10 Strategies for Eating in Buffets

When is the last time you went to a brunch, buffet style lunch or gathering? How did you feel afterwards? Do you remember what you ate? As research shows that increased variety affects how much we eat, here are a few strategies to stay in your comfort zone and true to your health goals.

1. How hungry will you be when you get there? We all know that going grocery shopping when we are starving is not the best idea. Same goes for events and gatherings. Try to eat a healthy snack before the event and plan to be slightly hungry. On the scale below, 4 to 6 is where we make the best choices about quality and quantity.

2. Find a friend to do this with. Could you identify a friend that will attend the event and with whom you can share your plan and get support?

3. Look at all the options without a plate in your hands. Go around the buffet area and look at all the options available. Identify the ones that really attract you. Take the time to smell and enjoy the colours and presentation. After all, we also eat with our eyes!

4. Smaller wins the race. If available, pick the smaller plate size. Research shows that people eat less when they need to get up again to serve themselves. You can go back to the buffet if you are still hungry. Keep in mind that certain food are tastier when warm, taking a smaller plate ensure that you will not feel rush to eat fast before the food gets cold.

5. Mix it up. Pay attention to the composition of your plate. If possible, start the meal with your favourite salad and be attentive to maintain the following proportions in your plate: ½ vegetables, ¼ proteins, ¼ grains or starchy vegetables or bread.

6. Savour each mouthful! You probably know which food is higher in fat, sugar and salt. You might want to be selective but, whatever you choose, make sure to get full satisfaction. The slower you eat your food, the more time you give your taste buds and your brain to register that you are eating tasty food. Use all your senses and try to guess the ingredients in the dish!

7. Be very attentive to your body signals and stop eating when you feel comfortable and energized (4-6). Do not wait until you are too full, uncomfortable and sleepy...

8. Drink water with a wedge of lemon or lime or fresh herbs for their taste and festive flair. Keep a drink in your hand while you are standing around at events. It is harder to eat while one hand is occupied!

9. Being at peace is a position of power. When turning down food, smiling and using humour goes a long way. It is in all cultures to offer food and wanting people to enjoy themselves, but could your loved ones be truly mad at you for not eating an extra sweet? Make yourself happy, if you don’t want to eat, be at peace and politely say something like... "I had some already—so delicious!", "Trust me, I'm in not malnourished!", "I just can't eat anymore!", "No, thank you", "I will in a bit!", “I’ll have to pass this time, thank you so much”, “I’ve reached my quota of sugary foods for today!” or “Thanks, but I’m working on being healthier and have already reached my limit for today!

10. Have fun! Choose not to put food at the centre of your attention. Think of things you can do other than eat : talk, dance, help out. What do you hope or want to remember from the event? What do you have to gain by being more mindful about your choices and the quantity you eat? Write those idea down as a reminder!

Learn more about dietetics here.