With a bit of planning and preparation, healthy and safe snacks that support a balanced diet can be provided and enjoyed during conferences. Approximately 76 million Americans are affected annually by food poisoning, making it essential to handle foods safely to avoid illness. Choose snacks full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals to get you through an agenda-packed conference.
Unrefrigerated, perishable foods are no longer safe to eat within 2 hours in the danger zone of 40 to 140 degrees fahrenheit. This two hour window shortens if the temperature is above 90 degrees fahrenheit to just one hour, and in any temperature starts as soon as the food exits the refrigerator. Since this time includes the time snacks are placed on the table or include a commute, a snack wouldn't get you past the conference introductions, making it absolutely essential to select nonperishable snacks.
Snacks should deliver between 200-300 calories and at least several grams each of protein and fiber to keep energy levels elevated and satiety levels comfortable between meals. Ideally snacks should include an unrefined carbohydrate plus a protein source to maximize nutrition.
Snacks provide an opportunity to include additional vitamins and minerals in the diet. Rather than selecting prepackaged snacks, opt for whole, fresh foods which are naturally high in macro and micronutrients that are beneficial for health.
Aim for a snack which contains a minimum of 4 grams of dietary fiber, such as a medium sized apple.
These foods require no cooking and can easily be grabbed on the way out the door:
Pair whole nuts with a piece of fruit (with the skin on).
- Create trail mix by combining unsweetened dried fruits with whole nuts and seeds.
- Whole fruit can be sliced during snack time to avoid the unappealing oxidation (browning) that occurs. Pack nut or seed butter in a small container and dip fruit slices.
- Whole grain rice cakes can be provided as well as a selection of nut or seed butter spreads.
- Washed and dried cherry tomatoes and snap peas can be dipped into single serve hummus packs.
- A selection of whole grain, vegetable (such as beet) or flax baked chips can be grabbed and dipped into single serve fresh vegetable salsa.
- Whole ripe avocados can be provided and cutlery can be used to slice in half and eaten with a spoon.
- Air pop popcorn in the morning and then combine in a container with a handful of raisins and nuts for a fiber packed snack that is easy to scoop for individual servings.
- Snack on whole food snack bars, only buying brands that list whole ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Ideally there should be less than 5-6 ingredients.
Bake healthy snacks the night or several days before and seal in an airtight container:
- Use protein and fiber packed quinoa flakes or flour and incorporate into scones, muffins, breads and cookies. Quinoa muffins can be made using banana, quinoa flakes, honey and spices and then served with almond butter spread making a substantial protein, energy and fiber filled snack.
- Create energy bars or bites using ground nuts, dates, seeds and honey and serve with a toothpick in each bite size piece.
- Grind dates with unsweetened coconut for energy truffles.
- Bake energy bars by combining unsweetened muesli, nuts, dried fruits, honey and spices.
Never assume snacks will be available for a conference or meeting. Being absolutely famished will not help your attention span or ability to retain or absorb the information delivered. Instead, make sure you take the extra few minutes to make a quick snack. Alternatively, if you have a stretch of conference or meeting days lined up for the week, take time on the weekend to create some of the snacks listed above that require some preparation and cooking. You will thank yourself during the week!
If you are in an absolute pinch the morning off to the conference, don't just grab the chips and soda. Instead, opt for a protein and fiber packed snack that will keep you satiated until meal time and your blood sugar and energy levels steady. Even the smallest of minimarts and fuel stations typically carry whole fruits and trail mix or small bags of nuts. Pair one whole fruit and a bag of plain unsalted nuts with a bottle of sparkling or mineral water for a snack that will keep you comfortably full and focused.
Rather than sipping on coffee, tea, soda or processed juice, opt for sparkling or mineral water to meet fluid goals. Processed beverages can create a temporary increase in energy, followed by the inevitable energy slump mid-afternoon when your attention is required most. Always drink water to stay hydrated. If you own a juicer, consider freezing a flask overnight and quickly juicing up two apples, a chunk of celery, parsley, cucumber and ginger and pouring into a flask for a hydrating and refreshing beverage mid-morning. If you own a blender, do something similar. Blend up frozen banana, blueberries, strawberries and low fat yogurt and pack in a to go cup for a pre-lunch snack that will do wonders for energy levels.
Long conferences and meetings don’t have to mean dietary sacrifices. Whole food snacks can be easy to make with a little preparation, and the benefits are significant. Not only do natural snacks provide the fiber and protein to keep you satiated, but also contribute macro and micronutrients that support meeting dietary goals.
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