Friday, March 31, 2006

Trying to Diet at the Buffet

A few weeks ago I discovered that my blood sugar levels were higher than they should be and my Type II Diabetes, despite a long standing medication, was out of control. I saw this as the end to my buffet hopping. I had to get my diet under control quickly and make sure that I got my blood glucose levels back where they were and where they should be. I tend not to eat desserts, but I do indulge at the buffet in potatoes, pasta, pizza, and at the Chinese buffet, dumplings. Not to excess, but even a small sampling can add up to the equivalent of cake and ice cream. All of which were contributing to my sudden problem. And yet, I enjoy those buffets and wanted to keep going.

I made up my mind that I could still go to the buffet - I just had to find better choices to eat. Was that possible? With will power to keep away from high carbohydrate items, it is - and there is still a variety to enjoy.

We went to the Old Country Buffet - haven of southern country, high fat, and high carb cooking. This time I paid more attention to the salad bar, but keeping in mind that the salad dressings can have a higher fat content (a glucose and calorie raiser - it is not just sugar when it comes to controlling Diabetes by diet). What I found and fell in love with is the Caesar salad. It is pre-made of romaine lettuce, a thin Caesar dressing, and croutons. The number of croutons in the whole serving tray are not that significant to raising the carb count to a plateful of the salad. And it is good. I add a little grated cheese from the condiment table and a few extra croutons from the salad bar. I have also discovered that I am not the only one that likes this salad - the trays empty quickly and hopefully, are refilled regularly. There are two trays of it out on the salad bar. Romaine lettuce is easier on the digestive system than iceberg lettuce and it is chopped up in the preparation of the salad. This salad is filling and tasty.

If you are at the buffet you are going to be tempted to more than salad. Over at the entree tables there are plenty of choices which vary with the night at OCB. At the carving station you will find meats and, six out of seven nights, steak. There is broiled or BBQ chicken some nights and broiled fish. You can even enjoy the fried shrimp- just peel off the fried breading and just eat the shrimp inside. Avoid the mac and cheese, the French fries, the spaghetti, the pizza, the augratin potatoes, all of the deep fried and tempting meats and move on to the vegetable selections. The vegetables at OCB have low calorie and fat counts. (See our earlier article on "Nutrition at the Buffets") They are filling and if you don't find something that you like you can always head back for another plate of the Caesar salad as a side dish. Add a little gravy or a little barbecue sauce to the meat and even the overly done piece of beef is tasty. Limit your beverage from Coke to Diet Coke or the unsweetened ice tea. Deserts need to be passed by. There are some "sugar-free" puddings, a "sugar-free" cake, and a "sugar-free" softserve yogurt, but these have problems. One of which is the sweetener used. Many commercial "sugar-free" items are sweetened with sorbitol, malitol, or one of the other sugar alcohols. Nice and sweet with minimal aftertaste, HOWEVER, these sweeteners are LAXATIVES - some of them are prescribed as laxatives when such an effect is needed. Eat them when you don't need their intended effect and you get the runs and some pretty distressing stomach pains. Not fun and not worth the dessert. I am not saying that the OCB contains these, but you don't know - they are so commonly used in these products that unless the item is labeled otherwise, assume that it is in there. The other problem is that if you take a carb count of these items and a carb count of the real thing with sugar, there is VERY LITTLE difference - hardly worth the discomfort and both will have the same effect on your glucose level or your calorie count. So skip the dessert.

At the Chinese buffet, there is usually a salad bar, but you can make a pretty good low carb meal with variety out of the entree selections. The meat and vegetable dishes will make a great Chinese meal. Just avoid any rice and any noodles. There is also usually peel and eat shrimp and sometimes steamed crab legs. An overflowing plate of shrimp and crab - doesn't seem like a diet does it? (Don't overflow your plate - take some and go back for more. You will eat less and you will find that steamed crab legs are much better when they are hot - they come out of the shell much easier and they taste better. On your plate they cool down pretty quickly, so take a small amount and go right back for more hot ones!) Do not take the butter sauce! If you need to add to the taste, take the cocktail sauce - it is as good on crab as it is on shrimp too. I think people eat crab and lobster just to be able to dip it into the butter sauce - which, you know, if far from butter. Yes, it is good - sorry, it is not good for you. It is not really good for anyone.

So with this change in my buffet habits, how am I doing? Combined with a small increase in my daily exercise routine, my Diabetes is well in control. The numbers are now great. Now, I am not so interested in doing this for weight loss, but that will be a result too. And this same approach to the buffets is going to work for someone who wants to (or needs to) diet to lose weight.

Gotta lose weight. You can still enjoy.

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