Carbs with Benefits

As attendees’ summer diets kick in, don’t cut carbs from meeting menus completely—use these healthier options instead

The countdown to summer is on, which often means many attendees will be paying extra attention to what they’re eating. For planners, this means attendees will likely want fare that includes little to no carbohydrates because—let’s face it—when it comes to dieting, carbs are the first food group to be limited or nixed completely.

But when crafting a balanced meeting menu, it’s not always possible to eliminate carbs entirely. And despite carbs’ reputation for being unhealthy and causing weight gain, not all carbs are created equal. Yes, starchy, refined carbs (think pasta and other foods made from white flour) can be calorie-dense—not to mention stripped of their nutritional value during processing—but their unrefined counterparts do offer additional health benefits.

You can count on these five healthy carb options to satisfy even the biggest carb counter:

Ancient grains: Quinoa, bulgur, farro—oh my! Unlike modern grain varieties, ancient grains have been around since, well, ancient times. They also have remained largely unchanged over the centuries, meaning they haven’t gone through the same continual processing as wheat does, for instance. Ancient grains come in a variety of tastes and textures and have distinct health benefits. Many grains are high in protein and fiber, but quinoa, for example, is also high in antioxidants, and farro is rich in B vitamins.  

Artisan breads and pasta: White-flour breads and pastas are among carbs’ top empty-calorie offenders. Switch them out with breads made with whole grains, such as barley or rye, and brown rice or quinoa pasta for added fiber and other nutrients, depending on the dish. 

Unprocessed sugar: Dessert is the perfect final act of any meeting menu, but the conventional white sugar used in many sweet treats has no added nutritional value. Meanwhile, unprocessed sugar is able to retain the calcium, iron and magnesium that are present in some sources of sugar. Keep in mind that unprocessed sugar is still sugar, and the minerals are usually in trace amounts—but as far as healthier sugar options go, unrefined sugar still ranks No. 1.   

Legumes: Like ancient grains, legumes come in all shapes and sizes. Beans, chickpeas and lentils, for example, all offer a healthy dose of fiber, proteins and potassium.

Potatoes: While they are a starchy vegetable, potatoes are also considered a healthy carb. They are a good source of vitamins C and B6, as well as potassium, niacin and many other nutrients. That said, preparation is key: Serving french fries or baked potatoes drenched in butter and sour cream isn’t particularly diet-friendly. Plain baked potatoes are great, but leave add-ons to the side for attendees to include as desired.