With more and more attendees under doctor’s orders to reduce their intake of calories, sugar, carbohydrates, and salt, it’s important for event planners to give more attention to healthy choices when making menu selections. Participants don’t have to attend many events and meetings to realize that healthwise event menus are hard to find.
One of the challenges is that most of us don’t have an awareness of how many calories dishes actually contain or optimal portion sizes.
While it is important to design healthier menus across the board, capturing the special dietary requirements of event participants has never been easier. This information can be gathered on registration forms, through your event app, or a participant profile that event planners can send to attendees via e-mail.
Here are 10 healthwise options to consider:
Appetizers and Hors D’oeuvres
- Use veggies strategically.
Even small appetizers can be loaded with calories. To reduce the calorie count, consider using sliced cucumber or melba toast rounds as a substitute for crackers or rolls. As a healthy alternative to bread and crackers, use large lettuce leaves or cucumber as a wrap.
Consult the dinner section for vegetable dishes that can be served in small portions as part of the appetizer course.
- All-recipes.com has recipes for over 690 low calorie appetizers.
- Seal the deal with seafood.
Shrimp, scallops, lobster, or small pieces of tuna served on a mini-bed of vegetables can spice up your selection of appetizers. Sashimi is always a welcome choice.
- Be calorie-wise with bread substitutes.
Bread is usually served throughout events and it is high in calories and carbs.Here are some options.
Matzos have only 90 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and no sodium per piece. One slice of melba toast has only 20 calories, 1 mg of salt, and no sugar. There is also a salt free version of melba toast. Bread sticks have only 20 calories and 0.1 grams of sugar. The sodium count is about 40 mg. per stick. Serve them with low fat cheese to cut fat, calories, and carbs.
- Cut down on the breakfast pastries.
Far too often, breakfasts consist of calorie-laden Danishes, muffins, bagels, croissants, and other breakfast pastries.
Event planners don’t have to completely eliminate pastries from breakfast menus to make them calorie-wise. By reducing the portion size, it’s possible to cut down on calories considerably. Sandals Resorts in Jamaica services miniature versions of breakfast pastries.
This video puts portion size in perspective:
- Replace fruit juices with fruit that is low in sugar and carbs.
While juice is considered to be a healthy option, one bottle of orange juice contains over 30 grams of sugar. If you must serve juice, use ½ cup glasses instead of serving the full bottle.
Instead of serving juice, opt for raspberries, cherries, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, grapefruit, and apples.
- Eliminate or re-engineer burgers and sandwiches.
Burgers made with extra lean ground beef are a delicious, affordable, and heart healthy choice. Burger patties can be served with salad instead of hamburgerbuns.
In an effort to stretch shrinking budgets, lunches often consist of sandwiches served on white bread, Kaisers, and other hearty rolls. Serving open face sandwiches like those that are popular in Denmark can significantly reduce calories.
With only 100 calories and 3 grams of sugar, mini pita bread can be a healthwise choice. Care should be exercised to check the sodium count of the brand you select as some have as much as 260 mg of sodium.
During breaks, snack tables are usually laden with sugary treats and soda pop is plentiful.
- Substitute low sugar beverages for soft drinks.
Replace soft drinks with Crystal Light or Perrier Lemon-lime, Lemon, or Pink Grapefruit drink. All of these options are low in sugar, salt, and calories.
- Cut down on the sugary snacks.
Ever wonder how sugary snacks compare to more healthy options? Here is what 100 calories will get you.
Replace sugary snacks with veggies with dip, fruit salads, sugar-free halva, and even sugar-free Jello. If you think participants will miss the pastries, serve them during the afternoon break only instead of at lunch AND break time.
Snacks and desserts made with fruit can be delicious, calorie-wise selections. Casa Fernanda Hotel Boutique in Tepoztlan, Mexico serves an amazing raspberry tartare.
Check out recipes for raspberry Napoleon (or Mille Feuille) on YouTube. (You can also create it with cherries, blueberries or lemons.) Use low fat or fat-free whipping cream in pastries.
- Cut down on portion sizes.
For dinner, serve fish, seafood, lean cuts of beef (e.g. eye of the round, sirloin tip, top sirloin), chicken with skin removed, orturkey.
They have an interesting way of picturing optimal portion sizes.
Participants don’t have to go away hungry. Increase the portion sizes for vegetables and serve them up in a way that is so delicious that guests won’t even miss the meat. Pour spaghetti and meat sauce over alfalfa sprouts for a low calorie alternative to pasta. Mix it well and guests won’t even be able to tell that they are not having pasta. (Pizza Nova’s Homestyle Tomato Sauce is low in calories(40 calories per ¼ cup), carbs (2 gm per ¼ cup), and sugar (0 gm)
For dessert, opt for a fruity treat or, once again, learn from Sandals Resorts and serve miniature versions of popular pastries. A small treat is all that guests need and they will appreciate the fact that they are not taking a big sugar, carb, salt, and calorie hit.
- Double check the Glycemic Index of the menu selections.
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health.
Source: http://www.glycemicindex.com (Use the Glycemic Index calculator at this site.)
Your Final Check
Before finalizing your menu, check the calorie, carbohydrate, salt, and sugar content of the menu selections you are considering.
Cut down on sodium by substituting a half salt like Windsor Half Salt for regular table salt. Kikkoman has low sodium soy sauce and teriyaki sauce.
Tofu Shirataki noodles or quinoa can be carefully prepared and used as replacements for rice, potatoes, and pasta.
Here are some great resources for looking up possible menu selections and identifying healthwise menu choices:
With carefully planning, event professionals can serve up healthy choices without blowing their budgets or compromising on taste.