As much fun as conventions and trade shows are, they come with some significant obstacles to healthy choices. These shows can be crowded, loud, hectic, filled with long hours on your feet, overpriced, concession stand coffee and greasy, cardboard, heat lamp pizza, if you’re not prepared. That gets expensive and leaves you feeling awful when you need to be on your toes.

With back to back conventions upcoming, Meatless Monday seemed like a great opportunity to offer some tips and tricks on getting more veg (and more nutrition) into your convention experience. This will all be pretty common sense stuff that I’ve picked up over the years (although some of it took a lot longer to figure out than I’d like to admit).

BYOB – Bring Your Own Basics:

  • Bottled water
  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Granola bars (go with the “whole nuts and seeds” varieties, they’ll keep you satisfied longer)
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Veggie Sticks

If you’re exhibiting, these are essentials. Even if you plan on eating meals at the concession stands, the fact is, sometimes you can’t get away for hours, to do so. If you’re a guest, these options are small, light, easy to carry around and don’t leave smears or crumbs. These are also what I call “slow burning” foods. They’ll stay with you a lot longer than sugar or caffeine and won’t put you on that blood sugar, high-low roller coaster.

Personally, I’m also a pack-my-own-lunch-if-I-can, kinda gal, which isn’t often an option when you’re traveling so it’s handy to know where the grocery stores nearest to your convention centre are (thank you, Google). Most of them have pre-packed salads and deli lunches at really reasonable prices. The other thing I figured out a while ago is that a lot of produce will keep for a day or two at room temperature. Just look at what the stores don’t keep refrigerated: apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, avocados, green beans, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, baby carrots, I could go on. Even a few that are kept cold, like celery, will be alright for a day or two in sealed containers…This probably doesn’t need to be said, but use up or throw out the dip on the first day. Dairy gets ugly, fast.

Subway, Quiznos, Druxy’s and pita places have great veggie-loaded options (a lot of them will even put your sauces in containers for you if you ask, so your sandwich doesn’t get soggy by lunchtime) and don’t forget there’s always room-service at your hotel. It’s a more expensive option, but if you ask them to pack you a lunch the night before, they’ll have it ready to pick up on your way out in the morning. Once, I even asked The Marriott, in Huston (best hotel I’ve been to in the U.S.) if they’d just make me a container of veggies and dip (which wasn’t on the menu). They put together this wonderful mixed plate and added in some cheese, olives, hummus and pita triangles. The extras were a surprise and such a nice treat!

It sounds like a lot but in terms of pay-off, physically and financially, a little planning is really worth the effort.