Is the Free Buffet Really Free?

All summer I have been surrounded by buffets. Buffets are nice because you can pick from a large selection of meal choices, but it can be a disaster if you are attempting to stay on a calorie-restricted program.

All summer I have been surrounded by buffets. Buffets are nice because you can pick from a large selection of meal choices, but it can be a disaster if you are attempting to stay on a calorie-restricted program.

Every week, I receive a coupon for a free buffet for my husband and I at a very nice establishment. Because it is free, there is a sense of obligation to use this coupon. Well, I have used these coupons a few times and have come to the realization that while the coupon is free, the stress of attempting to make good food choices is just not worth it. I get to the buffet and scan the food items and everything smells delicious, so you tend to take a little piece of this, and a little piece of that. Before you know it, you have tasted almost everything on this buffet. Then there is a spread of desserts and fresh ice cream always calling your name. They do offer a sugar-free section, but if you figure out the calories of sugar-free items, you just might as well have a piece of the “real” thing. 

After going to these buffets a few times I have come to the realization that I have 2 options.

1. Throw the free coupon in the trash and skip the buffet.

2. Plan ahead exactly what I plan on eating before I get to the buffet, so there will be no decisions made impulsively.

Of course, I have the food items on this particular buffet memorized, so making my food choices is relatively easy. For a few weeks, I just threw the coupon in the trash because I just knew I couldn’t limit my food choices.

Last night I actually planned on going to the buffet. So, I sat down, gathered my thoughts and figured out what would be good food choices. Off we went to the buffet. I was feeling strong and powerful, and was determined to beat the odds and eat only what I had planned on eating. We sat down and I ordered my usual, seltzer water with lime. I told my husband to go up to the buffet first. I wanted to sit down, relax and remind myself to stick to food choices that I had made at home.

Off I went to the buffet, I grabbed a large dish and filled it with all varieties of lettuce and fresh veggies and had olive oil and balsamic vinegar as my dressing. I took my time and ate my salad. Now, the real test, could I make it past all the other entrees and get the entree that I had chosen before I left home? I picked up a piece of broiled salmon, broiled cauliflower and a whole grain roll. I did it!

After I finished my meal I wasn’t bloated and uncomfortable, but felt satisfied. Instead of sitting and chatting with all this food around me, my husband and I decided it was time to leave, and ended our evening feeling good about ourselves.

So, yes, one can go to a buffet and make healthy food choices and not overeat, but you have to plan ahead. Planning is the key to success! So, is the buffet really free? Well, that is up to you to decide!

I hope my suggestions will help you make good food choices when faced at a buffet/dinner, etc. Please let me know how you are doing at

Weekly Menu

Sunday:Free buffet – large salad, broiled cauliflower and salmon, 1 small whole grain roll

Monday and Thursday: Whole wheat pasta with sautéed sliced veggies (Italian eggplant, zucchini, onions and garlic)

Tuesday and Friday: Whole grain pizza with sautéed onion and garlic with turkey pepperoni and a few ounces of part skim mozzarella or soy cheese

Wednesday: Turkey Burger on whole grain bun with a large salad and raw veggies

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

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