- Despite most meal planners at medical conferences considering nutritional guidelines “very essential,” the food offered is typically calorie-dense, sweet, and rich.
- No specific nutritional guidelines are followed by these meal planners, and no doctors are involved in menu selection.
- Currently, no pre-planned vegetarian options are available at these meetings and unhealthy snacks like potato chips, snack mixes, and candies are frequently offered.
- The authors of the associated study suggest improvements such as replacing red meat with fish, providing olive oil instead of butter, removing sugary sodas and energy drinks, and eliminating deep-fried foods, especially those containing trans fats.
Medical professionals are often expected to lead the way in promoting good dietary habits. Sadly, a domestic study found that the food choices available at various medical conferences they attend do not reflect this role and can potentially impact their performance at these events adversely.
The research was spearheaded by Dr. John La Puma from the Santa Barbara Institute for Medical Nutrition and Healthy Weight. His team conducted interviews with individuals responsible for planning the annual meetings of 13 major medical professional societies in 2000. The total count of attendees exceeded 250,000 doctors and the meetings collectively offered more than 2 million meals and snacks.
Unhealthy Food Choices at Meetings
Though 61.5 percent of the meal planners rated nutritional guidelines as “very essential,” the food presented did not imply so. These meetings offered attendees an array of rich, sweet, and calorie-dense foods. Desserts were a staple at every lunch and dinner while soda was readily available during every snack break.
Gaps in Nutritional Guideline Adherence
None of the meal planners highlighted any specific nutritional guidelines nor were any doctors involved in creating the menus. Sadly, none of the meetings offered a pre-planned vegetarian meal, and break times often included unhealthy snacks like potato chips, snack mixes, or candies.
“The food offered to and consumed by physicians at these medical meetings does not meet the expected nutritional guidelines. While we advocate for food at medical meetings to be delightful and out of the ordinary, we don’t necessarily equate ‘special’ with ‘highly caloric’ and sleep-inducing meals,” the study authors note.
Suggestions for Healthier Menus at Medical Meetings
The authors of the study proposed several recommendations to enhance the standard of food served at medical conferences:
- Replace red meat with fish as the main course.
- Provide olive oil instead of butter on the table.
- Remove sugary soda and energy drinks.
- Eliminate deep-fried foods, especially those fried in hydrogenated oils containing trans fats.
Looking for more information on maintaining a healthy diet? Check out this feature on healthy eating.