Healthy is happy. When you eat healthy and integrate wellness into your lifestyle, you feel better. You think clearer, you’re less stressed and you look better.
As a figure competitor and an event professional, I work to incorporate a healthy lifestyle into all my meetings and events. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to be healthy when you are flying and traveling. But working with my suppliers, I ensure my clients have healthy food options and fun fitness options integrated into their programs. Here are my tips for integrating health and wellness into programs:
Review Banquet Menus Before Signing a Contract
Most planners review banquet menus only after the contract is signed. If you’re not reviewing menus prior, you are missing out on key negotiating factors as well as missing out on an opportunity to ensure a truly healthy and custom F&B experience. And if you review menus after the contract is signed, you’re missing out on huge cost savings for your clients. (Cost saving tip: Ask for current year pricing or at least a 10 percent discount on future menus for your program.)
Ask for the chef’s custom suggestions based on the budget and demographics of your group. Discuss ways to limit waste and save money while you’re at it. Remember, not everyone will participate in every meal. Monitoring the headcount at your events will assist in planning future events.
Always Ask for Local
Give attendees a local experience—starting with the food. You would not visit Nashville, Tenn., and not have hot chicken, or Philadelphia without eating a cheese steak. Ask the chef to use local ingredients and prepare local dishes. However, be mindful of added sugars and salt. By serving only local foods, you’ll support the local farmers and the local economy. And let’s be honest: Fresh local food just tastes better.
Provide a List of Dietary Restrictions
As a non-dairy human, and strict eater, I’m more sensitive and in tune to foods that contain dairy than most people. (Note: Dairy is in more prepared foods than you think.) Request that all food items be labeled gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan. Your attendees will thank you.
Request that all food items be labeled gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan.
Request Ice Water Carafes vs. Bottled Water
In lieu of costly and non-environmentally friendly bottled water, I request carafes of ice water. Yes, it’s good for the environment, but it’s also important to stay hydrated when choosing a healthy lifestyle. Humans should drink at least 1 gallon of water per day. And when spending time in a desert environment or high altitude, water consumption is more important than ever.
Let Your Chef Know That Added Sugar Is Unacceptable
As a figure competitor, I do not eat foods with added sugar. Did you know that there are more than 55 different terms for sugar? Anything pre-packaged usually means processed and therefore sugar added (and includes other ingredients you cannot pronounce).
So, instead opt for superfoods, which are not new, but they are good for you. Skip the donuts, and plan a fun make-your-own trail mix using mixed plain raw nuts, berries, cocoa and shredded unsweetened coconut. Trust me—it will be a hit. And if you plan to do smoothies—remember your dairy-free and vegan attendees and have coconut and soy milk options, too (labeled, of course.)
Don’t Rush Meals
I’m Sicilian—meals are a time to enjoy food, enjoy conversations, and relax and unwind. While you certainly can’t schedule three-hour lunches, you can provide a bit more time for attendees to enjoy, and digest.
Incorporate the Power of Play
As infants and toddlers we learned through play. Why stop learning (playing) when you turn five and go to Kindergarten? Interactive breaks are a great opportunity to introduce play. Or why not start the day with some play? Starting the day with a wellness activity is a great way to be healthy, but also another opportunity for attendees to bond, network and Instagram your event. Yoga, local hiking, drumming and spinning are all activities that work well. These activities are also a great opportunity for sponsor to get exposure.
For example, I have this great MGM cool dry towel I received at a 6 a.m. wellness activity spinning class at a conference years ago. I still use it weekly for my sprint and RPM classes. I participated in a FAM in Vancouver and received a Lululemon yoga mat. It was probably one of the top relevant and high-perceived value welcome gifts I’ve received. I lugged that mat back to California and use it daily.
Don’t Forget the Power of Scent
Essential oils are not hippie dippy—they are real. And so are their natural powers. When I was pregnant with my daughter and could not take meds, essential oils were my lifesavers. Do you want attendees to relax and receive a well-rested night of sleep? Drop off a small vial of lavender essential oil at turndown. Want attendees to stay awake? Diffuse wild orange or peppermint into the meeting room to boost engagement and attention. Also, have peppermint oil on hand for headaches, and to ward off mosquitoes.
You could even offer an essential oil bar during a break. Have attendees smell several scents to see which resonates best with them at that moment. Then, give them the option to take a small sample with them.
What are your favorite tips for integrating health and wellness into your events?