by Bruce Myint | May 01, 2004

Eating healthfully while on the road has never been easy, but it has grown even tougher for those undertaking low-carb regimens such as the Atkins and South Beach diets.
    With an estimated one out of four Americans following a low-carb diet, hotels across the country have been scrambling to formulate menu items that comply. Here’s the skinny on what some hotels are cooking up.

It looks like the ubiquitous tray of bagels and Danishes may be going the way of the dinosaur burger. In order to trim down diet-busting hotel fare, 200 Sheraton properties last month unveiled new menus reprinted with health-conscious options like portobello chicken burgers, seared Norwegian salmon and salmon lettuce wraps.
    Special banquet menus also were made available to meeting attendees. Even the chocolate mint received an overhaul the pillow-top treat now offers less than one net carb.
    It’s all part of a program called “Lo-Carb Lifestyle,” a campaign that came to life when Starwood Hotels chairman and CEO Barry S. Sternlicht, a carb-watcher himself, observed the popularity of low-carb options among meeting attendees.
    “I have personally found it challenging to stay on my diet on the road, especially when attending meetings,” he says.  “It’s time the travel industry catered to low-carb devotees.”
    Sheraton is not alone. In March, 100 Hyatt hotels nationwide updated their banquet, restaurant and room service offerings with new highlights, including salmon quesadillas, turkey medallions and short ribs with cauliflower puree an increasingly popular substitute for mashed potatoes.
    This fall, the Chicago-based chain plans to relaunch its Cuisine Naturelle menu, a lineup of low-fat, low-calorie dishes first offered to guests 10 years ago.
    “Catering to attendees’ special menu requests is a must in the modern meetings and conventions industry,” says Rob Cameron, director of sales at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego.  “Low-carb requests are increasing greatly, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.”
    Cameron says in addition to low-carb requests, the hotel’s catering staff has been asked to plate up vegan, gluten-free, low-protein, low-sodium, low-cholesterol and high-fiber meals.
    Some venues observe that guests have different notions of what it means to go low-carb. “Many will request low carbs, but they really mean
no fruit, and they won’t eat many vegetables,” says Tracey Fogarty, director of sales at La Casa del Zorro Desert Resort in Borrego Springs, Calif. “So we talk to attendees about what they typically eat, usually in advance as part of the check-in process.”

Even the most important meal of the day is being recast. Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, which serves more than 25 million breakfasts a year, updated its morning menus with items such as strawberry-garnished sausages, vegetable omelettes, and eggs with chicken, avocado and salsa.
    While the changes took place at more than 1,000 Holiday Inn properties across the United States, carb-watchers who have fallen off the bandwagon still have options. The Atlanta-based chain says it will still offer its signature breakfast indulgence: cinnamon supreme french toast.

The new craze also is making a big splash during happy hour. Noting that specialty drinks often are packed with high-calorie fruit juices and alcohol, New York-based Loews Hotels recently unveiled a special “No Carbtails” drink menu. The new beverage lineup includes libations such as diet-friendly daiquiris and vodka-infused green tea. Loews says diners often will pair the new cocktails with high-protein menu selections.