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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Healthy food choices for meetings

These healthy meetings guidelines, developed by Public Health - Seattle & King County for its employees, are model worksite policies. Organizations and businesses are encouraged to use these nutrition and physical activity guidelines in their own workplaces.

Business lunch
General guidelines
Suggestions for healthier food choices
Consider donating unused food and beverages
Food safety
Suggested physical activity guidelines
Developing food and physical activity guidelines for healthy meetings
Vending machines
Winner's Circle: Background information for future consideration

Public Health - Seattle & King County promotes healthy lifestyles including healthy food choices and regular physical activity through our programs, community work and special projects in King County. It is essential for Public Health to model our commitment to healthy lifestyles by working to create a healthy work environment.

The strong relationship between diet and health and the increasing rates of overweight and obesity make supporting healthy food choices at work part of our commitment to health. The following guidelines were developed to help facilitate the selection of healthy, low-fat and lower calorie food and beverage options for Public Health meetings beginning April 2005.

By following these guidelines, we can promote better health and help reduce risks for chronic diseases. It is not the intention of these guidelines to dictate what individual staff members eat, or bring into the office for special occasions. Instead, these guidelines are intended to assist Public Health staff in making healthy food and beverage choices purchased with Public Health resources for all meetings, trainings, and events.

General guidelines
  • Bowl of fruitServe appropriate portion and serving sizes that reflect the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • Select foods and beverages that are culturally appropriate
  • Choose foods that are low in fat, especially saturated and trans fats
  • Provide entrees that are low in fat
  • Provide whole grain products
  • Provide fresh fruits and vegetables, and salads
  • Provide vegetarian options
  • Offer locally or Washington grown products, when available
  • Offer organic products, when available
  • Serve nonfat or 1% milk, 100% fruit or vegetable juice, water or unsweetened iced tea instead of soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Provide pitchers of water at meetings (not bottled water)
  • Avoid foods with added salt and added sugar
  • Include space on registration forms to indicate food allergies or dietary restrictions
  • Use recyclable, disposable products when proper dishwashing facilities are not available
  • Follow safe food handling practices (For example, wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold
  • Provide Nutrition Facts Labels whenever possible
Suggestions for healthier food choices

The following are lists of recommended food choices for Public Health sponsored events to provide culturally appropriate, healthier foods and beverages for breakfast, lunch/dinner, snacks and receptions.

Food suggestions for breakfast:

  • yogurtFresh fruit
  • Low-fat breakfast burrito
  • Yogurt - low or non-fat
  • Hard cooked eggs
  • Whole wheat or multi-grain mini bagels (or cut regular bagels in half)
  • Small muffins (2-1/2" or smaller) - bran, oatmeal, or multi-grain (large muffins can be cut into smaller portion sizes)
  • Fruit quick breads (i.e., oatmeal, banana, pumpkin) - cut into small pieces
  • Whole grain toast or English muffins
  • Offer low-fat (LF) cheese, LF cream cheese, peanut butter, jam or jelly
  • Granola bars - low fat (5 grams of fat or less/bar)
  • bananaLow-fat granola
  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice (4 - 6 ounce portions)
  • Water -- plain, sparkling or flavored with no added sugar
  • Coffee, tea (offer decaf) - served with nonfat or 1% milk

Food suggestions for lunch/dinner:

  • tacoSalad with low-fat or fat-free dressing on the side
  • Soups - vegetarian broth based or skim milk based (not cream)
  • Pasta salad with low-fat dressing
  • Sandwiches made with whole grain breads or wraps made with lean meats, low-fat cheese & low-fat condiments
  • 2-3 ounce serving - lean meats, poultry, fish, tofu (3 grams fat/oz)
  • Steamed vegetables with herbs/lemon
  • Whole grain rolls
  • Fresh fruit, canned fruit in fruit juice or light syrup
  • Include at least one vegetable - fresh or cooked (avoid cream sauces)
  • Baked potatoes with low fat toppings (low-fat sour cream, low-fat plain yogurt, or salsa)
  • When serving desserts, offer small serving sizes. Consider: angel food cake (2" square) with fresh fruit topping, low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.
  • Boxed lunches/dinners - whole grain or pita bread or wraps prepared with low-fat mayonnaise; meats, poultry or marinated tofu
    (low-fat = 3 g fat/oz); low-fat cheese, request fruit or veggies instead of chips; or if including chips request pretzels or baked chips (7 g fat or less/oz).
  • Water -- plain, sparkling or flavored with no added sugar
  • Coffee, tea (offer decaf) - served with nonfat or 1% milk

Food suggestions for snacks (am/pm):

  • carrotsConsider whether it is necessary to provide food at meetings, presentations, and seminars, especially mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
  • Fresh fruit
  • Raw vegetables - if providing, choose non-fat, low-fat dips or salsa
  • Pretzels, hot pretzels cut in pieces or baked chips (7 grams of fat or less/ounce)
  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice, avoid soft drinks
  • Low fat cheese, string cheese
  • Granola bars - low fat (5 grams of fat or less/bar)
  • "Lite" popcorn (lightly salted)
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Dried fruit or trail mix
  • Roasted nuts
  • Water -- plain, sparkling or flavored with no added sugar
  • Coffee, tea (offer decaf) - served with nonfat or 1% milk

receptionFood suggestions for receptions:

Most food service professionals are familiar with healthier food preparation options and are willing to accommodate requests for changes to their usual fare.

