A Few Strategies for Eating Well at Conferences

A delicious conference breakfastConferences are important in academia and ProfHacker has given them attention in the past, such as Brian Croxall’s post “How to Hack A Conference.”   Attending conferences is beneficial professionally but can be tiresome personally. If you’re not careful, you could return home more tired than anything.

There are many things you can do to take care of yourself while conferencing. Natalie Houston previously wrote about “Add[ing] Exercise to Your Conference Schedule.” Keeping yourself nourished is important too, and I’d like to offer my suggestions for eating well while at conferences.

  • Bring snacks. One option is to pack some with you, such as small bags of trail mix or dried fruit. Another idea is to stop at a grocery store once you get there. If you’re conferencing in an urban area, sometimes grocery stores can be difficult to find within walking distance, but I’ve found that the little corner markets you see on city streets often have a number of good options. (And yes, sometimes “good options” are a bag of Oreos when you’re really, really tired.)
  • Grab bottled water whenever possible. Especially if you travel by plane, it’s possible you could get a little dehydrated from the travel, but it can also be exacerbated by lots of walking and talking. Most conferences (at least the ones I’ve been to) give out bottled water periodically. I suggest keeping at least one in your bag at all times. Building a stash in your hotel room is not a bad idea.
  • Scout out a reliable dining spot. I’m a foodie at heart, and so for me part of attending a conference is trying to do some pre-trip scouting on places I want to try out. But sometimes there isn’t time to do proper scouting beforehand and you just want to know where to eat. At a recent conference in Washington, DC, I found Open City, which was right next to the conference hotel. It’s open 6am to midnight Sunday through Thursday, 6am to 1am Friday and Saturday and offers a wide range of meal options at any time of day. In fact, the delicious breakfast you see pictured above was my fare during one of four (!) visits I made to the restaurant while in DC.  When my brain and feet were tired, I knew I could head over to Open City and get a nourishing meal without too much effort.
  • Try to eat local. By avoiding chain restaurants you will most often get less processed food in your diet and your money will go more directly to the local economy. And you will probably get better service (and not be tagged a tourist!)

What are your recommendations for eating well at conferences?

[Photo by Heather Whitney and used with permission.]

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