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Tips on Creating Menus That Energize Your Attendees

By: Kristina Tarantino, CMP MeetingHealthy.com and The Health & Wellness Forum | Apr 16, 2019

menu1Menu options for meetings and events have gone through many positive changes in the last decade, however, there is still much work to do to make sure you are offering the best possible choices to maximize attendee energy and health. The goal is to accommodate the current trends and nutritional demands of meeting goers. Today, the discussion is all about how to make meetings healthier and more productive through consciously changing the nature of the food being served and offering alternative choices. Back in the day, I used to pack and carry powdered green supplements to add to anything that was being served and was always desperately seeking a smoothie but today, with a good plan, attendees will find these things right at their own meeting.

There are some strategies you can implement to ensure you are offering the best nutrition to energize your attendees. Here are six strategies to maximize nutritious choices while menu planning for your meeting.

1. Balance the offerings
There are many ways that meeting planners are facilitating healthier meetings by changing the nature of the foods being served and by offering activities that support healthier eating during the meeting. The best way to accommodate everyone is to balance what is being offered. Attendees are more accustomed to having choices out in the world today and meetings should be no different. If you cover all the bases, offering both healthy and traditional selections, your food and beverage choices will likely get approval in the post meeting survey.

2. Consult with the hotel
What we eat throughout the day can have a huge impact on how we feel, think and function. With the help of the chef or CSM, many healthier choices can be created. The hotel’s F&B teams are now accustomed to healthier requests, revamping menus and creating many alternative choices. Meeting professionals should utilize the venue’s team of food and beverage professionals as consultants and aim to provide the best menu for the group.

3. Offer a healthy food station
Most attendees want to stay on track at meetings and try not to veer too far from their everyday eating habits. You can make it easy to find a good choice. One idea is to set up specialty stations like vegetarian or gluten-free and identifying them with signage. The menu for those stations can change daily, and your attendees will learn to expect healthy options. Often by the end of the meeting, more people are in line for those stations than the standard menu items.

4. Limit portion size
Another common factor that can have a negative effect on energy is over-indulging. When attendees do this, energy is used to digest and makes it harder to focus on the meeting. Several strategies can help you as the planner to encourage moderation. Choose buffet or serving stations with smaller plates, order exactly what you require, serve plated meal functions, do not replenish when you run out … to name a few.

5. Use the breaks for power foods
While meals are important, don’t forget the vital role that breaks play as well. Breaks should follow the same principles as the meals: balanced healthy choices with limited portion sizes. Breaks are often expected to offer caffeine or sugar, however, there are many super foods that provide an energy boost. Nuts, hummus, smoothies, granola bars, avocado toast, acai bowls and, of course, fruit and veggies are all good choices.

6. List ingredients
Offer nutritional information next to foods being served and allow attendees to make the choice to be healthier. This is also helpful for food allergies and special food requirements. Listing the ingredients also encourages attendees to think twice about what to choose and may encourage them to make the best choice. Most hotels are more than happy to do this and remember to request this in your BEOs.

7. Plan for a cheat day
Although I believe in eating healthy most of the time to maximize your energy, don’t forget to offer dessert and some traditional less-healthy selections as this too can be rewarding and energizing if done at the right time. Figuring out what you want to achieve from your meeting helps pinpoint when your attendees need to be their sharpest. Possibly toward the end of the meeting or the last day, you can relax on the menu strategy and just enjoy the food and drinks. This way the attendees leave the meeting with positive feelings and look forward to attending again. Everyone deserves a cheat day for hard work and staying healthy for the majority of the meeting.

With some advanced planning, you can create menu options that will be energizing and nutritious. This is a great way to weave wellness into your meeting and maximize attendee productivity. Adopting some of these strategies can be the key to a perfectly healthy meeting.

About the Author: You can follow Kristina Tarantino, CMP, MeetingHealthy.com and The Health & Wellness Forum featuring the HealthyNetwork Live! on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristinatarantino/ or https://www.linkedin.com/company/meetinghealthy/ or Twitter @katarantino for more tips on health and wellness meeting strategies. Visit meetinghealthy.com for great ideas, inspiration and tools to incorporate wellness into your next meeting. Join her at the HealthyNetwork Live! May 31-June 1 at Lake Lawn Resort in Delevan, Wis.

 

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Kristina Tarantino, CMP MeetingHealthy.com and The Health & Wellness Forum
MeetingHealthy.com and The Health & Wellness Forum

 
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