Friday, 11 March 2011

How to eat healthily at a buffet

In times of frugality, all you can eat buffets appeal to a lot of us. Instead of stopping when we are full, we continue to eat until we are bursting. Why? Well....we want our moneys worth. Whilst there is logic to this, it is not going to do your body any good. I have been guilty of doing this many times myself, but I am still going to be paying the same amount of money, regardless of how much of the food I eat, so why stuff myself with too many calories, when I could have a normal sized meal and stay healthy!

There is no reason why you shouldn't go to a buffet. They are great. You get to sample lots of different types of food, so you can have a little bit of everything - and that is how it should be. A little bit of everything. I am going to a buffet tomorrow. It is going to be my "treat", which I have every 2-3 weeks. But that doesn't mean I am going to binge, as that would undo everything. You can eat healthily (or not too badly) at a buffet, and this is how I do it.

1) Fill up on salad - You can pretty much guarantee that a buffet will have a salad bar, so make the most of it. This doesn't mean you have to sit there with a big plate of just lettuce leaves whilst everyone around you is eating a deep-fried heart attack. Salad is so much more than lettuce. You will usually find marinated king prawns, sugar-snap peas, broccoli in dressing, mixed bean salad, cheese, cous cous, peppers and loads more tasty, filling and healthy foods. Having this at the beginning of the buffet will help you make better choices the rest of the time, mainly because you will be nearly full. Don't see it as just healthy food. Salad buffets are amazing - just watch the salad dressings. Always go for a simple vinaigrette over a creamy dressing.

2) Skip the bread - There is always bread at buffets. The reason? It's cheap and they know it will fill you up so you don't eat much of the more expensive stuff. The bread is nearly always white bread, which is not good for you, and in my opinion is a total waste of calories. You are most likely going to dip it in something so it doesn't taste like bread. Save yourself for something more substantial, better tasting and generally better for you.

3) Drink water - You are going to be drinking a lot. The reason for this is because buffets put LOADS of salt in their food so you buy more drinks. Don't fall for it. Just drink water, as again, drinking fizzy drinks (apart from being incredibly bad for you) is wasted calories and will fill you up. You didn't go to a buffet to get filled up on coke did you? Drinking a glass of water before you even hit the buffet will fill you up a bit, so you don't pile your plate so high.

4) Look at everything on offer at the buffet before putting anything on your plate - If you just go to the start and start putting stuff on your plate before you have seen everything that is on offer, by the time you get the the end of the buffet line you will have way too much stuff on your plate. By looking at everything on offer first, you can make a decision on what is your favourite stuff out of it all, and what you really want to eat. Otherwise you will just end up eating everything on your plate just because it is there.

5) Go for protein - protein is filling and good for you, so it is a good choice at the buffet. Choose grilled chicken breast and eggs over high fat items like pizza and chips.

6) Just a little bit - As I always say, you need to eat a little bit of what you fancy. If you don't you will eventually cave and eat too much of it. So, at a buffet, if you fancy some pizza or fried chicken or curry, then have some, but only put a couple of bites of each of those things on your plate. If it is not there, then you won't eat it. Really enjoy each of those bites and savour them. You still get to enjoy the foods you love, but in moderation. My buffet plate always has tiny portions of all the things I love, so I don't miss out.

7) Soup - This can be a really good option at a buffet. Soup is filling and a lot of the time it can be healthy. Make sure you check what soup it is though. Vegetable soup is best, but watch that is doesn't have cream in it. Again - skip the bread. Studies have also shown that people who eat soup before their main course end up eating less in the main.

8) Eat slowly - It takes your brain 30 minutes to realise it is full, and eating at a buffet can make this even more dangerous. You try to eat as much as you possibly can and you don't realise you are full until it's too late, and you feel ill. Take a pause after every couple of mouthfuls, have a drink of water, talk to the people you are eating with. It will make a difference.

9) Avoid anything crispy - Do I really need to explain? Anything that is crunchy or crispy or covered in batter is going to be full of calories and fat. Just don't do it. Wouldn't you much rather have a little bit of cake for dessert?

10) Go for foods you don't normally eat at home - If you are going to eat something that is a little bit unhealthy, as a treat, then make it something different. What is the point of getting pizza, when you could just eat that at home. Make the most of eating out, and eat new foods.

11) Dessert! - This is normally peoples favourite part of a buffet. The opportunity to eat cakes and ice cream makes you feel like a kid again. Once again, eating healthily doesn't mean you can't enjoy a little bit of dessert. Get a small plate for your dessert and cover most of it with fruit. This will give you something sweet without all the calories. Choose which cake you REALLY want, and cut off a small peice. Alternatively, get a plate of cakes for the table, and you can all share.

Eating out is a luxury, so treat it that way. Enjoy yourself and eat the things you like, but just have little portions of them and enjoy every mouthful. I shall enjoy mine tomorrow, on behalf of you all.

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