How to navigate pot luck

Does anyone have any strategies for successfully navigating pot luck lunches or dinners? I went to one after church yesterday and totally fell off the wagon. For the rest of the day it just went downhill after that.


  • ldaltonbishop
    ldaltonbishop Posts: 86 Member
    Fill half your plate with salad or non-starchy vegetables. Take one tablespoon servings of whatever appeals. Go for non-sauced proteins, if possible. Drink water. If it won't injure your health, suspend all expectations of low sodium. If it will... alas, do the best you can.

    My Fitness Pal has a couple of ball park estimates for 'pot luck' entries. I just use those and write it off as a treat day. But I try to moderate my portions. Moderation may be the best you can do.
  • Joy0509
    Joy0509 Posts: 1 Member
    I always ask myself what is my goal and why do I want to lead a carefree healthy lifestyle?

    I decide beforehand what my calorie limit is and choose foods rich in nutritional value. If I crave something that is really not a healthy choice I may pick one and have a taste. I ask myself why. Believe you can! Go with a friend who will support you to stay on track, know it’s not their journey it’s yours and you are in control. You got this! Healthy choices is a good way to stay rich in health for many many years. To be active and do all the fun things life has to offer for generations to come. We can do this! 💪🏼
  • GoRun2
    GoRun2 Posts: 448 Member
    I have a challenge with potlucks also. I have a lot of events so writing it off as a special day isn't the best for me. I do try and bring something I really like that is lower calorie so there is something I want. I often bring veggies and hummus, a wild rice salad, watermelon or something along those lines.

    Yes, drink water and eat before you go.
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 10,163 Member
    I have found that if I am vigilant with using my food scale most of the time, I get pretty good about estimating quantities. That calibration can fail, though, if you don't usually weigh things. I use those skills of estimation for things like potlucks.

    Back before COVID, I would often grab lunch from a hot bar at one of a couple groceries nearby. I sometimes would just use the actual weight or "serving number" and call it something like hot bar - I think there are entries in the diary. Either that or I would try to estimate each item I ate. Either way, it was an estimate. Probably close but not precise. My weight seemed to respond the way I expected, so my estimates must have been at least reasonable. This was even when I got food from the hot bar at last once or twice a week, maybe more often.

    A potluck is a lot less often. In the long run, if you ate 1000 calories over your budget one day every couple months, you'll probably never notice. If you go to potlucks every week... then that might be a different story.

    Just try to be reasonable, take the suggestions others offered above, and don't sweat it too much. Make a good estimate and track the results. Over time you'll get better at it as long as you keep sticking to it!

  • Lietchi
    Lietchi Posts: 5,146 Member
    One tip I have, besides all the good advice already given, is to take small tasters of the foods that interest you. Something may look good, but be disappointing - it would be a waste of calories if you put a larger amount on your plate and you felt the need to finish it, despite not enjoying it. So take small tasters and then go back for the foods that were the tastiest.
    (This is for those of us who feel the need to finish our plate, to avoid offending others for example)
  • knitski2002
    knitski2002 Posts: 64 Member
    Thank you all for your tips. You are the best! I know it's psychological when I keep eating after I overdo it earlier in the day.
  • Snowboard3r
    Snowboard3r Posts: 4 Member
    We just had one Sat night. Sat was burgers and brats and salads, chips, etc. Will power helps. I wanted all the garbage in my belly. Sat. I just had a burger patty, yes it had cheese, but added toppings (lettuce, tomato, onion), no bun and no condiments. I did have some pasta salad, luckily it was made with light mayo. I didn't get too much, kept away from the chips and other unhealthy stuff. I did have a cookie as I was light on calories. Stayed away from the sugar drinks, I did have 1 can of beer, but the rest of the time it was water. But I say get your protein and fill up on lots of green salad, veggies, and fruit, watch the salad dressing, even so-called healthy-looking dressings are deceptive and contain lots of calories. Also don't let it deter you, the way I always look at it is, you are changing the way you eat. It doesn't have to happen all at once, and if you have a meal or two that doesn't comply with super healthy then it isn't going to set you back. Don't go overboard when you do have that unhealthy meal, keep it in check. I try to limit my unhealthy meal to once a week if I can. If you know you are having an unhealthy meal that day, then watch your before or after calories, compensate.
  • sbelletti
    sbelletti Posts: 212 Member
    One thing I've learned about myself, I'm not great with portion control. If I'm gonna eat cake, I want a slab of cake. So...

