Eating well when you work away

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You might think it’s impossible to eat in a way that supports your health and weight-loss goals while you’re away working.

With the choice of tasty food presented to you buffet-style, it can be very tempting to overindulge, especially when you’re tired and hungry after a long day. But keeping your health and waistline in check IS possible if you change your eating habits, apply a little discipline and mindfully follow these tips:

1. Have a plan. Decide prior to entering the mess what you're going to consume and then stick with it.

2. Sit as far away from the serving area as possible. It’s less tempting when the food isn’t the first thing you see when you look up!

3. Use smaller plates. Larger plates make normal portion sizes look much smaller so by default it’s easy to pile more on to fill the plate, usually more than you need. Our brains are visual things and over the years we have trained ourselves to think an empty plate is the end of the meal – so if you use a smaller plate you will trick your brain into thinking you've had a 'full' meal.

4. Keep portion sizes small. This will allow you to eat a wider variety of foods, yet minimise the number of calories you consume.

5. Start with salad or steamed vegetables and be sure to add salad to your plate on each subsequent visit to the buffet. The fibre in the vegetables makes you feel full, which leaves less room for the higher calorie foods. Just avoid fattening dressings and opt for the light vinaigrette instead.

6. Move on to the soup selections. Soup is high volume food that can fill you up without adding a great deal of calories, but it's important to choose your soup wisely as many soups are high in fat. Go for the non-cream based soups to avoid a calorie overload, and stick with clear broth-based ones like vegetable or beef and barley.

7. Balance your plate. A good calorie-control rule is to keep your plate balanced with 1/4 protein, 1/4 carbohydrate, and 1/2 vegetable.

8. Keep beverages to a minimum and stick to water only. Avoid beverages like soft drinks, iced tea and alcoholic drinks, as they are typically high in empty calories. And keep in mind that alcohol can cloud your judgment regarding your food choices, which can lead to eating much more than planned!

9. Avoid these foods:

  • Anything battered, crumbed or deep-fried
  • Cream-based soups and salad dressings
  • Creamy sauces, salad dressings and gravies
  • Fatty processed meats like ham and salami
  • Creamy, sugary desserts

10. Choose these foods:

  • Broth-based soups (preferably with lots of vegetables) 
  • Vinegar-based salad dressings, and tomato based sauces 
  • Lean meats like grilled chicken breast, fish and lean roast beef
  • Small amounts of tomato-based pasta 
  • Steamed or stir-fried vegetables, and fresh green salads
  • Fruit for dessert

One more thing: studies have shown that the majority of our plate is filled with the foods we see first, so scan what foods are available and then start selecting your choices at the healthier end of the serving area.

Eating away from home, where you have 100 per cent control over what and when you eat, doesn't mean that you have to put your health and weight loss goals on hold. With the right mindset, some planning and most importantly, by practising a little restraint, you will be lighter, leaner, and healthier in no time! 


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Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. She is also a regular guest on Adelaide’s top-rating radio station FIVEaa. Mareike runs her personal training business, One Life Live Well, both online and from a private studio in Adelaide. Services include one-on-one training, outdoor group fitness, lifestyle coaching and weight-loss programs. Individually tailored programs encompass aspects of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, positive thinking, life balance, and goal setting. Her approach is to guide, support and educate her clients so that they posses the tools required to live a life of health, strength and vitality!