Meetings are like road trips. In order to get from point A to point B, attendees need fuel that keeps their engines running -- and breaks are the ideal place to give it to them. Unfortunately, planners too often treat breaks as departures from the meeting instead of complements to it. Rather than giving attendees food and beverage options that keep them on course, they offer selections that pull them away from their route.
Standard break fare packed with caffeine and sugar, like coffee, soda and cookies, could initially give attendees a boost but soon send them crashing, which will jeopardize your meeting objectives. Instead, consider healthy choices that will sustain your group for hours to come.
And no, that doesn’t mean you can put out granola bars and bananas and call it a day. Rather, consider these five ideas, each of which proves that meeting breaks and wellness can coexist -- and in inventive ways.
As part of its Meet with Purpose program, which helps meeting professionals address the growing desire for health and wellness at meetings and events, Hilton offers a “Cut & Create Salad Bar” at its properties. The centerpiece is an interactive salad bar wherein guests choose from a wide variety of leafy greens that they cut directly onto their plate using garden shears, then embellish with healthy toppings and dressings. Although the program is designed for lunch, a salad bar also could make for a unique and healthy break option. Instead of plates, attendees could trim their greens into a cup or cone -- the perfect break-sized portion.
Salad bars are so popular that you might want to consider offering other kinds of bars. The Kimpton Gray Hotel in Chicago offers a “Trail Blazer” meeting break whose centerpiece is a build-your-own trail-mix bar. Guests can make their own healthy snack mix from a selection of ingredients that includes granola, chocolate chips, mixed nuts, coconut chips, pretzels, dried fruit and sunflower seeds. Also served are coconut water and seasonal pressed juices.
When it comes to healthy eating, diets are a dime a dozen -- except for the Mediterranean diet, which is consistently praised by dietitians and doctors for its ability to reduce one’s risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. A Mediterranean meeting break is therefore the perfect choice for groups that value nutrition. You can find one at The Darcy Hotel in Washington, D.C., which offers a “Mediterranean Station” break that includes hummus, tzatziki, roasted eggplant dips, stuffed grape leaves, farm vegetables, flat bread and falafel.
If you want to lean into current hot dieting trends, consider a break that embraces the ketogenic diet, a low-carb, high-fat regimen whose staples include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, leafy greens and other low-carb vegetables, cheese, nuts, and olive and coconut oils. That's what they do at the San Jose Marriott in California, which in December 2018 launched "RejuveMeet," a healthy meetings program that encompasses elements ranging from nutritious banquet menus to active breaks to healthy perks for planners. As part of the program, the hotel introduced “Go Keto at Arcadia Steakhouse by Michael Mina,” which offers to groups keto-friendly menu items from the property’s on-site steak house. The restaurant’s menu hints at what might be possible: tuna tartare, shrimp, cheese and charcuterie boards, and even steak, which could be served in bite-sized pieces for a protein-packed meeting break.
One of the most beloved keto-friendly foods is avocado, which has become something of a celebrity in the past few years thanks to the ubiquity of avocado toast (which, by the way, is not keto-friendly due to the bread). But there’s more to avocado than toast. In 2017, for example, The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort in Mexico introduced a “Pop-Up Avocado Bar” serving only avocado-themed dishes. Sample menu items included an avocado gazpacho with avocado cannelloni and king crab; a grilled avocado flatbread with bacon, avocado dressing, fresh arugula and avocado oil; an avocado club sandwich with avocado Milanese, fried egg and poached lobster; guacamole with prime ribeye steak; and even avocado ice cream. Although the pop-up was a seasonal creation, consider creating your own version of an avocado bar for a break that will fatten up your next meeting (with healthy fats, of course).