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Buffet nutrition

How to prevent overeating at a buffet

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Your decision to opt for healthier food options doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good buffet spread from time to time. However, you should be wary of bingeing when faced with a buffet’s wide variety of options. Choose to eat smart instead, so you can enjoy a relatively guilt-free meal.

BuffetPhoto: Shutterstock

Don’t starve yourself.

The first mistake many make before going to a buffet is starving themselves to ensure they’ll be hungry before the meal. However, decisions like skipping breakfast results in lowered metabolism, which reduces the number of calories you’ll burn off for the rest of the day.  As such, doing so is counter-productive because you won’t actually be striking off many calories in preparation for your meal.

Additionally, when you deprive your body of food for more than six hours, it runs low on glucose, leading you to become hungry and grouchy. This is likely to result in binge-eating later on.

A suggestion would be to have a protein-rich, low-carbohydrate breakfast to start your day. Studies have shown that doing so makes you feel more satisfied throughout the day and you end up eating less food.

With this in mind, maybe you should ditch that bagel or bowl of cereal! Eggs for breakfast could minimize your food intake at the upcoming buffet, and still keep you satisfied.

BuffetPhoto: Shutterstock

Variety, not quantity.

Going for a buffet shouldn’t be about ‘getting your money’s worth’ – be conscious about what you are putting on your plate. Try to savour the variety the chef has to offer, rather than piling your plate with as much as possible and risk overeating.

A suggestion from personal trainer Jilian Michaels is to pick the items that are grilled, steamed, baked or broiled. These dishes typically have less added fat and salt than those that are stir-fried, pan-fried or deep-fried. Some pasta dishes and processed foods also contain added fat and excess salt.

Slow down.

Taking your time to eat puts you in a better position to recognize the point in which you feel full. It provides your body the time to signal to your brain that you have had enough.

According to neuroscientists, such signals can take 30 minutes or more to come through, so you should pace yourself at the buffet table. Chew properly and stop at the point where you begin feeling partially full because your body is likely to signal you to stop in a while. Stopping at a comfortable point lowers the risk of bloating, indigestion and heartburn.

BuffetPhoto: Shutterstock

It’s all on the plate.

Small behavioural changes will have an impact on how you eat. For example, you should opt for a smaller plate as a big plate could encourage you to pile up the food.

Additionally, a study by Cornell University indicated that diners who made the effort to explore and examine the buffet selection before eating were more likely to make fewer trips to the line and eat less.

The Harvard School of Public Health suggests dividing your plate into sections before choosing the foods. Fill half your plate with vegetables first, and then go for some lean meat or other types of food. Piling your plate with greens can help fill you up before hitting the calorie-intensive items and create a more balanced meal!
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