image via my favorite buffet, hiltl
I have to say, buffets are not my favorite. Some people get excited by the endless food options a buffet provides, but I just get overwhelmed. Yet, overwhelmed is better than stressed. Buffets used to stress me out because I felt it was inevitable that I was going to overeat and feel gross afterwards. Fortunately, since healing my relationship with food, I’ve healed my relationship with buffets. I still don’t prefer them because there are simply too many options (and I can’t help but enjoy being served my food!), but at least I can manage them now and not feel gross when I leave. Let me tell you some tricks I’ve learned and maybe they can help you healthfully conquer the buffet on your upcoming hotel + breakfast buffet, or whatever buffet may be in your future.
Map out your day (specifically for breakfast or lunch buffets).
Think about what you want to do that day and when will be the next time you will sit down to a meal again. Do you need to eat a bigger meal to last you through to a late lunch? Or will you be having your next meal in just a few hours? How do you want to feel during your day and how can food aid you in feeling that way? Answer these questions before entering the buffet madness.
Think about what you are craving.
Based on what you think will be at the buffet, what sounds good to you today, in this moment? What’s going to satisfy that craving? Keep that in the back of your mind for when you actually get to the buffet, so you don’t get side tracked and end up with a plateful of food you aren’t even in the mood for.
Walk in, breathe, and take a lap (or two).
Before you even pick up a plate, I highly suggest walking around the whole buffet once or twice, especially if you’ve never been there before. See what catches your eye. After your lap and while grabbing a plate, think about the food items that got you excited, and the food items that you want to eat in order to feel the way you want to feel that day. I bet you can only remember 3-5 things. Go grab those 3-5 things and skip the rest, you probably don’t need them, and if you do, they will still be there later.
Sometimes all the food you want is there; you just have to do a little extra work to mix and match it. Take inventory of all the food that is offered and see what you can make! Put the smoothie in a bowl and add some nuts and cereal on top for a yummy breakfast bowl. Make a breakfast sandwich with your made-to-order fried egg. Layer your plate with lettuce and add the best-looking bean salad on top along with some sliced meats, instead of relying on the usual salad bar suspects. Grab a bunch of roasted vegetables and ask the pasta guy to top it off with Bolognese sauce. You get the drift, and don’t be afraid to ask!
Pick a theme (optional).
Some lunch and dinner buffets I’ve been to have all different types of food – Italian, American, Indian, Chinese, etc. I find that I enjoy my plate better if the food is all part of the same flavor profile, so it might be worth a try for you too. Though, some people really enjoy all different tastes at once, so that’s why this part is optional.
Leave pastries and dessert for last.
The desserts are staring at you, asking you to take one of every flavor. You can take dessert at anytime, but I highly suggest waiting until the end and see if you actually want it and are hungry for it. This goes with my favorite concept of eating real food first. Unless of course you are having a major craving for a chocolate croissant and nothing can stop that besides a chocolate croissant, then have it first.
Sit down and enjoy your food.
Take your time, chew your food, and relax for 5-10 minutes before deciding whether or not to go back for round 2. It’s highly possible you are full but it just hasn’t registered yet.
Don’t eat what you don’t like.
If you don’t like something that you put on your plate, don’t eat it. It will leave you unsatisfied, and wanting more good tasting food. Use the trash for trash, not your body, and go get yourself some more of that delicious curry or the dessert you’ve been eyeing. You will be much better off.