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Tax Tips for Business Meal Deductions

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Expensed Dinner | Blue PlateDo you travel or entertain clients as part of your business? Then you’re probably aware that you’re entitled to deduct meal expenses related to these events. However, the tax law surrounding business meal deductions isn’t as black and white as we’d think.

If you need help deciphering what’s allowed and what’s not, these tips will provide some clarification.

1) Meals Used As Entertainment

If there’s a business connection (i.e. business is discussed at some point before, during, or immediately following the meal), the meal is considered to be of a deductible form of entertainment. Since you need at least one other person with you, you won’t be able to deduct the cost of a meal when you dine alone (unless you’re traveling – see next tip).

Note that only 50% of expenses for meals used as a form of entertainment are deductible.

2) Travel-Related Meals

When traveling for business (e.g. a conference, continuing education, client visit, speaking engagement), your travel expenses, including cost of meals, are partially deductible. As with meals used as entertainment, you can only deduct 50 percent of travel-related meals.

For business owners, this deduction is only allowed if you are actually out of town. Having lunch at a restaurant on the other side of town from your office? Doesn’t count. Neither do most day trips. To qualify as a business trip, you need to be away for longer than a day’s work, which would usually
include sleeping away.

3) Fully Deductible Meals

If you have employees, certain meal expenses qualify for a 100% deduction. Some examples of purchases that fall into this category include holiday or other staff parties (whether in the office or at a venue), company picnics, food and drinks for an office meeting, and lunches or dinners purchased for employees working through lunch or working late during busy times.

4) Proof is Required

For meals that qualify as deductions, you’ll need to keep a record stating when and where the meal took place, who the meal was with, and the business reason for the meal. For all meals costing $75 or more, you’ll also need to keep the receipt.

If record keeping isn’t your forte, there’s a standard meal allowance rate (which will vary by location) that you can use as your deduction amount. While the allowance may be less than the total cost of your meal, not having to provide a receipt may be worth the difference.

As there are exceptions to these rules, as well as other tax laws, it’s always in your best interest to discuss your specific business situation and special circumstances with your tax professional.

Diet Tips for Long Tax Season Days (and Nights) at the Office

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Tax Season Diet Tips | Blue Plate Catering

For those of you working extra long hours throughout tax season, what you eat can make all the difference in whether or not you have the amount of energy needed to sustain you.

Don’t give into the temptation to go the quick and easy route of grabbing fast food or a snack or soda from the vending machine – or worse, skipping meals. Instead, follow the tips below so that you’ll be able to maintain a healthy diet that will keep you going strong each day.

It’s All About Planning

Planning helps so many areas of our lives run more smoothly and it isn’t any different when it comes to eating. Each week, take the time to plan your meals for the week and prepare what you can in advance. Sandwiches, salads, and leftovers from a pasta or casserole dinner are all great for packing and bringing with you. By taking foods from home to work, you won’t need to eat fast food out of hunger.

This also applies to snacks. Stock your kitchen with healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, and nuts, and you’ll be able to easily grab good-for-you snacks, instead of resorting to unhealthy options on the road or in the office.

Eat Breakfast!

No matter how busy your mornings are, it’s so important to make sure you have breakfast. Your body needs energy in the morning to get going after a night’s sleep.

On most days, try to have a breakfast that includes a lean protein, a healthy carbohydrate, and fresh fruits or veggies. If this means you need to get up fifteen minutes earlier, do it – it will be well worth it.

Consume Small, Frequent Meals

Instead of consuming three large, heavy meals (which often results in sluggishness), have three smaller meals and snack on healthy foods in between. When you eat every 3 or 4 hours, as opposed to waiting 5 or 6 hours to eat at your next meal, your blood sugar levels remain steady, keeping you satisfied for longer, and giving you more consistent energy throughout the day.

Drink Plenty of Water

Have a large bottle of water that you bring to work every day to keep at your desk. Not only will this help you stay hydrated and save you money on beverages, but it can also keep you from consuming unnecessary extra calories. Since thirst is often mistaken for hunger, when you first feel hungry, try
having some water first. You may find that water did the trick!

Not a huge fan of water? Infuse it with fresh fruit – think lemon, lime, or orange slices – to add nice flavor and make it more enjoyable to drink.

Follow these tips for eating healthier while working long hours and your body will thank you!

6 Anti-Stress Foods for Tax Season

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Tax Season Anti-Stress FoodThe arrival of tax season means we need to add more items to our already long to-do lists. With the added stress experienced at this time of year, especially for business owners and tax professionals, it can be all too easy to let healthy eating fall to the wayside.

If you’re looking for foods to help you manage stress during tax season, try consuming foods that contain ingredients known to have calming effects. Check out Blue Plate Catering’s seasonal catering menus to fulfill your tax season lunch and dinner needs.

