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Something to Munch On (During Meetings)

We’ve all joked about the meetings we endure that leave us spent — mentally and physically. More often than we probably realize, these ambling sessions zap us of our energy (all the way around). Yes, the agenda can be the problem; but not always. Sometimes, it’s the other elephant in the room: the food.

Why are healthy meetings important? In the United States, employees spend an average of 5.5 hours per week in meetings. Some of us spend far more hours glued to a conference room chair. At times, these meetings are characterized by unhealthy food, physical inactivity and inefficiency that can add additional stress. We know all about the high rates of obesity and preventable chronic disease, as well as increasing rates of depression in the United States. We don’t need to hear the numbers again, but we do need tools and resources to help us start working toward healthy solutions. That’s why Kaiser Permanente came up with “Healthy Meeting 10” If you read nothing else in this tip sheet, remember these top 10 healthy basics. They’ll help you to set new norms and procedures with your team so that you can meet healthfully and productively. Adopt these guidelines and make a commitment to following them consistently. Post the Healthy Meeting 10 Poster in your conference room as a visual reminder.


1.    Plan ahead for efficient meetings with pre-work and clear outcome-focused agendas.

2.    Approach meetings with openness, a collaborative spirit and sense of fun.

3.    Start meetings on time and with a healthy tip.

4.    Include a stretch or active break for meetings lasting longer than one hour.

5.    Meet on your feet with walking or standing meetings whenever possible.

6.    If you serve food, offer fresh, healthy choices.

7.    Remember, not all meetings require food.

8.    Go green — reduce paper use, offer local sustainable food and recycle.

9.    Avoid plastic water bottles; offer water pitchers and reusable glasses.

10. Schedule 45 minute meetings rather than 1 hour.

Offer healthy meals and snacks 

We’ve all sat in meetings with a plate of sugary donuts or cookies in the middle of the table. And somehow, that sweet confection somehow makes its way to our mouths by the end of the meeting. Part of a healthy food environment is to not create overwhelming opportunities to eat throughout the day. And remember, not all meetings require food.

Strategy 1: 

Limit unhealthy fat 

  •     Choose healthy protein sources such as fish, chicken, turkey, tofu or beans.


  •     Avoid trans fats and hydrogenated fats often found in packaged baked goods and regular margarine.


  •     Choose fresh fruits and vegetables.


Strategy 2: Make healthy catering easy 

When it’s your job to order food for a meeting, finding healthy choices can seem impossible.


• Go for whole grains. If ordering sandwiches, wraps, bagels, pasta, cereal — you name it — make sure to specify whole-wheat or whole-grain. If the place you usually order from does not offer a whole wheat option, request that they do.

• Go for lean protein. Chicken, turkey or fish are all good choices. Avoid foods with adjectives such as fried, glazed, creamy or breaded and go for low-fat options such as poached, roasted, steamed or grilled. Also, avoid smoked or cured deli meats, such as ham or salami, as they are high in sodium.

• Trim the fat. Even foods that sound healthy like “tuna salad” are often high in fat and calories. Avoid salads made with mayonnaise such as chicken, tuna, or potato salad. When ordering a salad, inquire about low-fat options and request dressings on the side. Ask for low-fat cheese, milk, yogurt and spreads if available.

• Include fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure the meal includes at least 1 fruit and 1 vegetable, such as whole fruits like apples, bananas, pears or strawberries, and easy-to-eat veggies like carrot sticks, snap peas or a side salad.

• Keep it balanced. No need to count calories or carry measuring cups with you. Simply put, a healthy plate should look like this: 1Ž2 filled with vegetables, 1Ž4 with whole grains and 1Ž4 lean protein. Enjoy fruit for dessert. Keep this easy equation in mind whenever ordering food.

• Always offer a vegetarian selection. Be sure that whatever the vegetarian option is, it includes some sort of protein such as hard-boiled eggs, beans or tofu.

• Avoid artificial ingredients, added sugars and trans fats such as hydrogenated oils. This can be hard when ordering out because we cannot read the ingredients ourselves. Choosing fresh and whole foods is the easiest way to make sure you are serving truly Healthy Picks. Let your server/caterer know that you want foods without these unhealthy ingredients.

• Avoid soda and other sweetened beverages. Instead serve unsweetened ice teas or flavored sparkling water. Try adding fresh mint, lemon or even cucumber to water for a refreshing gourmet beverage. Order large bottles and pour into glasses with ice rather than purchasing a bunch of small plastic bottles.

Strategy 3: Practice nutrition mind tricks 

If you are serving food, here are some simple, yet effective mind tricks to encourage healthy eating: Less is more.

By serving only one or two items, chances are everyone will eat less. Studies have shown that the more variety of foods offered, the more people will eat, regardless of level of hunger. This rule is especially true for dessert.

Portion control

Use small plates or napkins. By controlling the size of the dishware, you give everyone a greater chance to help themselves to a healthy and reasonable serving.

Keep it to the side

Put refreshments on a side table rather than in the middle of the meeting table. When tempting food is sitting within reach, it’s a lot easier to help yourself to reach for seconds or even thirds.

Because meetings affect how people collaborate and how they get their own work done, and therein how well the company runs — the assembling environment is well-worth considering. AT


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