5 top tips to help you survive the holiday buffet

iStock photo

iStock photo

December has just begun but if you look around, the holiday season is well underway.  It seems that festive feasting  starts earlier and earlier each year. A few smart strategies are key in order to ring in the New Year in roughly the same shape as you began your seasonal celebrations, especially when it comes to the endless number of buffets.

First off: let’s get one thing straight.  Having a game plan is not about deprivation. It’s not about denying yourself the goodies you love. It’s all about eating less simply because of how you manoeuvre the situation.

It’s also a given that if you are partying that you don’t eat like a bird all day long in anticipation of  a special meal. Eating regularly through the day can help avoid your becoming a human vacuum cleaner.

Here are five top tips to help you navigate endless food offerings, whether during the holidays or at  an all-you-can-eat establishment.

•    Scope out all the offerings first before you touch any food
Check out everything that’s on the buffet before making any decisions. Some dishes simply go better with  others and complement flavours. But how many times have you had both Mediterranean and Asian fare on the same plate and missed out on how each tasted?

Also consider no matter how much you love food, chances are you have your favourites.  Enjoy those before contemplating other dishes. .

In addition, don’t just dive in and  pile on food in the order it’s on a buffet.  In an ideal world, the healthiest choices would be the first you see.  According to a recent study,  conducted by the foremost researcher on eating behaviours, Brian Wansink, diners tend to fill their plates on the more nutritious selections when the healthy eats are the first in the line up. But  when less healthy options  appear first on a buffet, diners end up with   31 per cent more total food items.

•    Put only three items on your plate at one time
Make like a picky eater – like a little kid who doesn’t like foods touching each other on the plate. When you have decided on the particular items at the buffet that appeal, try to match them up in terms of flavours and what goes together. Then put three  choicesat a time on your plate and go eat.  Then head back and do it again. Not only will you eat less but the food will be much more enjoyable if don’t have a hodgepodge of selections and flavours  all mixed together  on  your plate.

•    Use a smaller plate
There is overwhelming research, most by Dr. Wansink, which shows that your plate size play a major role. Larger plates make appropriate portions appear to be skimpy while smaller plates lead to less food being consumed but with a greater feeling of satiety.

•    Don’t face the buffet table
Dr. Wansink’s studies show that if you sit facing the buffet table, you will likely consume more food.  It’s called the See Food Diet.

•    Make like a spy and gather intelligence at a dessert buffet
When you confront a table full of decadent delights, don’t immediately dig in. Instead stand around for a few minutes and listen to the chatter. Check out which desserts are getting the rave reviews.

Then armed with a plate and fork, take only a spoonful of the one that appeals to you. Then put the “10 rule” into action: rate the spoonful on a scale of 1 -10.  If it rates a 10, take a serving. If not, try another offering and repeat. If none rates a 10, remember it’s a long party season and a 10 will likely be on the menu the next day. And should you find your treat,   there’s one sure thing in life, you never regret the 10s.


Do you have any tips to share on how to practice damage control at buffets? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Tips and Tricks

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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