By Beth Buehler
Colorado is one of the fittest states in the nation, so it’s only natural that healthy cuisine and menus are top priorities for the majority of residents, restaurants, hotels, resorts and venues. Plus, it’s fair to say meeting attendees and traveling groups are taking to culinary programs and looking for healthy eating options, especially when given a wide range of culinary options in Colorado.
Soon after The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs was purchased a few years ago and at the prompting of the new owner, the iconic resort introduced Natural Epicurean as a new restaurant option serving a variety of organic and natural choices and accommodating vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and diners with no specific preferences or needs without sacrificing flavor. The property also has Taste & Savor Moveable Feast series that in 2016 includes a Broadmoor Farms to Broadmoor Tables in late July and Stream to Table in late September.
In Aspen, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) showcases regional products and sustainable agriculture with summer farm-to-table dinners held in the open-air barn at the organization’s Rock Bottom Ranch.
Several other properties and venues also are growing their own crops for the ultimate in local sourcing. One of my favorites is Blue Bear Farm at Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver made possible by several entities, including hospitality partner Centerplate. The 5,000-square-foot urban garden grows more than 1,800 pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs used in meals served at CCC. Not far away, Denver Union Station recently installed four rooftop honeybee colonies so on-site retailers and restaurants, many serving groups, can use the honey.
Boulder has long been a destination that takes healthy yet tasty eating seriously. Several chefs have their own herds and crops, plus caterers and event planners partner with several of the nearly 20 farms that serve on-site farm dinners featuring ingredients harvested just a few hours prior.
Here are a few tips to integrate healthy eating into your Colorado meeting.
- Know your attendees – The question “Do you have any special dietary needs?” is now standard but has come to mean more than just vegetarian. Provide plenty of choices for attendees simply looking to eat healthy while on the road and not just dishes loaded with calories.
- Get creative with breaks – One break that I remember is a station with smoothies featuring Colorado fruits like peaches and cherries. Homemade granola, Colorado-made yogurt and fresh fruit rounded out the options. Fruits, nuts, dark chocolate and popcorn that hasn’t been overloaded with oil and butter can be a good afternoon break combo along with beverage options other than sodas and caffeinated drinks. One of the best conference gifts I’ve seen lately are nice, heavy plastic cups with lids, straws and an insert to place fresh fruit and herbs to infuse ice water. I also like the large jugs of infused water at water stations, which would be the less expensive route.
- Pep up receptions – Outdoor receptions are a breath of fresh air. Wine spritzers, fresh-pressed juices to drink plain or in a cocktail, plenty of fruits and vegetables creatively worked into appetizer options, lean cuts of meats like elk and buffalo, and mini legume and quinoa salads are just a few options.
- Ask what’s local and in season – Consult with chefs and caterers offering culinary programs about what is grown nearby and will be in season during your meeting timeframe. Eating fresh and seasonal is always more tasty and fun.
Colorado lodging properties, venues, restaurants and caterers take pride in delivering healthy and delicious fare and are willing to work closely with planners and staff who are coordinating a healthy culinary program into their meeting or event in the Centennial State. Sometimes it just takes knowing that a client is interested!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.