November 01, 2016
Health-conscious guests, attention to food production, and an increase in dietary restrictions have all led to more discerning palettes at events. 

From banquet menus to session breaks, here are a few healthy menu tips from some top chefs. 

Focus more on vegetables
A butcher by trade and passion, Chef Chris Eley of Goose the Market in Indianapolis also recognizes the importance of well-prepared produce on event menus. Eley sees the portion sizes of proteins being reduced to focus on fresh, well-prepared vegetable dishes. "Vegetables are now rivaling proteins for popularity and preference," he added. "We will see more plates where the protein is a complement to the produce, rather than the reverse." 

Upgrade the boxed lunch 
A grab and go option for meetings or excursions doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing quality. By working with a local food artisan like Goose the Market, recognized by Bon Appetit as a top 10 sandwich shop in the country, you can offer a healthy and creative option. Eley suggests high-quality smoked meats from Indiana farms, farmstead-aged cheese, preserves, mustard, and gluten-free crackers. Offer an appealing vegetarian option, and consider biodegradable containers. 

Swap out the salt
Executive Chef Michael Vlasich of the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown approaches nutrition holistically, taking into account how the food interacts with the body and mind during the work day. As an award-winning American Culinary Federation member, he was put to the test when his property hosted his colleagues for an ACF Chef Connect event in 2015. During that event, and for others since, Vlasich put playful spins on Midwestern favorites. While local dishes lend themselves to comfort food, he offers a few healthier tricks like replacing butter and animal fat with flavored oils, and swapping salt for acids or vinegars to bring out the flavor. 

Source local
Developing a healthy banquet menu today can go beyond just reducing the amount of cream in recipes or avoiding allergens. "Today's convention guests are much more educated and expect a great product," said Brendon Cheney, banquet chef at the JW Marriott Indianapolis. "Healthy can also mean food is sourced responsibly and handled with care." 

Chef Cheney works with clients to craft menus that source from local, sustainable vendors like Four Birds Bakery, Fischer Farms, and Smoking Goose, Goose the Market's sister operation. He strives to craft healthy, energizing meals that stay on budget and align with the goal of the meeting. 

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