Kosher. Vegetarian. Diabetic. Allergic to shellfish/peanuts/ wheat. If your head's not already spinning from trying to incorporate these special requests into your menus, you can add "low carb" to the list.
With the popularity of the Atkins and South Beach diets, a growing number of attendees expect -- whether they request them or not -- high-protein, low-carbohydrate menu options, report planners. This is particularly true at breakfast, where the usual suspects (read: bagels and pastries) are especially carb-heavy.
In particular, association planners with limited budgets are struggling to please their carb-conscious members. "Know-ing this diet is a craze, I went out of my way to accommodate people on Atkins for a not-for-profit association client recently," says Adele Meyer, president of Meyer Meetings Etc., in St. Clair Shores, MI. "I offered plenty of protein options at all meals and breaks, but people still complained there were too many carbs."
Just how many people are going the low-carb route? One study found that 12.7 percent of American adults have either tried or are currently on the Atkins plan. Factor in that at presstime The South Beach Diet was the top book on the USA Today bestseller list, and the total number of "low carbers" is probably higher.
That's not necessarily bad. "A high-protein, low-carb breakfast is more conducive to alert attendees," notes Carol Krugman, president of Krugman Group International in St. Petersburg, FL. "Accommodating low carbers makes sense for everyone."