Eating Healthy at Conferences
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Eating out Healthy
Who likes attending conferences, trade shows, or events? Who does not like gaining weight, overspending on food, or feeling lethargic from eating and drinking in ways you would not consider at home? After speaking at and attending hundreds of events, Alexandra and I have some healthy tips for eating out when on the road.
Heading to BlogHer 2013 in Chicago
Given that I will be at BlogHer 2013 this weekend, I have been thinking of ways to keep my energy and focus strong so I can take advantage of every minute I am at this big gig. That means eating well. But I sure don’t want to pack on more than I packed in, so I will be implementing the “eating healthy on the road” plan that Alexandra and I have honed over the years. We hope our tips and experience help you reach your road food goals in a satisfying, healthy, easy way.
On your way to the event
1. Bring your in-flight meal and snacks with you rather than relying on options served at the (expensive) airport restaurants and on the plane. Nothing makes it easier to resist any temptation airport fast food chains offer than knowing you have your favorite sandwich, hard boiled egg, or fruit and nuts in your carry on. Oh, and skip the tuna fish sandwich if you want to have any kind of rapport with your seatmate. I learned this lesson the stinky way!
2. While you cannot bring a filled water bottle through security checkpoints, you can carry an empty one. Fill it up with ice or water once past security. I feel more refreshed when I sip icy cold water during flights and when waiting at connection gates. Skip the sodas, alcohol, and sugar-filled juice beverages served in-flight and ask for ice, water, or tomato juice instead. You’ll land with a clearer head and fresher energy for the conference ahead.
3. If driving, bring with you healthy food and a small cooler. I freeze a full water bottle so I have cold water to swig on as I put pedal to the metal. Melty hot tip – use a water bottle that you sip from with some kind of straw, not one you have to tip up. This way you can keep your eyes on the road instead of tilting your head back.
At the hotel
4. Reserve a room with a mini-fridge and find a grocery store. Or ….
5. Use hotel ice machines to keep your portable pantry refreshingly frosty and chilled. If you’ve packed only nutritious foods you won’t have to exert self-discipline to resist junk foods that aren’t there. I make sure to include breakfast foods for the first morning of a conference so I can sleep a teensy bit longer instead of waking early to find a restaurant, stand in long lines, or wait for room service. (The truth? I rarely use room service as I am frugal boomer all the way!) For me, even 30 minutes’ of extra sleep followed by breakfast from home of my favorite yogurt, berries, and cereal eaten calmly in my room makes a big difference in my event energy level.
When you return to your room at the end of the day, most likely you will be tired, with sore feet, bad hair, oily skin, and the urge to flop on the bed and go through all your notes, swag, purchases, and brochures. Or maybe that’s just me. Even if I think I am really hungry and ready to overeat a big dinner, that feeling is overpowered by sloth. Once in the room and on the bed, it’s hard to budge me. In such cases, I am happy to eat whatever is in my cooler. And remember, you are going to pack or buy only nourishing food in the first place. Voila! – good choices by default!
6. If you do go out to dinner at the end of a convention day, bring fit, healthy friends and colleagues with you. Peer pressure really helps out in such times. Study after study shows that our food choices are influenced by the people we eat with. Do your convention dining with others who:
- moderate their portion size
- order an appetizer as the entree
- split meals or bring home half to store in that oh so convenient fridge or cooler
- skip desserts, breads, and high calorie, sweet drinks
And also read the post we did on Dining Out on the Road that gives you 5 usable and 5 “bonus” tips.
At the trade show and conference
7. Again, plan and pack! Stick portable, healthy snacks in your convention bag. Pass by the candy offered at some booths. Find the vendors with true fuel for your trade show wrangling, session bopping self. Take advantage of the fruit available in presenter, press, exhibitor, and VIP rooms if you qualify.
8. Make time for lunch, even if it’s finding the one healthy meal for sale at the venue restaurant. If you rely on snacks and booth samples alone you will be so famished and fatigued by day’s end that every food will call your name. Over and over. Loudly and immediately. Even if it’s the WORST choice that you would never make at home, cross your heart and hope to indulge. Hunger does crazee tricks to our brain so do your best to maintain the snack and lunch timing you have at home.
Are those enough tips and tricks to keep you eating healthy when at events? (I really should say “healthfully” to be grammatically accurate). I sure hope so as I have to finish packing now to get to BlogHer in time. You’ll never guess the panel I am speaking on. It’s called “Healthy Habits.” Off to have the healthy habit of making my flight!
Sure, we attend events; however we also speak at them. With energy and humor. So why not hire us for your next meeting or conference? Call us at (805) 403-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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