Last week, on an annual road trip, I made a stop in Vegas. In this city of sin, I try not to be gluttonous but it’s oh-so-hard to resist the glorious buffets at every casino. After all, it’s not officially a Vegas vacation until you eat all-you-can. But behold, it is possible to eat healthy at a buffet, and although you might eat more than you should, at least you’ll give your body what you need. And no, I’m not talking about a cure for a hangover, but more like that healthy stuff that will keep your body rockin’ all night long (what is usually a hangover cure)!
Buffets are not your typical restaurant because the experience is quite psychological. You pay one flat fee and eat endlessly, which could seem like a bargain for the hungry people. But in reality, the hiked-up price that you pay for a bottomless plate is usually more than what you would pay at any other sit-down establishment. Going into a buffet with the idea that tasting every item will get your money’s worth is a recipe for a night with the toilet. No thank you, I have plans to fit into my black dress tonight!
On top of that, buffets offer the diner so many choices. We all know how hard it is to choose the right shoe, or the right nail color, and sometimes, committing to a plate at a restaurant is yet another choice that can go right or wrong. At a buffet, there are so many options, and if you don’t like something, just push it to the side and hop back in line. While tossing unwanted food might make your body feel better, wasting food doesn’t make any conscious feel good. My mom used to always say to me, “Make sure your eyes are not bigger than your stomach.” The food might look tasty, but please, get only what you can eat. Remember that adage next time you pay for buffet.
Try these other tips for eating at a buffet:
- Choose your time wisely. Since you’ll probably be eating more than you usually can handle, it might be best to skip a heavy breakfast or lunch and have a buffet brunch or early dinner.
- Start with salad. Usually, the salads are first in line at a typical buffet. If you start with a salad, you’re filling up on the healthy stuff. Create a salad that has a rainbow of colors to ensure that you’re stocking up on much needed vitamins. Here’s a hint: choose darker green leaves, like spinach, for more vitamin A.
- Make a healthy plate. Take a division lesson when cruising down the line. Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, a quarter protein, the other quarter carbohydrates, like whole grains. If your plate is all carbs, turn around and stock up on some veggies.
- Take more than one trip. Don’t fill up your plate. I’ve seen people pile up their food as they cruise down the line, like they can’t come back for a second plate. I don’t know about you, but I like to enjoy my foods and experience their flavors. Mixing up enchiladas and mashed potatoes won’t hit the spot for me. I’d rather make the separate trips.
- Plan your next move. Cruise the buffet lines to first take stock of what’s being offered. It’s great to want to try different flavors, but if you’ve got Italian on your plate, wait until the next plate to try the Chinese.
- Portion control. Think of the buffet as a giant sampler platter. You may love mac n’ cheese, but there is no need to take two giant servings. You’ll want to save that stomach space for something else.
- Eat slow. Take your time to chew each morsel. Studies show that it takes about 20 minutes after eating for the brain to know the stomach is full, so putting your spoon or fork down between each bite will help with help prevent overeating. There’s no need to rush, the lasagna will always be there (it might even be a fresh batch)!
- Save room for desert. Rethink that last trip to the taco bar and instead, save that room for a cheesecake. Although this isn’t the healthiest choice, saving room for dessert will help you manage your meal.
- Skip the soda. Drink water or juice instead. This is still a soda-free summer! But even if you’re hitting the buffet in the winter, skipping the soda will spare you the sugar (which you’ll probably be eating for dessert anyways)!
- Walk it out. There’s nothing like a good stroll after stuffing yourself. Perhaps you can park far from the entrance, or window shop at nearby stores after. Make sure you allow yourself time to let your stomach settle after your meal first, and once you’re ready to tap out, get ready for your slow stroll.
Remember, buffet dining is an indulgence. Unfortunately, there are still people in all corners of the world that barely have enough to eat in one day. Eat all-you-can sparingly.
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