Recently, I was waiting my turn to chow down for lunch in buffet line at a business function held in a nice hotel. The gentleman ahead of me, obviously agitated, turned and said, “I really hate buffets. I eat smart at home and in restaurants. But these things are killers. I’d rather wait on a static line about to jump out of a plane than stand on a buffet line.”

Wow, what a straight-man setup line to hand a Health & Lifestyle Coach! After introducing myself and establishing my bona fides, I took the trembling  “Tom” (name changed to protect the innocent) out of line and asked if he wanted to learn real-word buffet strategies from a pro. This was an offer he couldn’t refuse, so we stepped back and I showed him Trainer Joe’s 4 Pass Buffet Beater.

1st Pass

The goal of this first pass of the buffet line is to gather intelligence. Walk a few feet behind those getting food, and take note of what’s being offered. Note how the food is arranged, salads, appetizers, carving stations, cold foods, pastas, etc. As you observe others taking the food, note how things are prepared and how each station is labeled. Are certain chaffing dishes loaded with creamy and gooey sauces? Are there offerings with “steamed, broiled or fresh” in their descriptions? Are servers available to answer questions?

Decide on what you would really like to eat for the main course. Then get back in line for the Second Pass.

2nd Pass

Take a large plate, one typically used for “main courses” and fill it up with the veggies, salads, low calorie appetizers like shrimp or other seafood. Using a larger plate will encourage you to eat a higher volume of lower caloric density foods. Don’t waste precious calories on pedestrian choices like dinner rolls. Dressing on the side is a given.

Drink at least half a glass of water, unsweetened ice tea or other low calorie beverage with the large plate. After enjoying this first course, wait five minutes before going back to the chow line. Filling up on lower calorie choices first will reduce your appetite for the higher calorie main courses you will be getting on the next pass.

3rd Pass

Take a smaller plate, one typically used for salads and starters, and make your way to the higher calorie fare typically described as a “main course.” Go directly to your one or two favorite proteins and/or carbs. Take whatever you want…as long it fits on your plate. Do not even look at anything else on the buffet table.

For this course as well as the first, eat slowly, using American dining style etiquette where the knife is placed in the resting position on the plate and the fork is transferred to the right hand between each bite. Sure it takes more time to eat this way, that’s the point.  Drink the remaining beverage during this course. Wait at least five minutes or until all your dining partners have finished, then think about what you will have for dessert. This will be your final pass at the buffet table.

4th Pass

Coffee, tea, espresso, etc. are all OK. I’ve noticed at most buffets, pastries tend to come in petits fours size servings. Whatever entices you the most, take it, but just one. Taking a couple strawberries, melon balls, raspberries or other fruit will fill up your plate and make a nice finish to your buffet dining experience.

The reason all diets work, at least in the short term, is because they limit food choices. The issue of choice is why buffets are so challenging…they offer too many selections. If you limit your choices by using Trainer Joe’s 4 Pass Buffet Beater system, you can enjoy your favorites, eat mindfully, and be a role model to those fellow diners whose silverware is rattling with nervous foreboding as they face the terror of too many choices

How do you handle buffets? What’s on your plate?