Conquering ‘buffet nerves’

“In numerous experiments over the years, I’ve discovered that anything less than four trips to the buffet table leaves me feeling unfulfilled. I fully intended to get my usual four plates of food, but I was saving my carbs for the grand finale: twin scoops of chocolate and banana pudding.”

—  From “Adventures in Food & Fitness,” The (Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel

This week’s column focused on tobogganing, but the snippet above hints at what was, for me, an underlying theme of our family’s recent weekend getaway: I think I’ve gone from fearing buffets to feeling like maybe I’ve finally conquered them.

I really did make four trips to both the breakfast buffet and the dinner buffet at Pokagon’s Potawatomi Inn, but in both cases I felt good about the experience rather than fretting that I’d destroyed my diet. And it wasn’t just a case of compensating for calories burned on the toboggan run; as I explained in the column, I don’t buy the notion that climbing that hill gives anybody the right to eat themselves silly.

At breakfast, I stayed away from the cholesterol side of the buffet and focused on the fruit and cereal bar, which was awesome. On my first plate I had strawberries, peaches, cottage cheese, and 2 boiled eggs. Plate 2 was oatmeal layered with yogurt, blackberries and granola. Plate 3 was a repeat of Plate 2 – it was that good. (For me, granola is a real treat, but I always use it as a topping and not as a cereal base because it’s so high in calories.) Finally, plate 4 was a couple of pieces of fresh pineapple and another (smaller) scoop of cottage cheese.

Yes, it was a huge breakfast, a lot of food. But it was GOOD food, we skipped lunch, and in addition to tobogganing, I also went for a run and a swim that day. Another key point: I no longer overload each plate at the buffet. I do like making four trips, that’s part of what makes it fun, but now I focus on making each plate look pretty – or in some cases an interesting experiment — rather than crowded piles of crappy carbs.

At dinner, Plate 1 was a tiny scoop of smashed red potatoes, a bunch of stir-fried green beans and a piece of some kind of baked fish. Plate 2 was a couple of hearty chunks of lettuce with blue cheese crumbles and grape tomatoes. Plate 3 was a trip to the pasta bar, where I ordered up shrimp, broccoli and mushrooms sautéed in white wine and topped with a chunky red sauce. (I ate the shrimp and veggies and left the penne pasta on my plate.) Finally, Plate 4 was a delicious dessert ensemble of peaches and twin scoops of chocolate and banana pudding. Yum!

The Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park (as it appears in warmer months).

The Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park (as it appears in warmer months).

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