Taking steps towards Health Conscious Events: Medical Planners can walk the walk when it comes to healthful meetings

By Julia M. Johnson

Have you ever thought about whether medically focused companies and organizations should lead the way in healthful menus at their conferences and events? After all, their purpose is to promote better health and longer life. If you’re interested in planning meetings that cater to your guests’ well being, good news. We’ve gathered some expert advice on foods that help medical meeting planners show their full commitment to better health.

“I attend conferences with a positive lifestyle focus, and my impression is that most groups are trending in the direction of healthier foods,” says Marilyn Disch MD, integrative health coach at Pyramid Health Coaching in St. Louis. “Healthy food is a key way to set yourself apart as a leader in medical event planning. To ignore this trend is to be behind the curve in what is happening today in medicine and the food industry.”

Disch says promoting healthful foods at events can be “a positive differentiating point” for planners’ businesses, too. “Asking about special food needs and preferences at registration time also can set you apart as a thoughtful and accommodating planner, in tune with participant needs,” she says.

There are lots of ways to incorporate health consciousness into your event menus. Here are some ideas:

FOOD COOKING AND SERVING TIPS:

  •  Request that catering staff use smarter cooking methods such as steaming, broiling, baking, roasting, and grilling vegetables and meats without added fat.
  • Opt for sauces that are vegetable-based instead of cream-, butter-, or cheese based.
  • Ask for savory foods to be seasoned with herbs and spices in place of salt.
  • Request breads and pastas that are whole grain.
  • Make sure desserts are low-fat and low-calorie whenever possible. Fruit, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and sorbet are good options.

SNACK AND APPETIZER IDEAS
(should be under 200 calories per serving):

  •  Pretzels or roasted nuts, unsalted
  •  Vegetable tray with light dip
  •  Seasonal fruit, on trays or served as kebabs
  •  Low-fat cheeses

PRESENTATION TIPS:

  •  Try posting signs at meals, explaining menu items’ calorie and sodium content and whether they contain common allergens such as wheat and nuts.
  •  At the start of each buffet line, display an attractively plated sample of the meal to illustrate appropriate portion sizes.

You’ll often have event guests who have allergies or don’t eat meat or animal products; it’s important to keep their needs in mind as well. “It’s relatively easy to provide vegan and vegetarian options if you are offering healthful food,” Disch says. “Salads, vegetables and beans are great
options for anyone.” Plant-based diets are shown to have significant nutritional and health value. And when snacks remain light and meals are served buffet style, guests are empowered to make their own healthful choices.

Your medical event attendees, presenters, and other participants are likely to represent a rainbow of health and nutritional needs. Keep them happy and lead the pack by showing you care about their well being!

Some information courtesy of Vidant Health’s “Event Planner Tool Kit: Guidelines for Providing Healthy Foods and Beverages at Company-Sponsored Events.”

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