    I have been known to only eat what I've prepared when attending pot lucks. Possibly other low-cal things if I can be certain there's no hidden calories (butter, Mayo, dressing, etc) You don't HAVE to eat the other food if you feel like doing so will derail your progress and keep you from meeting your personal goals. And if the others push food on you or make you feel guilty, I'd seriously rethink spending time with those folks.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 28,217 Member
    I'm a bad influence again, but it's one data point/one thought process.

    I've given up on full self-control at potlucks. I tried several strategies - lots of good strategies above, that work well for other people - and wasn't terribly effective. I have bad FOMO when it comes to food that's actually sitting there on the table for the taking.

    Finally I decided that since potlucks are fairly rare in my life (once a month, maybe, tops - on average?), I wasn't going to worry about it. I do usually make something yummy/healthy/filling myself to take, try to eat a little lighter otherwise that day, try not to go totally nuts, but eat pretty freely at the potluck.

    It really doesn't make that much difference, in the overall trajectory of my bodyweight, as long as its's rare. Yeah, there's a water-weight scale jump that would be super-stressful for some people, but doesn't bother me.

    To me, it isn't worth stressing over. Others' mileage will vary, I guarantee.
  • rosebarnalice
    rosebarnalice Posts: 3,488 Member
    It's important for me to remember that I'm my own food cop, and that nobody else really cares what I eat except me.

    I say that because the people pleaser in me was convinced that EVERYBODY was watching me what I put on my plate to see (did she like the dish I brought?? while at the same time the judgey body-shamey me was convinced that EVERYBODY was thinking (b) Lordamercy, what is the fat girl stuffing in her pie hole NOW??

    It was a real revelation to me when I discovered that neither was true. Typically, I contribute a dish myself and stick with that or maybe a few veggie or salad-looking things. And you know what? Nobody has ever commented on what's on my plate or not. Ever.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,528 Member
    This is one of those things that it just kind of depends. For myself, things like this would be occasional and not regular occurrences so in the big picture wouldn't have any material impact on my health, nutrition, fitness, or weight management objectives. What I'm doing most of the time is what is important. Nobody got fat because they overindulged at a holiday or birthday or other eating occasion...people get fat when what you do on occasions become everyday events.

    But really, this is going to be a trial and error thing and really depend on your own circumstances. Pre-COVID we used to have more social gatherings at our house with pool party BBQs and whatnot so I had to have different strategies. Our gatherings were usually mid afternoon since they revolved around pool time and summer food was basically a late lunch/early dinner kind of thing. Generally appetizers and snacky stuff early in the afternoon with the main stuff being late afternoon. I usually skipped breakfast or had something very small for breakfast and the party was my primary and sometimes only meal of the day with maybe some desert later in the evening
  • GoRun2
    GoRun2 Posts: 448 Member
    my friend takes what she wants but makes sure there is white space on the plate between everything.
  • nxd10
    nxd10 Posts: 4,572 Member
    I focus on a few great things and watch my portion size.

    I pick the one or two things I really want to eat and put that on my plate, making that the centerpiece. I take a reasonable portion but don't worry much about the calories. If it's really caloric I might make it a small portion. But something special I don't normally eat. Then I make sure I have other things like salad I can keep eating without worrying about. I make sure not to drink my calories - bubbly water, tea, coffee - so I can leave room for dessert.
  • Xellercin
    Xellercin Posts: 924 Member
    It sounds like you have an all-or-nothing attitude about eating. As though you are either on-diet or off-diet.

