As a business owner, I attend my fair share of conferences throughout the year. Like airports and amusement parks, a conference often makes you feel like you have no choice but to eat the food that is offered, which consists of all those things not found on the food pyramid. Instead, the main selections are often full of fat, calories, sodium and sugar: everything you are supposed to have in small quantities.
However, the more that I’ve focused on my health, the more I realized I could still eat healthfully at conferences despite the donuts, hot dogs, fries and soda. Here’s my routine:
- Eat outside of the conference: You can hit the hotel for breakfast and dinner, and find a nearby restaurant for lunch to get more control over the food choices offered. Having a large breakfast back at the hotel fills me up and keeps me from reaching for those unhealthy conference snacks. The hotel tends to offer a breakfast buffet where I can get plenty of fresh fruit and lean proteins. Having lunch and dinner at the hotel or a nearby restaurant can also help me avoid foods that tend to give me the afternoon drag.
- Bring healthy choices inside the conference: The good thing about many healthy options is that they are easy portable. From bottled water to fruit to trail mix and a protein bar, these items are easy for me to slip into a bag and carry around the conference. The water keeps me hydrated and fills me up while the healthy snacks quell any rumblings.
- Get in some exercise: There’s a lot of sitting at a conference, so it helps when I can get in some exercise by walking the exhibit floor or around the convention center or other venue. This also provides a way for me to enjoy a bit of the local color while I work off those calories and get my blood pumping so I’m alert for the next round of seminars and speeches. I also like to stay at a hotel that has a 24-hour gym so I can squeeze in an early morning or late night workout. Plus, if I do sneak in any conference food, that exercise can help keep balance out that moment of weakness. My fitness tracker tells me how many steps I’ve done for the day, so I can make sure I’m staying on top of my goals even when away from my home base.
- Take vitamins: Multivitamins are an essential in my daily regimen. They ensure that, even when I’m away at a conference, I hit my recommended daily allowance of vitamins and nutrients that my body and mind need for optimal performance. These vitamins also help offset any deficiencies in vitamin and nutrient intake that could happen while traveling. I pack a small bag with just enough for each day while I’m at the conference.
- Choose moderation: When I do have to attend a cocktail party or some special event that may involve numerous temptations, I don’t want to be rude and not partake. However, I make sure that I stick to everything in moderation rather than grabbing an entire tray of appetizers. It’s okay to enjoy some of these special catered events that occur at conferences, especially when it’s a potential client or partner, so they know you appreciate their hospitality.
Even when are times where I don’t completely adhere to my healthy strategy for conferences, I don’t give up or kick myself for giving into temptation. Instead, I regroup and start again at home to make the healthiest habits stick. When I started out, I didn’t accomplish every action listed. I built on just one or two areas to get myself to an overall healthier stage, until I could meet each goal.
John Rampton is the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Due, a free online invoicing company specializing in helping businesses bill their client easily online. You can connect with him @johnrampton.
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