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by Kate Mulcrone | June 01, 2011

20-calorie bitesBreaks are essential for productivity at meetings, but all too often attendees use a 15- to 20-minute gap in the schedule to catch up on e-mail or return phone calls. To get attendees to mix, mingle and refresh themselves, try a strategy pioneered at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, in Southern California.

At the Ritz-Carlton Luxury Meetings Forum held at the property in January, attendees were treated to a “20/20/20 break” on the hotel’s oceanview terrace. Over the course of 20 minutes, they sampled their way through 20 bite-sized appetizers. Sounds like a lot, but each delicious morsel clocked in at 20 calories or fewer. Savory bites included crispy goat cheese with truffle honey, seared beef and scallion rolls with a ponzu glaze, and ahi tuna with mango and avocado mousse. There were sweet treats, too, such as pineapple cannoli, and blueberry compote with almond streusel and candied lemon.

Among a group of full-time meeting planners and journalists, the 20/20/20 break generated the kind of glee you’d expect to witness at a child’s birthday party. Everyone wanted to know what everyone else had tried, and several people gushed about their favorites. Since each bite-sized serving was both healthy and low in calories, people also indulged as freely as children would; after all, eating one of everything would add up to just 400 calories.