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Conference delegates remember bad food. Get the food wrong and it could be one of the major messages delegates take back with them. But how do you know that the food you dish up can also have a beneficial or detrimental effect on your delegates’ concentration?

What you give your delegates to eat and when you break for lunch or snacks are just as important when it comes to choosing a menu. Leading nutritionist Ian Marber, aka TV’s The Food Doctor, says frequency matters when it comes to maintaining the perfect energy and concentration levels. Marber advocates there is no place for a huge lunch in the middle of the day, instead delegates would eat more frequent but substantial snacks of protein and complex carbohydrate-based foods.

Here are some key things to consider next time you are planning the food for your event:

Timing is crucial, claims Marber – “Eating little and often keep blood glucose levels consistent. Food should be the source of your energy levels, otherwise you get your energy from stress and you are not performing effectively – you are just running on adrenaline. If you get a peak, you then get a trough – a rush of adrenaline is followed by exhaustion.”

“The worst foods you can give are simple carbohydrates – cola, tea and coffee with sugar served with a pastry. Simple carbohydrates lead to a surge in energy which ultimately leads to a slump.” continues Marber.

Protein content – Delegates need to consume enough protein – fish, meat, eggs, nuts and tofu are high in protein. Research by Northumbria University’s Brain Performance and Nutrition Research Centre suggests that although it may not help concentration levels, it may play a part in helping delegates remember the message.

Post lunch nap? – Marber suggests some foods help you nod off and organisers should avoid feeding them to delegates. Such foods include turkey, cottage cheese and bananas. The culprit is an amino acid contained within the food called tryptophan, which is a natural sedative.
Imago at Loughborough University is one of the few dedicated conference centres in the UK to have been awarded the Food for the Brain Accreditation. This is an independent evaluation of how well catering operations deliver food to their customers and the nutritional value of the food on offer. Imago’s Executive Chef, Andy Grant, also has some advice:

Get fruity – always include fresh fruit in delegate menus to aid digestion and provide long lasting energy

Watch your Speed – One thing to consider is how much GL, or Glycaemic Load a food contains. GL reflects the speed at which carbohydrate is converted into sugar and released into the body. Low GL foods fill delegates up for longer and helps prevent the post eating slump. Los GL foods such as nuts and dried apricots are excellent for break times, as they help prevent energy levels dropping.

Caffeine Comedown – Drinks also play an important role in delegates performance. Stimulants such as tea and coffee may initially heighten energy levels, however the delegate may notice a period of tiredness when the caffeine wears off. To aid energy and concentration levels, Imago recommends herbal teas, sugar free juices, smoothies and of course, water as they all rehydrate.

How seedy are you? The body is unable to produce Omega 3 fats, so they need to be regularly consumed in our diets instead. Omega 3 is used by the body for essential functions, particularly by the brain for memory and mood, as well as for heart function and hormone balance. Oily fish, linseeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts are a good source of Omega 3.


Source: “Meet, Eat & Sleep”, Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine, October 2008, pgs 31-33

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