Monday, October 19, 2009

Conference Cuisine

How do you stay healthy when you are eating continuously at conferences? Well, as a professional speaker who travels all the time, I thought I’d use a recent conference I went to - The National Speakers Association’s convention at the Marriott Wardman in Washington DC — as an example.

Using a few menus, which I’m sure you can relate to, you should cope well at your next convention:
Continental Breakfast, same every day:
Good choices:
An assortment of fresh fruits; bite-sizes for easy eating - dish up one cup.
A variety of fresh fruit juices - pour ½ cup.
Okay choices:
Plain, cinnamon raison and sesame seed bagels, light cream cheese, jams. Whole-wheat bagels and whole grain breads would be better choices but we weren’t given those options.
Poor choices:
Numerous muffins, croissants, brioches and sweet cakes. Avoid unless you’re craving, then cut one in half and put on your plate. If you take the whole pastry you’ll finish it.
Breaks: Chocolates or cookies and fruits, coffee and tea. Choose a fruit and/or half a sweet item if wonderful.
Beverages for meals and at breaks
Good choices: tea and skim milk
Okay choices: coffee and skim milk
Poor choices: hot chocolate with cream
Lunches: banquet style
Bread basket: rolls, crisp seeded breads, raisin and nut bread, variety of rolls, butter. Choose one bread choice. Be sure it’s tasty enough to eat without butter.
Appetizers: Mixed greens with a little dressing - enjoy
Entrée: Pasta with grilled chicken and shrimp - portions weren’t too large so leave ¼ - ½
Vegetarian: vegetable sushi - looked great. With vegetarian choices you take a chance, some can be dull.
Desserts: Peach crisp, small portion - eat if delicious
Reception: Buffet style. Consider this your dinner
Cash bar for drinks: Paying for drinks always limits alcohol intake - good.
Finger foods such as fried dough filled with chicken, mini mushroom pies, and other forms of deliciously flavored lard - hard to resist. Try to keep to one each, two if amazing.
Bruschetta: small pieces of toast with different toppings: salsa, olive or smoked salmon. Try one of each.
Salad and a variety of dressings from blue cheese to vinaigrette - take a large portion and ask for a sprinkling of vinaigrette.
Pasta, made in front of you. Serve up one cup
No desserts
Dinners: banquet-style
Bread basket (see lunch)
Grilled portabello mushroom on salad - wonderful, eat it all
Roasted free-range chicken breast with vegetables - eat vegetables first, move chicken out of sauce and eat ½
Vegetarian: linguini with sun-dried tomatoes - eat ¾
Chocolate hazelnut layer torte - delicious - eat ½
One evening, I went out for dinner and was happy to eat less, just 2 appetizers: grilled calamari and green salad.
By being aware of your food choices, you can eat well without feeling deprived or hungry. Although this convention had particularly good food, at many you miss the vegetables and fruit (or you should).
Swim: pack a swimsuit, many hotels have pools. Helps you workout and feel relaxed at the same time.
Exercise: health club - check the hours. Work out when you have a session you can miss.
Walk: ask the concierge for walking ideas. Explore the city you’re in. Washington is beautiful, clean and fascinating, so this was easy.
Standing ovations: having grown up in South Africa, and sitting with Londoners, we found it weird to stand up every five minutes to clap for the speakers. We’re not sure if it’s an American thing, or an NSA thing, but found this movement to be good exercises for the thighs.
Enjoy your conferences and maintain your health goals.