Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Healthy Meeting Options – Beverages

The food and beverage choices that you make as a planner can have a huge impact on your attendees. In fact, the food that someone has at a conference can be remembered long after the event is done and that memory may even last longer than whatever they learned in the actual sessions! So what can you do to help your attendees to have a healthier meeting? We have previously discussed healthy options for food; this time, let’s take a look and the other half of that pairing – beverages.

1. One of the most obvious ways to help people drink healthier is to provide water for the meeting participants. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I have been to plenty of meetings where water was not provided. Be sure to provide water at your meetings. The next big question is whether to serve water in pitchers or bottles. I will stay out that debate here, though I will say that I have heard compelling arguments for both sides of the debate. Suffice to say that which one you choose may come down to personal preference, event budget, or other factors as much as it may be driven by environmental concerns.

2. Provide non-caloric options, such as tea and coffee. Remember, these drinks are only non-caloric so long as you do not add anything else to them, which brings us to the next option…

3. Choose nonfat or low-fat milk for folks to use in their coffee or tea.

4. While I have never been able to completely eliminate soda from the day’s menus, it is possible to offer healthier options here, too. Vegetable juice, fruit juice (100%, please!), unsweetened teas, and even carbonated waters are all good options here.

5. Finally, exercise portion control. Yes, this is possible with drinks (bars do it all the time). Asking the hotel or caterer for smaller cups (an 6.4 ounce cup instead of an 8 ounce or larger mug, for example) means that, at minimum, an attendee needs to walk a bit more to get the same amount of beverage, which burns that many more calories. It may not seem like much, but it does add up.

Providing healthier options for beverages at a meeting may seem like it would yield only minimal benefits - and that may be true if it is the only approach used. However, when used in conjunction with healthier meal options and increased exercise during meetings, it can greatly support the overall goal of healthier meetings.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises