Welcome guest blogger Kim Jean, Gathering Guru and Business Development Manager at Catalyst Ranch. Her super powers on staff include bringing in a wide array of new audiences to see the wonder of our creative space, but her off-Ranch strengths include superior nutrition and wellness knowledge and entrepreneurial gusto with her own health food brand MOSSUM, heralding the dietary value of Sea Moss. Here she reminds meeting planners to not feel discouraged in choosing meals for their attendees, but rather empowered by getting down to the basics with Grouping: Choosing a Balanced and Energizing Menu.


Food is a key component of every meeting and contributes greatly to the overall health of the meeting environment.  Healthy meeting environments improve participants’ productivity and leave them with a positive memory of the event.  Pick the right menu and you’ll be set up for success. Your participants will feel their well-being is being considered.

Granola bars

Having a few granola bars on hand does NOT a Healthy Menu make!

So what do I mean by healthy? It’s not about depending on nutrition bars or supplement beverages. Instead let’s go back to the logical, original sense of healthy: Balanced and energizing food–but with an added consideration for allergen requirements and dietary requests. After all, you want your group to be able to participate through the length of the meeting. You want to feel that your choices are satisfying and nutritious, that there is variety in the food groups.

Choosing the perfect menu has become a lot more difficult in recent years as we know. But I’m offering you a different way to think about how you select. When you are going through the menu for breakfast, lunch or dinner, use this special grouping model–these are NOT your basic food pyramid groups. Here’s why:

  • Grouping allows you to get a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, even if you have participants with special dietary needs. Nailed it!
  • You can use the groupings to select which ingredients from each group satisfy your needs before you tackle the caterer’s menu, making the whole process less stressful and more successful. Yes!
  • Grouping allows you to choose foods that don’t overlap, for example hash browns for breakfast and French fries for lunch. That carb overload leads to an afternoon crash. Crisis averted!

Listed below are the basic food items from each group.

Keep in mind that many prepared dishes will contain items from more than one group so consider this when making your selections.


Group 1: Seeds+Vegetables.  Seeds such as quinoa, flax and chia are bountiful in providing fiber and carbohydrates, plus vitamins and minerals. You can find them alongside traditional vegetables in many soups and salads.

Group 2: Milk, Eggs, Fish, Meat, Dried Fruit + Nuts. These are rich in protein and minerals. Luckily this group is so vast that you can easily check it off no matter what no-no’s you’re working with. Can’t have animal meat? Make sure to include nuts and dairy. Allergy to tree-nuts? There’s plenty of options to cover Group 2 in your menu. Some less-often thought of items that qualify: Other seafood like squid and octopus!

Group 3: Cereals, Grains, Legumes and Starches. These yield basic provisions of carbohydrates. Yes, our bodies need carbohydrates. The key is choosing good ones that will keep a meeting attendee energized as opposed to bloated and sleepy. Some  less common examples are gofio; yams; sweet potatoes; legumes like chickpeas, lentils and soybeans; other cereals like couscous and bulgur.

Group 4: Fruit. Preferably whole or as fresh juice, fruits are good for fiber, vitamins and minerals. Any kind of fruit may be chosen. Combine citric fruits with other fruits, the more juicy ones with more solid ones, like oranges with bananas. You can have a variety within each group as well as between groups!

It’s really just that simple. Take these four groups and build a menu that’s plentiful. Because when you hit all the groups and get the nutrients provided from each, your meals will support the attention and engagement of the meeting attendees!