Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Healthy Meeting Options – Meals & Snacks

When planning meals and snacks for meetings, it can be hard to provide healthy options to participants. Actually, the hardest part is getting people to choose healthy options but, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. So what’s a meeting planner to do? Make sure the options exist. Here are some of the ways I strive to provide healthier meal and snack options for attendees at my meetings.

1. Make sure that fruit and/or vegetables are available as much as possible within the constraints of the menu. For me, this usually means whole fruit for breaks, particularly in the afternoon, since they last longer on display and can easily be taken by those who want a healthy snack later on. I typically include a vegetable-based item for receptions.

2. For any meal where fowl or red meat is a main component, be sure to include a vegetarian option. For lunch buffets, this could mean including entrées that are based on non-meat proteins such as beans or tofu, or alternate meats such as fish, depending on the needs of your diners. At receptions, including multiple dishes that do not contain meat gives participants additional choices.

3. Control meal portions. This is nearly impossible to do with buffets, but is quite easy to do with plated lunches (read this post for more info on plated vs. buffet meals). You can control portions at receptions through choices of items or by having servers walk around the room instead of simply putting all of the food out at once (which I discuss briefly here).

4. Talk to the chef about lean meat options so that those who choose meat dishes still get a healthier meal. The chef can often even work with limited budgets to still make this happen.

5. If possible, choose snacks that are low in fat and salt and that contain no added sugar.

Now, I don’t always use every one of these ideas but even choosing just one or two of them will help you provide healthy meals or snacks for your events. Use the ones that make sense for your budget and particular situation – and, above all else, that make sense for your group. If the attendees won't eat a particular item, then providing it is a waste of food and money. However, that does not mean I can't provide healthy options to that group…it just means I need to work a little more to find something they will like.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Ed. Note: A follow up post on beverages - the other half of F&B - can be found here.