It is now becoming more and more evident that what we eat has an impact on our health and a balanced diet plays a vital role in supporting our health and well-being.

For those of us who attend meetings or work all day in an office, what we ingest can make the difference between a good and bad day and how we get the best out of a meeting, event or activity.

It all starts with breakfast…

The British Dietetic Association says that a good breakfast (breaking the fast) helps top up the energy stores that have been depleted overnight and basically kick starts your day.  See the fact sheet for examples of what constitutes a “good” breakfast.  Sorry, frosted flakes might not be on the list!

If you are due to be attending a meeting that day, once you have had breakfast, you will be at the mercy of the event organiser.  What they provide will be what you may be forced to consume, but the more we get educated about this issue, the more likely it will be that venue providers are inclined to offer foods that allow you to make the right choices.

Using a combination of references from Teresa Cutter “The Healthy Chef” and a talk at The Meeting Show from Nicky Martin, Head of Nutrition at The Compass Group, here are some tips:

  1. Drink / Stay Hydrated (Alcohol not included!)

Increasing water consumption can help boost mental alertness as well as improve skin and digestive health.  6 – 8 glasses of water a day is recommended, but don’t have so much that you end up suffering from hyponatremia (a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low).

2. Think about your daily plate

The NHS has provided an “Eat Well Guide”.  (Available here).  It recommends:

  • Eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruit a day. Note the lean to “vegetables” before fruit.  This is to stress the importance of a balance.  If it is all fruit, it means more sugar.  Vegetables and fruit should make up 1/3 of the food we eat each day.
  • Starchy food such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta needs to make up the other third of your plate. Ideally, choose wholegrain / whole-wheat options and leave the skins on the potatoes.
  • Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (e.g. soya drinks and yoghurts). Choose lower fat and lower sugar options.  These are all good for calcium, which keeps bones strong.
  • Eat some protein – beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meat.

3. Lunch

A good lunch is really important.  By midday your blood sugar levels could be dropping and if not tackled, you could find yourself irritable, sluggish and losing concentration.  Not the best recipe for an afternoon of more meetings!  Aim for high fibre, low fat options that will give you a slow release of energy.

4. Snacks

This advice might hurt the most.  All those sweets, the pastries, the cakes, the crisps… Technically, all of these “treats” are said to influence a quick “peak”, followed by a trough of more sedentary behaviour.  So good snacks are fruit, raw vegetables perhaps with a humus dip, oat based granola bars or flapjacks, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds.  Smoothies will be better than a large milky coffee.  Here’s a few ideas to inspire you

5. Dinner

Ideally, you are better off making your lunch the main meal of the day.  All of that extra food will just sit around in your digestive system and inevitably have an impact on the next day, or turn to fat. That’s hard to plan for when you are “in the event” but be aware of over-indulging, particularly when adding in the alcohol.

So, if you are the meeting organiser, think carefully about your responsibility to ensure you give your delegates choice.  Challenge the venue to accommodate your requests.  Inevitably, a better variety of menu items will produce a better meeting.  For you as the attendee, provide feedback when asked, think about that balanced plate and make the right choices.

In our meeting rooms, the main lunch menus always include an extensive range of salads, fruits, pulses but we will be making more effort to provide better options to upgrade during tea breaks, including juices and healthier snacks.

Do let us know about your favourite “Good” Foods.

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