Kira Orr, MS, RDN

Attending a professional conference is an exciting work-related opportunity! The swag bags, the great connections, the speakers, and new information, all potentially in a great location if you are lucky. Indeed, there is not much that can detract from your otherwise perfectly planned attendance; unless you fail to also put thought into what you will be eating and drinking during your stay, and how that may impact your overall enjoyment and purpose of attending the conference in the first place.

The human machine runs on energy from foods and drinks; however, not all foods and drinks are created equal! Making wise choices at the start of the conference, particularly in the morning, will pay dividends throughout the event. For example, if the conference is covering meals and snacks, you will likely be faced with an assortment of the following: sugary pastries, boxed cereal, flavored yogurt, and a variety of juices. Choose any of these and you’ll be fighting a nap in 1-2 hours!

Foods and beverages that are readily available at conferences are high in added sugar (yes, even the juices!). The target for added sugar is 24 grams and 36 grams per day for women and men, respectively. As a reference, an average pastry typically contains 20 grams of sugar, a bowl of cereal 10-15 grams, flavored yogurt 15 grams, and a glass of orange juice 18 grams. Though these types of foods may be tempting (because they taste good, and are free), they will undoubtedly impede your mental clarity and usual sharp wit. Remembering your intention for attending the conference (learn, network, engage) may help you steer clear of potential self-sabotage, and give you the strength to make wiser choices.

Now that you are reflecting on food and beverage choices, the following are some better selections that are usually readily available: Oatmeal with raisins or dried cranberries · Hard Boiled eggs · Fresh fruit · Plain yogurt with a tablespoon brown sugar or honey · If you must have a pastry, choose either a croissant or bagel · Black coffee, hot or unsweetened iced tea, unsweetened milks · Water with lemon In addition, bringing some food with you just in case you don’t like what is being served, or if something goes wrong with catering is also a good idea:  Trail mix (nuts, seeds, raisins)· Protein bar (at least 20 grams protein)· Apples, bananas, pears, plums· Natural peanut butter on a Carb Balance Tortilla· String Cheese.

Try these options at your next professional conference and find how awake and focused you remain throughout the day!

KIRA P. ORR, MS, RD, CSSD |Program Manager | Geneva Foundation |IPMC | Madigan Army Medical Center CPT, SP | 65C7451 Medical Operations Readiness Unit |JBLM, WA | USARC: