Top 20 Corporate Catering Takeaways from the CSPI Healthy Meeting Toolkit

Posted by on Monday, April 28th, 2014 with 2 Comments

All-day meetings and conferences can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to workplace wellness. Sitting all day, mindlessly snacking during breaks, and indulging in large portions of corporate catering buffets: the traditional meeting can break every rule in the book when it comes to keeping employees healthy, attentive, and focused.

conference buffet line

Plan a healthier buffet line at your next conference.
Image source: Flickr user techedlive

So how do you break the cycle and make meetings healthier? The Center for Science in the Public Interest (a highly-respected nutrition advocacy group) has a few ideas: 36 well-researched pages’ worth, in fact. They recently published an incredibly informative toolkit for meeting planners and caterers. Those who care about workplace wellness and employee health will find plenty of helpful guidelines for hosting healthier meetings… but we’re willing to bet that not many will take the time to read it through and through.

We did, though! And here are our 20 favorite takeaways from the CSPI Healthy Meeting Toolkit… with a few of our own pro tips thrown in for good measure:

1) Make water the default beverage instead of sodas or sweetened teas — offer “spa water” with slices of lemon, lime, or cucumber to make it seem a little more special.

glass of water with cucumber slices

“Spa water” is an ideal meeting beverage.
Image source: Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski

2) At the lunch table, offer condiments and dressings on the side of sandwiches and salads.

3) Serve non-fat milk along with cream at the coffee table. Pro tip: soy milk will also surely be appreciated by attendees with special dietary needs and preferences.

4) Provide a vegetarian option at the lunch table.

5) Serve food out of moderately-sized bowls that are periodically refreshed, rather than one giant platter (people will likely take less out of a smaller bowl) and use reasonably-sized serving utensils.

6) Label healthy dishes attractively: for instance, “Tuscan Grilled Chicken with Rosemary” and “Roasted Carrots with Fresh Tarragon” as opposed to “Grilled Chicken” and “Carrots”.

7) Serve popcorn instead of chips for a savory snack — as a whole grain, popcorn contains considerably more fiber. Pro tip: serve individually-portioned dishes of nuts for a more filling option for hungrier attendees.

8) At breakfast, provide healthier spreads like almond butter and hummus instead of butter and cream cheese… and serve whole-wheat varieties of bagels, toast, and English muffins.

whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and banana slices

Whole wheat bagels with nut butter are a smart morning snack.
Image source: Flickr user Jessie Jacobson

9) Put fruits and vegetables at the beginning of the buffet line.

10) Set a simple, but strict rule with your corporate catering company: no fried foods.

11) Swap whole grain bread or wraps for white bread on sandwiches.

12) Serve easy-to-eat (and peel) fruit for snacks: think bananas, grapes, berries, clementines, plums. Pro tip: anything too juicy (like peaches) or loud (like apples) should be avoided.

13) Instead of making food the focus of breaks, emphasize physical activity: encourage brief stretching or a walk around the room.

14) Present breaks as “recess”, and have a few organized games around the edges of the meeting area designed to get participants moving (think Ping-Pong or hackey sack).

15) Provide walking or running maps to out-of-town guests. 

16) On the dessert table, cut brownies and cakes in half for serving.

bite-sized brownies

Bite-sized brownies and fresh fruit are a better dessert choice.
Image source: Flickr user Ted Eytan

17) Or, go really hardcore healthy and serve fruit instead of sweets for dessert.

18) Ask your caterer to limit the amount of cheese in pasta and casseroles.

19) Use reasonably-sized plates and bowls to encourage proper portion control.

20) Consider labeling calorie content for dishes on the buffet table. Pro tip: employ the traffic-light color coding system to indicate healthy, less healthy, and indulgent options.

Little changes can make a big difference when it comes to health and wellness — and serving wholesome, filling meals and snacks will help ensure your meeting attendees are focused and energetic throughout the day. To make your meeting planning easier, contact the corporate catering experts at for a wide array of menu options, prompt delivery, and easy online ordering!

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

2 responses to “Top 20 Corporate Catering Takeaways from the CSPI Healthy Meeting Toolkit”

  1. Whitney Cross says:

    This is a great article! I recall the best convention I ever attended, was one where we had healthy snacks and handmade “snack packs” that we could get at any time during meetings and bring back to our seat. They contained a variety of healthy nuts, such as almonds, some whole wheat breads for dipping in hummus or a garlic olive oil (although many people did not use the garlic oil. It was a bit strong, especially given the convention, and not many people wanted to risk spilling oil on themselves, which was understandable), and dried fruits.

    One convention I went to, had servers during the meetings that would refill water, tea and juices. This was the first one I went to that stated they were actually trying to “do away” with the unhealthy coffees (you know, with the whipped creams and sugars, etc.). People could bring their own, of course, but they really wanted to avoid that mid-morning crash from the unhealthy caffeine and sugar consumption, so offered some great varieties of green teas and fruit-infused waters. I know for some it did not sit well, but I enjoyed it. The servers were unobtrusive, and it did cut down on the disturbances of so many people getting up during a quick break and making the break time longer than it should have been. I think a lot of corporate caterers can learn a lot from that. I have read some research on keeping people focused during extended meetings, and one way IS to cut down on the unhealthy food and beverages served. I know many feel that coffee will keep people more “awake”, but actually the opposite seems to be true. The absence of sugary snacks and beverages make people more focused and attentive, and they don’t get that mid-morning crash from excess sugar consumption too early in the am.

  2. zak says:

    I cant believe how helpful this post was. It gave me great insight to what their is. It will definitely change my habits.