Buffets – The Worst Invention

We’re on the road this week, visiting family in Utah. It’s so great to see everyone and have all of the kids hang out together. My three boys are really the big kids and are loving chasing after their two little cousins. But, with such a big group, going out to eat can be pretty tricky. Where do 13 people, with a diverse range of food likes and dislikes, go for dinner? A buffet, of course!

As anyone will tell you, I hate buffets. They are an open invitation to overeating. If you every go to a buffet, sit back and observe the people – what kind of food they take, how much they take, and how many times they go back  for more. It’s mind-boggling how much people will eat. You’d think it was the last supper!

Now, I’ve been to some buffets where only healthy food is served, but this wasn’t one of them. Everything was swimming in grease. At one hot food station, there was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, french fries, and mini sausages. The other hot buffet had broiled chicken (at these my kids had some kind of protein to eat!), some kind of overcooked meat, chicken and dumplings, white rice, buttered pasta, ravioli, and a mystery white fish that smelled fishy (a very bad sign). The hot veggies were swimming in butter (pass) and rather overcooked (when green beans are khaki-colored, bad sign).

Now for the better news. The salad bar was my saving grace with a decent amount of very basic veggies, some beans, and of course, lots of creamy dressings to choose from. I give them credit for offering 3 different fat-free dressings, but I’m not much a fan of these sugar-laden dressing wanna-bes. There was also a decent offering of fresh fruit, but they also had some canned peaches and pears as well. I don’t know why.

But the best part was the dessert bars. Yes, there was more than one dessert station.  Ice cream with toppings, whipped cream with the strawberries, brownies, cookies, cakes, and more. And if you didn’t get enough to eat, then make sure to wash it all down with some soda or slushie (2 flavors – a kid favorite).

Looking at the people there, I’d say that about two-thirds of them were overweight or obese, pretty much mirroring the numbers of this national obesity epidemic. Big adults and big kids. Big plates of food and large drinks.

Going to a buffet is not a great option for most people, as there is so much to choose from and you want to eat it all. Sometimes it’s hard to stop eating. For most people, we know when we’re full and can push away from the table. But, when you’re overweight, you’re more likely to have a problem with the “off” switch in the brain, the part that tells you that you’re full and it’s time to stop eating.

Another reason why buffets are so problematic is all the variety. You see, when you eat only one kind of food, your brain becomes satisfied quickly and then bored of the flavor, so you stop eating more quickly. But when you offer little bites of many different foods, your brain wants to try them all and doesn’t tire of them. A few bites of this, a few bites of that, a plate full of different desserts to try. You keep eating because it all tastes so good and your brain just wants to keep going. By the time your brain has reached the signal from your stomach that it’s full (about 20 minutes after you start eating), you’re stuffed. And aching. And have just consumed 1,500-2,000 calories. Yikes!

So, be warned. Stay away from the buffet. It’ll do your body good.

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