Once upon a time convention centre food was boring and predictable; not anymore! Don’t be surprised if you see catering menus that incorporate full dietary notation (which is already law in the EU), links to food producer certifications (its provenance and designations like organic and Ocean Wise), and menus with increased options for vegan, gluten free, low-fat (and others) becoming the norm. Chefs are also turning their focus on more international cuisines and other culinary scenes for menu ideas to satisfy an increasingly demanding and multicultural clientele. The evolution of convention food towards a more diverse and sophisticated service will act to enhance the overall experience for attendees.

The Vancouver Convention Centre is proud to be certified as a Healthy Venue by the World Obesity Federation due in part to our scratch kitchen that offers a vast range of fresh menu options that helps enhance focus, memory, productivity and overall health. There is no doubt, what you eat matters. If you serve your guests a big pasta lunch, you can expect to see a few drowsy and inattentive faces for the rest of the afternoon.

Here are some options that have been proven to boost mental clarity, mood, memory, and ability to focus.

1. Blueberries

Studies show that blueberries boost concentration and memory for up to five hours because the antioxidants in blueberries stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.

2. Green Tea

Green tea helps you focus for two reasons: one, it contains caffeine, and two, it contains theanine. What is theanine? It’s an ingredient that compliments caffeine and has been shown to “increase alpha-wave activity”, which increases tranquility and releases caffeine more slowly, instead of all at once which can lead you to that impending “crash”.

3. Avocados

Avocados are loaded with healthy fats, potassium and fibre and has been proven to lower cholesterol and support healthy blood flow. Every organ in the body depends on blood flow, especially the heart and brain. Good blood circulation helps improve brain function and helps keep your mind sharp and focused. You will also be more equipped to handle stressful situations.

4. Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables are full of antioxidants and carotenoids, which boost your brain power, and help protect your brain. (A good, general tip: the greener a leaf vegetable is, the better.) Leafy green vegetables are also full of B-vitamins, which are “proven to help your memory, focus, and overall brain health and power”. They also contain folic acid, which improves your mental clarity.

5. Fatty Fish

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body which means they must be obtained through diet. Fatty/oily fish such as salmon or trout, contains omega-3 fatty acids which “aid memory, mental performance and behavioral function”. People who are deficient in omega-3s are more likely to have “poor memory, mood swings, depression and fatigue”. Fish has also been proven to improve your concentration and mood.

6. Dark Chocolate

Didn’t think that you’d see chocolate on this list? Well, DARK chocolate has shown to boost serotonin and endorphin levels, which are associated with greater concentration,” says Natalie Stephens, clinical dietician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “It’s also a source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, such as potassium, copper, and magnesium, which can work with a healthy diet to control blood pressure. Unfortunately its close relative, milk chocolate does not offer the same effects.

7. Nuts

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E and you just need an ounce of them a day to get this benefit. They’re also rich with essential oils and amino acids that aid your focus no matter your age.

8. Beets

This dark red root may be the new kid on the block for promoting better memory, focused concentration and overall cognition. Beets contain nitrates that can dilate blood vessels, increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, thereby improving mental performance. Add beets to salads, roast them or add to juices for optimal brain health.

9. Wholegrains

Like everything else in your body, the brain cannot work without energy. The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate, steady supply of energy - in the form of glucose in our blood to the brain. Achieve this by choosing wholegrains with a low glycemic index, which release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day. Opt for 'brown' wholegrain cereals, granary bread, rice and pasta.