healthier menu options for conferences

healthier menu options for conferences and meetings

I’m excited to share a guest post by Megan Quinn, a certified health coach. As an event and meeting planner, I personally have struggled with how to offer healthier menus for guests, especially for conferences when you are trying to keep guests attentive and engaged for hours if not a full day! I’m excited to try some of Megan’s suggestions.

Full disclosure: I am not a conference planner and I don’t pretend to play one on TV.  My name is Megan Quinn and I’m a certified health coach.  I work with busy, motivated women to help them uncover the food and lifestyle choices that fuel their lives and support their full potential…one simple, savvy step at a time.

The common denominator here though is I attend conferences, my health coaching clients attend conferences, WE ALL attend conferences!  It comes with the territory of being a professional these days, regardless of your industry.  And as a guest, myself, of countless conference throughout the years, I do know one thing for sure: Everyone’s gotta eat!

So with today’s post, let’s discuss some tried-and-true tips to offer healthier food options that won’t break the bank or leave your guests dozing off during the keynote speaker:

healthier menu options for conferences and events

1.  Get rid of the AM sugar bombs

I’m talking about all the pastries, doughnuts, bagels, and chocolate chip muffins, the size of your 3-year-old’s head… As appetizing as they may look, they’re chock-full of processed sugar.  These morning delights offer NO substance!

Protein is king when it comes to breakfast!  Eating some protein first thing in the morning is key to balancing blood sugar and curbing the mid-morning slump.

Healthier Alternatives:

  • Eggs are always a great choice.  But don’t fret!  That doesn’t mean you need to offer an omelet stations or a hot bar, instead, offer a bowl of hard-boiled eggs and guests can help themselves.  Provide these along with some salt and pepper and they’re sure to be a filling, crowd favorite.
  • Plain, low-fat Greek yogurt.  Offer along with several topping options:  fresh berries, seeds, nuts, granola, and honey, just to name a few.


2.  Ditch the soda & juice

These beverages do little besides send people on a sugar and caffeine-fueled roller coaster all day and add to their waistline.   So often we are walking around completely unaware that we’re dehydrated.  Symptoms of dehydration include headaches, hunger, and low energy, but how often do we really associate these everyday aliments with needing to drink more water?

Healthier Alternatives:

  • Provide water pitchers at the center of every conference table and ensure they are being refilled throughout the day so guests can help themselves. If pitchers on each table isn’t feasible, make sure water stations are easily accessible, preferably in each meeting room, and are consistently refreshed.
  • During breaks, have fruit-flavored and sprinkling water and green and herbal teas available for a more natural pick-me-up than your standard coffee and diet soda alternatives.


3.  Portion control & Be strategic

Given the chance, people tend to overindulge when there’s a buffet and plenty of room on their plate to stock up.

Healthier Alternatives:

  • When providing a buffet style meal, ask the venue to provide smaller plates for guests.  With eyes bigger than our stomachs, we end up overeating and/or wasting food.  Using a smaller plate doesn’t prevent a guest from returning to the buffet for seconds but it does prevent them from overindulging in the first place.
  • When guests are helping themselves be strategic with your line-up.  For instance, at lunch, always place fresh fruit, veggies, and lean protein at the beginning of the line.  Place any bread, rolls, potato or pasta dishes towards the end.  In all likelihood, by the time a guest gets towards the end of the buffet, they’ll have much less room on their (small) plate to fit many of those less healthy refined carbs.  Which means they’ll have more sustained energy for your afternoon session!

healthier menu options for conferences and meetings


4.  The candy bowl has got to GO!

Sugar is the leading cause of disease in this country.  Moderation is key.  But with sugar already hidden in so much of our food these days, I find it unnecessary to have it front and center, tempting guests all day long.

Healthier Alternatives:

  • Swap candy for fruit (nature’s candy).  You could have fresh fruit available on breaks or simply replace the candy bowl centerpiece on each table with a bowl of fruit.  (How’s that for a conversation piece?)
  • Consider offering a trail mix bar.  Guests can make their own on a break with whatever selections are available (dried fruit, nuts, seeds, etc.).


The most important thing to remember when planning a conference or any event is: Food is powerful!  Food can invigorate us with a more positive outlook and sharper mental clarity or it can leave us feeling depleted, foggy and bloated.

And, if I had to guess, happier, more engaged guests makes your job a little easier and much more rewarding so I encourage you to choose wisely and celebrate healthier!

 To learn more about Megan and her health coaching services, visit Simple Savvy Self.

Photo Credits: { Daily Mail | Williams Sonoma | Mission Healthy Living }


Comments are closed.