To make it easier to incorporate healthy practices into meetings and events, the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) created the Healthy Meetings Toolkit, along with offering a full slate of resources planners can use to make every meeting—from small department-level meetings to multi-day conferences—healthier.
It seems like so many hotels and convention centers offer “healthy” food and beverage group catering options, but according to research by the Center for Science in the Public Interest of offerings from convention centers in the 25 largest U.S. cities and 70 hotels, only 64% offered one or more “healthy” items. The hotel chains ranged widely, from just 40% to 100%. Most of those that did offer healthy food and beverage items did not base their health claims on specific nutritional criteria and did not specify portion sizes.
Many also included some clearly high-fat, high-calorie and/or high-sugar desserts and pastries in their “healthy” meal options. Fruit was not an option for most of the dessert courses — and almost all meals included desserts. Salads usually came with creamy dressings, cheeses and other less-than-optimal ingredients, and healthy hors d’oeuvres were rarely to be found on the reception menus.
The NANA Healthy Meetings Toolkit is meant to help planners create a culture of health and wellness at their events by offering truly healthy F&B choices, creating a social norm around healthier behaviors at their events, offering physical activities that are relevant to their attendees, provide a tobacco-free environment, and prioritize sustainability practices when possible.
What’s in the NANA Healthy Meetings Toolkit
The toolkit offers guidance in four areas: nutrition, physical activity, tobacco-free environments and sustainability. Within each topic area are guidances for those who want to achieve the Standard Healthy Meeting, and those who want to take the next step and make their event a Superior Health Meeting. Planners can mix and match the level they want to achieve in each area based on their organization and their attendees.
The toolkit includes a general section that covers the rationale for why healthy meetings are in everyone’s best interest, some health meeting FAQs, how to work with hotels and caterers, and a model evaluation. Then it breaks it down by topic area with a wealth of practical and applicable information about how to achieve a healthier meeting in each topic area.
For example, the nutrition section includes everything from sample menus and cooking techniques to suggestions on ways to make it easier to make healthy F&B choices, to portion sizes and food safety tips. The physical activity section offers advice on how to introduce physical activity in a non-obtrusive way, as well as tips on accommodating those with physical disabilities and how to choose a venue that will best support your group’s activity goals. While going tobacco-free is easier now that most U.S. venues ban smoking indoors, this section also provides suggestions on ways to extend a group’s smoke-free policy to include non-meeting venues such as restaurants and bars.
Sustainability is important to many groups these days, and planners can use this section of the toolkit to find tips on basics such as reducing waste and packaging, to how to conduct a zero-waste meeting or conference and use locally sourced and sustainably produced food and giveaways when possible.
Take the Healthy Meeting Pledge
For those who are already well along their paths to healthy meeting practices — and for those just starting on their healthy meetings journey who are serious about making a difference for their attendees — there’s now a Healthy Meeting Pledge you can sign onto at healthymeetings.org. Approximately 100 organizations have already signed the pledge to show their acknowledgement that healthy meetings, conferences and events help to create an environment that supports attendees’ own work to improve their health.
Learn more and download the toolkit, pledge and other materials at https://www.cspinet.org/protecting-our-health/nutrition/healthy-meetings.