Ask Our Dietitian - Beth Winthrop, MS, RD, CNSC; National Director for Wellness, multysite Campus Services
How can get I the most nutrition—and taste—out of my café’s dining plan?
Whether you’re at school or at work, having an “all you care to eat” dining option has plenty of advantages. Always being able to go back for more is one of them—and not because it allows you to load up on calories—but because you don’t have to take big portions the first time around.
All you care to eat dining is a great opportunity to practice mindful eating, which means not only making smart food choices, but taking the time to enjoy, taste and savor each bite. Creating this natural pause in your eating patterns will help you learn to be satisfied rather than stuffed at the end of your meal.
I suggest starting with an appetizer of soup or a salad filled with fresh vegetables, beans and whole grains before selecting an entree. Eat it slowly, and see how hungry you feel when you’re done. After that, you’ll be ready to choose your main meal more thoughtfully; like going for the global stir-fry or the vegan special instead of filling up with a big pile of fries. And if you still have your eye on an item that only comes in one large size (like a burrito), try to enjoy just half of it.
The other big benefit of all you care to eat dining? It allows you become a more adventurous eater. Trying new foods is easy when you don’t have to pay for each item a la cart. Who knows, you might just discover a new favorite. And if you take a few bites and realize that new food isn’t for you, that’s okay too. You can just go back for something else.
You can even make your own “recipes” using foods from different stations. Look at what’s offered throughout your cafe and consider some items as ingredients that you can use for your own creations. Maybe that fish or chicken at the grill station would be a delicious topping for a salad. Or start with a bowl of whole grains and beans from the salad bar, then dress them up with a mix-in of hot vegetables.
All you care to eat dining gives you more freedom and flexibility at every meal. How much you get out of each swipe comes down to the smart choices you make.