August 7, 2013
Beat the Buffet

Is your summer as busy as mine? And when I say busy, I mean full of social events and celebrations. Don't get me wrong, I love to celebrate and socialize, but it can be frustrating to look at a calendar full of dinners / lunches, etc. that I won't have control over. Knowing I won't have control over the foods being served at most of the events I'll be attending, I'm starting to plan ahead (love those key words!) to stay healthy even when unhealthy foods will be in abundance.

Here are my favorite tricks to 'beating the buffet' (or I should say buffet-induced semi-coma that always comes with overindulging) while still enjoying your social calendar this summer:

  • Think about the event in advance - have you been before? Are there usually fresh veggies, fruits, and proteins available? If not, can you bring some to share so you have a few great food options?
  • Don't go overly hungry - a small snack of non-starchy veggies and protein (think 1 c. mixed peppers/carrots/celery + 1 LF string cheese, or 1 bite-size 20/20 Protein bar) within the hour of leaving, to stave off any over-hunger upon arrival.  Remember, you always make better food choices when you're not too hungry!
  • Scan ahead - when you arrive at the buffet, check out all your options first
  • Pick your 'carbs' - extra non-starchy veggies and lean proteins are always great for feeling full & satisfied, especially in buffet situations. But the high-cal sides (potato salad, pastas, casseroles, dips, snacks, desserts, alcohol) are the things to watch in terms of portion control.  They will be less filling initially, and have more calories.
  • Fill your plate, using the 'Plate Model'- a reasonable approach to a buffet is to aim to fill 1/3 of your plate with protein, 1/3 with veggies and 1/3 with carbohydrates or high-cal sides.
  • Choose your carbohydrate/high-cal sides wisely-  Remember when you did your initial walk-through? This will come in handy when you aim to limit your plate to 1/3 full of those high-cal options.  You want to pick the ones you enjoy the most, and leave the rest. May as well get the most calorie bang-for-your buck (those you like the most for the calories), right?
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! - Have plenty of water, sparkling water w/citrus or decaf coffee/tea to keep your hands and mouth busy while other people still eat, and you still socialize. This will also buy you time.
  • Keep Track- Pre-track, or track just before eating, the foods you have. Even if you enter general foods that are close to those you ate, you will stay accountable to the foods you have. It can be easy to forget the bites and tastes of buffet options if you don't track them online or by hand. This will also help you keep track of meals & snacks. Hungry again? If you have been at the party for 3 hours, it's reasonable to feel hungry for a small snack!
  • Take seconds, but with caution- Stick with veggies, proteins and fruits when you hit the buffet the 2nd time around. This will buy you time to feel more full from the first helping, but not with too many added calories.

So don't worry. You don't have to cancel all the gatherings you have planned this summer simply because you are watching your weight and health. Follow the guidelines above and you will successfully conquer the tricky, but manageable, buffet!

Written by Erika Brown

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