You Too Can Have Healthy Meetings!

Panel discussion featuring, from left:  Kathy Gerwig, Marilyn Chow, Kelly Kearney, and Erin Meade.
Panel discussion featuring, from left: Kathy Gerwig, Marilyn Chow, Kelly Kearney, and Erin Meade.

On Monday, February 2nd, our friends at Kaiser Permanante’s Garfield Innovation Center hosted a great event focusing on delicious, healthy food. “A Taste of the Garfield Center” featured local Bay Area caterers to showcase menus that adhere to Kaiser Permanente’s “Healthy Picks” policy, along with a few presentations on healthy meeting and working practices.

I was certainly humbled to be on a panel with Kathy Gerwig, Marilyn Chow, both of Kaiser Permanente, and Kelly Kearney of Pacific Fine Foods (a favorite at the Garfield Center) – three incredible women. I was inspired that 100 Kaiser Permanente employees made time in their busy schedules to attend the event so that they could go back to the office with a better understanding of healthy picks to share with their teams. The audience included administrative assistants, lawyers, nurses, designers; many expressed trepidation about trying to change habits from their relatively junior positions. “After all,” said one assistant, “we aren’t all vice presidents.” Marilyn’s answer – sincere, honest, and inspiring – was simply, “We all lead from where we are.”

Kelly and the Pacific Fine Foods Team (showing off their VERY delicious kale chips)
Kelly and the Pacific Fine Foods Team

The Center for Total Health was one of the earliest adapters of the Healthy Picks guidelines, about a year ahead of schedule. As a team, we love helping our guests explore healthy AND delicious menus (ideally paired with some physical activity) for their meetings and events, and we are lucky to get to work with colleagues from inside and outside of the organization.

Now, I’m going to challenge YOU to make your next meeting healthier! Here are some tips and tools to help you start:

1. Get agreement for the concept of healthy meetings as a concept before introducing it for a specific meeting. Then hold people to it (especially the boss and other leaders).
2. Ease in! You don’t have to do a 180 degree change overnight. Try making healthy substitutions (lowfat yogurt, leaner meats, more fruits and vegetables) to start.
3. Healthy food can be tasty and fun – look for menu items with herbs and spices instead of sauces, and consider interactive options like a build your own salad bar to get people engaged in (and excited about) what they’re eating. Bonus: no one can complain about what’s in their salad!
4. If you’re ordering from a large chain, they are legally required to provide nutrition information on their menus. Use it! If you aren’t sure what is best, try consulting the USDA’s Healthy Plate guidelines or Kaiser Permanante’s own Healthy Picks guidelines. You might also like our Healthy Meetings Essentials toolkit, which has information about menus, activity, sustainability and more!

We’d love to hear more suggestions from you, and let us know if you’re working on making your meetings (or work environment) healthier!

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