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Healthy Menu Navigator: Conference room lunch

First thing’s first: accept that you’re going to have a sandwich. (Photo:


Even if you know to steer clear of the bread basket, it turns out the average restaurant meal clocks in at a whopping 1,128 calories—yep, 1,128—making it easy for even the most health-savvy among us to think we’re eating well while eating out, when we’re not.

HealthyMenuNavigatorFinal21Enter nutritionist-author Heather Bauer, of Bread is the Devil and Bestowed fame—and our culinary compass. Each week, Bauer steers us toward the healthiest choices on restaurant menus of any type.

Last time, it was what to eat at a café. This week, it’s a conference room lunch! Here’s what you need to know before you fill your plate and settle into your swivel chair.

Heather Bauer’s café menu navigational nugget

First thing’s first: accept that you’re going to have a sandwich. “Eating a huge plate of turkey and ham cold cuts isn’t doing you any favors,” Bauer says. “There’s so much sodium, if you sit there long enough you’re suddenly inclined to start picking up the bread. Then you’ve had 10,000 more calories than if you just ate the turkey sandwich.”

Another key piece of advice? Delay eating as late as possible. “If you’re going to be in that meeting for three-plus hours, your food isn’t going anywhere,” she says. “Be the last in line, eat slowly, and fill your water glass at least three times.”

Here’s what to eat at your next conference room lunch meeting. Which hopefully isn’t for a while…



1. Mixed greens. There’s usually at least one big salad. Try to fill your plate with mostly veggies.

2. Coleslaw. Drain the mayonnaise, though. It’s full of sugar, and sweet begets sweet. Next thing you know you’ll be reaching for the cookie plate.

3. Fruit salad—if there is any. Fill about a third of your plate, and remember, fruit counts as a carb.


 1. Chicken or tuna salad sandwich. But if there’s mayo (which causes the fat level to rise), then peel off the bread and pair it with a mixed green salad.

2. Sliced ham or turkey sandwich. Do it on whole grain or rye, if possible.

3. Vegetarian sandwich. It’s great if there’s cucumber, lettuce, tomato, and sprouts. But if there’s avocado, hummus, or cheese, make sure to just pick one and scrape off the others with a fork. You only need one or two fats!


1. Potato salad. This is a conference caterer’s favorite that’s filled with carbs and sugar.

2. All cookies. Yes, it’s hard to avoid these, but the sugar will only make you crash and crave more sugar. And with a plate full of cookies sitting idly by you for hours, that’s a dangerous combination.

3. Wraps. Sit down for the one: The tortilla alone can have more than 200 calories and 36 grams of carbs. Compare that to two slices of commercial whole wheat bread at 140 calories and 22g carbs. If only wrap sandwiches are served, take off half of the wrap. It won’t fall apart, I promise!

Hungry for more? Check out Bauer’s guides to ordering at an American restaurant or a food truck.