you are in your journey so tell them up front.
- Use smaller plates. There used to be an amazing Indian buffet that I loved going to in Little India here in Toronto (sadly, it’s closed now) and when I would go, the owner actually remembered me, not because I went often (I didn’t) but because I used dessert plates for my main entree (seriously, he commented on it)! Limiting yourself to two entree plates using a dessert plate is almost like eating ONE plate of food but you trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more!
Photo Credit: My Samui Hotels