  • Fresh fruit - cut up and offered with low-fat yogurt dip
  • Raw vegetables salads marinated in fat-free or low-fat Italian dressing
  • Vegetable sushi rolls
  • Low fat cheese slices or small cubes
  • Reduced or low-fat whole grain crackers
  • Lean beef or turkey - 1 ounce slices
  • Miniature meatballs made with lean meat
  • Mushroom caps with low-fat cheese stuffing
  • Miniature pizzas made with English muffins, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and mushrooms
  • Roasted nuts

Food contractors:

Work with food contractors used by Public Health to identify culturally appropriate, nutritious, lower calorie food items on their menus to make food and beverage selection easier for Public Health staff.

Consider donating unused food and beverages
  • food bankUnused food can be donated only if the food has been stored properly and maintained at the proper temperature.
  • Food cannot be donated if it has been on the service (or buffet) table, even if it has been kept at the correct temperature.
  • Contact a local food bank to make arrangements for donations.
Food safety

When providing snacks and/or meals during a meeting, follow these basic guidelines to prevent foodborne illness:

Note: At a buffet, food should be kept hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Food should be kept cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice or using small serving trays and replacing them often.

Suggested physical activity guidelines: (half day or longer meetings)
  • Try to choose a meeting location where participants can easily and safely take a walk.
  • Provide participants with maps of the area showing good walking routes.
  • Organize an early morning physical activity opportunity for overnight conferences. Offer either a walk or low-impact fitness activity.
  • To encourage physical activity throughout the meeting tell participants that the dress code is casual.
  • Encourage participants to take the stairs. Place signs near the elevators telling people where the stairs are.
  • Include physical activity on the meeting agenda so participants can plan appropriately (rain coat, umbrella, walking shoes, etc).
  • Encourage networking by suggesting that groups take a walk together and talk about their common goals.
  • Schedule brief activity / stretch breaks in the AM and PM led by a group member.
  • If the meeting/conference is in a hotel, give hours and location of gym.
Developing food and physical activity guidelines for healthy meetings

Food guidelines increase access to healthy foods and are an important component of worksite wellness.  Promoting healthy eating and physical activity is important to all organizations because having healthy employees improves quality of life and impacts the health of the organization. 

Here are the steps to consider as you begin the process of developing guidelines within your organization.  These steps may need to be revised according to policies and procedures in place within your organization.

  1. Obtain approval from managers to develop food and physical activity guidelines.
  2. Identify a sponsor from the managers in your organization to participate on committee.
  3. Recruit voluntary representatives from all sections within your organization. It helps to have staff that have a personal commitment to improving the worksite environment for healthier employees.
  4. You can adopt Public Health - Seattle & King County's Food Guidelines. Or you can develop your own guidelines by collecting and reviewing existing food guidelines from other organizations and adapting them to your company's needs and preferences. /li>
  5. Write the first draft of food guidelines for your committee to review and comments.
  6. Convene a Food & Physical Activity Guidelines Committee
    1. review proposed food and physical activity guidelines to adopt, or bring a draft of food and physical activity guidelines you've developednt>
    2. discuss process to complete guidelines and obtain management approval
    3. use e-mail to get input and update from committee members
  7. Share the Healthy Food and Physical Activity Guidelines with managers and supervisors at meetings to discuss and disseminate to staff for comments prior to adopting.
  8. Revise, if needed, and obtain final approval from management team
  9. Disseminate your organization's Food and Physical Activity Guidelines to employees.nt>
  10. Provide Food and Physical Activity Guidelines to food contractors who cater food for your meetings. Use the guidelines to select menus for meetings, conferences and events.

If you have questions about developing your Healthy Food & Physical Activity Guidelines for your organization, you can contact: Donna Oberg, Nutrition Consultant, Public Health Seattle & King County or 206-263-8376.

Vending machines

Public Health – Seattle & King County has a Healthy Vending Implementation Toolkit for institutions interested in offering healthier food and beverages in vending machines. Please use this toolkit and feel free to circulate it widely to others.

The toolkit helps organizations implement the King County Healthy Vending Guidelines, passed in April 2011 by the King County Board of Health.

Winner's Circle nutrition criteria for healthy vending foods:

  • Less than 30% fat
  • Less than 480 milligrams sodium
  • No more than 35% sugar by weight or no more than 15 grams of added sugar
  • For dairy snacks:
    • 4 ounce servings must have at least 120 milligrams calcium
    • 6 ounce servings must have at least 150 milligrams calcium
    • 8 ounce servings must have at least 245 milligrams calcium
  • List of vending foods

Additional vending resources

Winner's Circle: Background information for future consideration

Winner's CircleThe Winner's Circle in Washington State with the Department of Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity unit providing coordination of this program. The Winner's Circle Healthy Dining Program identifies (using a Winner's Circle logo) and promotes healthy menu items and raises awareness of eating establishments' participation in the Winner's Circle Program. The Winner's Circle can be made available in dining establishments - local restaurants, chain restaurants, schools, cafeterias, worksites, vending machines, convenience stores, recreation sites, hospitals, universities and others. The Winner's Circle Program was developed by NC Prevention Partners, a non-profit organization based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They worked in collaboration with local, state, and national agencies developing guidelines approved by a national advisory committee.