Get Expert Advice on Planning Nutritious and Tasty Meeting Menus
“Real food” is a clear focus for Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian, author and owner of Nutritious Life, a private wellness practice in New York City. Glassman, who is also the health and wellness partner for JW Marriott hotels, has worked to create better—and healthier—experiences for JW Marriott hotel guests and meeting attendees. We talk with her about the latest trends for making real food a star at meetings.
Q: Why should nutrition be important to meeting planners?
Most people are trying to be healthy—or wish they could be. A common complaint among travelers and hotel guests is that their healthy habits get derailed on the road, so most meeting attendees will appreciate the healthy options.
Not to mention, junk food doesn’t make you feel good, and it’s terrible for meeting productivity. As a rule, people should be eating healthier when travelling for work.
Though many attendees will be accustomed to eating traditional meeting foods—like donuts and bagels—and may have trouble adjusting to a healthier spread, I suspect most people will be happy there are healthy options.
Q: Snacking is a big part of meetings. How can planners make their snack selection healthier?
Most people think snacks have to come out of a bag or a box, which is just not true. Think of snacks as mini-meals. That means snack options should have a good combination of protein, healthy fats and fiber—so forget the cookies, pretzels and chips—which will just leave attendees draggy.
Some great “real food” alternatives include preportioned snacks like guacamole and veggies, or a sampling of interesting nuts with a spice on it. These are tasty and will keep attendees satisfied.
Q: Local? Organic? Farm-to-table? How can planners bring these trends to their events?
Everyone is into organic, farm-to-table, local produce—and even local meats. Get to know what you have access to in the area, become familiar with local farmers and shop locally.
In general, use as much “real food” as possible. Don’t just think lettuce—try some local arugula. And when it comes to grains, don’t just stick to rice—try quinoa or millet.
As an added bonus, buying local produce is generally cost-efficient.
Q: What are some smart approaches to drinks at, say, a cocktail-hour networking event?
People are going to order what they want to order, bottom line. But if you offer an organic wine—which actually has health benefits when drank in moderation—maybe some people will gravitate toward it.
Q: Can you share some of your own special tips with planners about incorporating healthy options into meeting menus.
There are always ways to redo traditional, popular options.
Instead of “pigs in a blanket” at a networking event, serve chicken sausage with something sweet on top. Serve sushi bites with brown rice. Other options include antipasti platters with roasted vegetables, olives and cheese, or gourmet, bite-sized options like endive with a dollop of guacamole on top.
Keep meeting attendees hydrated with lots of flavored water options—and I’m not talking about the stuff with artificial sweeteners. Offer lemon-, cucumber-, mint- or strawberry-infused waters along with tea.
With teas and coffees, don’t just offer whole milk and skim milk. A lot of people are vegan- or soy-free, so provide almond milk or rice milk too.