• Managing your dietary needs at meetings

    The Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health curates healthy food for all of its events, based on healthy meeting guidelines produced by physicians and nutritionists. (Photo by Ted Eytan)

    The Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health curates healthy food for all of its events, based on healthy meeting guidelines produced by physicians and nutritionists. (Photo by Ted Eytan)

    Nikki McLain
    How many times have you attended a meeting or walked around the airport food court looking for healthy options? I know that finding healthy options can be a challenge while on the road and as a former meeting and event planner, I also know that meeting attendee’s dietary requirements can also be a challenge, especially when planning under a budget.

    With society’s health concerns around obesity, diabetes and losing weight, you will see more and more options available, but you’ll pay a price as it typically costs more to eat healthy.

    Meeting planners do their best to provide options for a variety of dietary needs and will oftentimes track special needs up-front by asking attendees to indicate dietary concerns in the attendee registration process. Today’s meetings include international attendees and people with a variety of dietary needs and/or religious restrictions, (kosher, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, low sugar etc.) so we must ensure that there are plenty of alternatives for all participants.

    If you find you’re onsite and there’s nothing to meet your needs, ask to speak with the onsite meeting planner or the hotel conference services manager to see if the chef can quickly make something suitable for you. In my experience the hotel is willing to work with you to ensure you have something to fit your needs.

    Personally, a new concern of mine is sodium. At age 35, my husband had a minor heart attack and found out his cholesterol and blood pressure counts were both too high, which prompted us to adapt a low sodium diet at home. I was amazed to find that low fat, low calorie foods which seem healthy, are often full of salt. Subway seems healthy, but after looking at how much sodium is in deli meats and cheeses, I know I’d be better off eating a veggie sandwich or salad. Now when I go out to eat or am on the road traveling, I look for low sodium options.

    How do you manage your dietary needs when traveling or attending an event?

6 Responsesso far.

  1. Collette Williams says:

    To your point, options are always available! The best tips for success are: a. make your special needs known ahead of time to the meeting planner, hotel, airline, etc. Just ask! b. educate yourself. Knowledge is power. c. Assume responsiblity for your own health and safety. Bring your own snacks or medications you may require if you find youself in a sitaution where your special needs may be necessary. I have found that when you have a back up plan, you don’t need to use it. Trouble always seems to find us when we don’t have that back up plan!

  2. Kari Kesler Wendel says:

    Interesting topic, Nikki – and totally relevant for travelers everywhere. The natural over processed foods trend is, I believe, a good strategy to mitigate the high sodium and other content in even pre-packaged diet foods . . .

  3. Brenda Miller says:

    It is true that eating healthy costs more but in the end, I’m sure there’s a savings in lower health care costs! Thanks for the tips on managing meeting dietary needs. In the face of globalizing meetings and attendees, it is becoming increasingly important to be aware of cultural and religious restrictions and dietary requirements. Great post!

  4. Lori Melocchi says:

    Great things to keep in mind especially as we are all trying to be more healthy

  5. Patrick Coleman Pat Coleman says:

    I just spent three days and eight pounds at a conference last week. My issue wasn’t dietary requirements (although I saw GF and vegetarian options available) as much as it was self-control.

    One thing I find when eating on the road is I don’t get enough fiber as I do at home, so I bring a few Fiber One bars in my bag.

  6. John Hetfield says:

    Great post. Very useful information especially when travelling. Thanks for the tips!