    Try to remember that your diet is always just the sum of your eating choices over time. There's no being off-diet, there are just choices that will on average work out to promote your weight goals or work against them.

    That does not mean having to be "perfect" at every meal, but it also means never "giving up" because you feel you "failed."

    You can't "fail" at a diet because whatever you eat IS your diet.

    So how would I deal with a potluck? I would eat sensibly, unless I had specifically chosen to eat more than normal because I was okay with doing so.

    For example, during Ribfest, I know going in that I'm going to eat an obscene amount of ribs. That's cool, Ribfest is once a year. That is perfectly compatible with my weight goals.

    If I found myself "triggered" in the moment to eat well beyond what I intended to, and that triggering lasted the rest of the day, I would focus on doing some work on my emotional relationship with food and eating.
  • GoRun2
    GoRun2 Posts: 448 Member
    4th of July is coming up. I plan to think about it before I eat it. I will only eat a reasonable portion of high calorie foodsand skip desert (perhaps a bite of hubbies). I try to avoid added sugar and do well until someone hands me a plate before I can say no.
  • michellesz
    michellesz Posts: 427 Member
    I always go for the salad and protein and veggies to fill up on first and just take a couple small samplings of the higher calorie/carb side dishes
  • ahoy_m8
    ahoy_m8 Posts: 2,978 Member
    I missed this thread when it was under discussion in June. Great advice here. Since the approaching holiday season is filled with buffets and pot lucks, I'll add it depends a bit on what works for you. A small taste of everything will leave me *feeling* unsatisfied even if it added up to 1000 calories. I am just not good at the "small plate" dining trend, especially when people are *sharing* portions that are small to begin with. It never *feels* like a whole meal to me. It also depends on how carefully I'm counting (more careful in a cut, more casual when maintaining.) If counting carefully, my strategy would repeat a couple of the ideas that have been mentioned already.

    Make something you like a lot, that you think others will like, that fits in your calorie budget, and that you can reasonably eyeball onto your plate. Fill your plate with a generous serving of that. Then try small bits of 2 other things that don't look too complicated to estimate. If you really like one or both, go for seconds. If not, then leaving a little on your plate doesn't seem rude or wasteful. And I just wouldn't look at the dessert table. I'm a dessert lover, but often things look better than they taste at events. And accurately estimating super calorie dense foods is too hard.

    Most important, have fun! Enjoy the celebratory spirit and the camaraderie.
  • Cindy01Louisiana
    Cindy01Louisiana Posts: 302 Member
    Lietchi wrote: »
    One tip I have, besides all the good advice already given, is to take small tasters of the foods that interest you. Something may look good, but be disappointing - it would be a waste of calories if you put a larger amount on your plate and you felt the need to finish it, despite not enjoying it. So take small tasters and then go back for the foods that were the tastiest.
    (This is for those of us who feel the need to finish our plate, to avoid offending others for example)

    I went to an event recently. I loaded my plate with salad and crab legs. I LOVE bread, but before I ate the calories, I wanted to know if it was worth it. A family member ripped off a piece of hers and I could tell by touch that it was hard/dry, so I passed. I did put a serving of gnocchi on my plate, knowing it would be high in calories. Alas, I didn't like it at ALL. Also, I loved the idea of the desserts they had (samplers), but didn't like any of them enough to try more than a taste. So, my point is that you are right -- something might be disappointing and if it is, to me, it's not worth the calories.
  • MadisonMolly2017
    MadisonMolly2017 Posts: 10,569 Member
    I can’t eat at potlucks or buffets (medical). My family & friends know that & as someone above said, no one even cares. I either eat before or bring my own.

    Recently, I broke this rule at a family gathering. I still can’t believe that I’d been so quarantined that I only realized afterwards. I ate a ton.

    I definitely am returning to not eating at social gatherings or bringing my own. We need to know ourselves!