How to eat a healthy breakfast at buffets
5 simple tips to manage breakfast buffets
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Editor’s Note: Hello there! A few weeks ago, we republished an article on how to stay fit while travelling from the blog of Shashank Mehta, the founder of The Whole Truth. We received a good response on that piece, so today, we are carrying the second blog in that series: managing breakfast buffets. It’s a fun read, and I hope you’ll find it useful.
How to eat a healthy breakfast at buffets
It’s early morning. You love breakfast. You shove your face.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how you can travel fit. Many of my readers, most of whom are frequent travellers, found that article useful. Especially office colleagues, who often travel for work, said the tips helped them manage their diets on travel.
But something was amiss.
They’d smile and applaud the post as we crossed each other along the office corridor. But then suddenly, when no one was looking, catch my arm and, surprised at what their mouths were about to emit, they’d whisper:
“But what about ye who must not be skipped?”
“Who will deliver us from…the Breakfast Buffet?”
And at the mere mention of the word, their eyes would light up.
Those massive spreads of eggs and cheese, cold cuts, fruits and juices, fried things, baked things, and ‘oh, I must try that thing’ things.
The lord’s bounty, in all its glory, and that too complimentary.
How does one not go crazy? There’s eggs a hundred ways, there’s chow-mein and Asian delicacies, there’s puri aloo and dosa and juices and cornflakes and four kinds of yoghurt and, wait a second, are those…pancakes!!
And did I mention, it’s all been paid for—mostly by your organisation, which makes the deal even sweeter! How does one skip such evil?
Now, full disclosure: I LOVE breakfast!
It’s my favourite meal. And until not so long ago, such a spread, first thing in the morning, when my brain’s all fuzzy and calorie-deprived, used to be the death knell for my calorie quota too.
So I understand. I’ve been there.
And it’s taken me about ten years of travel to no longer be there. To reign it in. To create a system around managing these humongous buffets. To find a way to enjoy the spread without spending the rest of the day in guilt.
Here’s my five-step process to manage the Big, Evil, Breakfast Buffet.
One: Get dressed
For the longest time, I attacked breakfast buffets with a vengeance. Embarrassing as it may sound, I‘d go to bed dreaming of the buffet (there’s a good reason I weighed upwards of 100kg, and the soul of a fat boy lives on).
In fact, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t chosen hotels based on their breakfast spreads. Little wonder then, I’d be down at the buffet counter in my pyjamas when I was done brushing my teeth.
With such little gap between waking up and having a plate in my hand, my brain never fully woke up. Which meant that even before my ‘healthy eating’ or ‘calorie counting’ programs would load, I’d have a piece of banana bread or a croissant in my tummy. And sugar would be running the show in my head.
This excitement about breakfast, coupled with a hazy, nutrient-deprived, early-morning brain, is the main cause of breakfast bingeing.
The trick is to insert a gap between bed and breakfast.
So now, I get up, roam around, stretch, brush my teeth, bathe, and then change. Yes, I get dressed. I’ve found this to be a simple yet powerful change.
Apart from inserting more time before breakfast, getting dressed somehow signals to the brain that it’s no longer casual time. We’re responsible, grown adults now, so no being a baby, crawling all over the counters, and stuffing our faces.
I’m not sure how it works, but give it a try. Head to the buffet in a shirt, trousers and shoes, and you’ll make more responsible food choices. Pyjamas offer you—and your tummy—a certain childish freedom that formals just don’t.
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Two: Start slow
Did I mention that I dreamt of breakfast the previous night?
Such was—is—my excitement about breakfast that I’d have a plate in my hand even before I found a seat. And more often than not, the first thing I’d pick would be a piece of cake or croissant. And with that sugar being the first thing in my blood that morning, all hopes of a healthy meal went out of the window.
So now I have a rule. I first find a table, get a newspaper, and order a cup of black coffee. A big cup.
The newspaper takes my mind off the food, the coffee wakes me up, and the large quantity of water in a large Americano fills my tummy. I can’t overstate this little trick’s wonders in taming the crazies in my head. Try it.
Third: Start with eggs (Or whatever you like the most)
One of the biggest problems I used to have with managing breakfast was the choice of cuisine. I wanted everything.
I wanted eggs, dosa, cornflakes, cold cuts, paranthas, and everything between these counters.
Part of my inability to decide was due to points one and two above. But a large part was just pure greed. With so much choice, why let go of the opportunity to taste everything? I can always leave whatever isn’t worth it , right?
But a quick glance at the past few years clearly showed how this course would chart out.
I’d go from one option to another, never fully enjoying nor finishing anything. The minute I’d get a plate of one food, my mind would already start wondering ‘what next’. And not only did that throw my calorie count out of whack, but surprisingly, this fickle-mindedness didn’t allow me to enjoy any food properly.
So I made another rule.
I know that come what may, I need my eggs in the morning. So I have those first. And I deliberately allow myself to indulge. Indulgence is a three-whole-egg cheese masala omelette. With a piece of brown bread.
This choice does three things:
1. Eggs come to the table, so I don’t need to get up and get attracted by whatever’s on offer.
2. Eggs are protein, so I get a head start on my daily protein requirement.
3. I love eggs, so I finish them. And this heavy omelette plus bread fills me up. When I get up to look around, I’m much less likely to binge.
If you’re an egg lover, too, do this. If not, start with whatever you love and will surely have. And if it’s a protein-rich option, then nothing like it.
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Fourth: Roam around with a small plate
Once you’re done with your first course at the table, get up. After all, it’s a buffet, and we must explore.
Now that you have a reasonably full tummy, the chances that you’ll gorge are far lesser. But still, as a last line of defence, pick up a small plate—the kind kept near the cake and bread counter—as you walk around the spread. This will automatically restrict the portions you can pick.
Then remind yourself that this trip isn’t for the tummy. It’s for the tongue.
So, identify the two or three things you feel you must try, and take very small servings. Like half an idli, or one piece of sausage or bacon, or a small piece of cake (if you must).
Now savour each treat. And feel happy! You’re indulging—but responsibly.
Fifth: Skip the drinks
Rarely do I find cold-pressed, non-concentrate juices at a buffet. Generally, all drinks—the juices, shakes, lemonades — are just sugary, nutrition-less concoctions that really are not worth the calories.
So as a last rule, I skip them. And I’m yet to come across a buffet that’s made me regret that choice.
There. Go ahead. Plan your next buffet. I mean…travel.
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