The six ingredients below can have a truly positive impact on your stress levels, making tax season more bearable.

1) Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body can’t manufacture on its own. It’s found in protein-rich foods such as turkey, chicken, shrimp, tuna, milk, eggs, and spinach. It helps to produce serotonin, a mood-boosting neurotransmitter that works to promote adequate sleep and fight off depression.

Eat foods with high levels of tryptophan on their own or, better yet, try combining them with a complex carbohydrate like whole grain bread to help increase your body’s absorption of this amino acid.

2) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, mackerel, walnuts, and flaxseed, are important for optimal brain health, as well as for helping to regulate the negative effects of stress hormones.

Try to get your omega-3 fatty acids from food sources, rather than supplements, as much as possible. Aim for consuming fish high in omega-3s about twice a week, in addition to snacking on nuts and seeds that are rich in them.

3) Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral that’s critical for the growth and development of all the cells in our bodies. Zinc-rich foods such as lamb, beef, and oysters can have a calming effect on the body because they help to balance blood sugar levels and aid in optimal immune system functioning.

Since the body doesn’t store zinc, it’s important to get a small amount daily. Be sure to incorporate foods rich in zinc into your regular diet – and be especially cognizant of doing so during this busy tax season to help keep your immune system strong.

4) Magnesium

Commonly referred to as the relaxation mineral, magnesium is essential to hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body, helps combat stress, and can even help improve sleep.

Load up on magnesium to help alleviate the fatigue and mood swings that are common during hectic seasons. A few great magnesium sources include leafy greens, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and fish.

5) Water

We’ve all heard how important it is to stay hydrated, with water being a critical component for every function in the body. But, while the importance of drinking enough water each day is certainly not news, many of us still aren’t well hydrated. And our hydration can really suffer when we’re extremely busy, as it’s very easy to forget to drink water throughout the day.

To help ensure you’re drinking enough water, aim to have a glass of water with each meal. Also get in the habit of filling up a large water bottle every night so that it’s ready to grab and go the next day.

6) Chamomile

Chamomile leaves are most commonly used in herbal teas. It has been used to promote relaxation for thousands of years and is still widely used today to relieve anxiety and calm unsettled stomachs.

Drinking a cup of chamomile tea before turning in for the night can greatly help to relax you and ease you into sleep, particularly after a long day.

Make an effort to eat foods with these six key calming ingredients throughout tax season and, when it’s over, you may be pleasantly surprised with how good you felt in the midst of it all

Best Dishes to Bring to a New Year’s Party

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Happy New Year - Blue Plate CateringHeading to a New Year’s celebration at a friend or family member’s house? If you’re not sure what to bring and are overwhelmed with the sea of ideas floating around the Internet, we’ve got you covered!

See below for some of the best dishes to bring to a New Year’s party. Not only are these crowd pleasers, but they also don’t require that you spend hours in the kitchen to prepare them.

Bruschetta

These crunchy toasts make the perfect foundation for a variety of toppings. Tomatoes, onions, and basil, mushrooms and parsley, avocado and sundried tomatoes…the options go on and on.

Keep it simple and make just one topping, or go all out and prepare several different toppings. These delicious appetizers are easy to make – prepare toppings ahead of time and add to toasts just before serving.

 

Antipasto Skewers

Who doesn’t love a good antipasto salad? Instead of serving it in a bowl, bring a version that’s more conducive to a New Year’s party – antipasto skewers. Individual servings make for delicious, easy-to-eat party appetizers that are convenient to carry around.

Just put the ingredients of your favorite antipasto salad on a skewer (grape tomatoes, provolone cubes, marinated artichokes, olives, bite-size pieces of hard salami, etc.), drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt. Delizioso!

 

Pigs in a Blanket

Don’t be alarmed. We’re not suggesting you bring the boxes of frozen ones from the supermarket (although feel free to do so if you please). We prefer a homemade version of this classic party appetizer, especially since they’re surprisingly simple to make using frozen puff pastry dough and hot dogs. Check out this recipe – these really are that easy!

 

Bacon Wrapped Appetizer

So many things taste better when wrapped in bacon! Scallops, shrimp, chicken, and dates are a few of the most common foods that, when enveloped in bacon, make palate pleasing appetizers. Bacon wrapped appetizers are always a hit – and they don’t take much time and effort to put together.

 

Baked Brie

The beauty of baked brie is that you can make it as simple or extravagant as your tastes desire (and time allows). And no matter which way you make it, it’s guaranteed to be good – very good. Here are some great baked brie recipes to get you started.

 

A Fancy Dessert

Of course we had to include dessert! And by fancy we don’t mean complex. As a matter of fact, store-bought dessert is perfectly acceptable (although it’s preferable to bring something fresh from a bakery over a generic supermarket dessert). Think pretty macarons and petit fours.

If you’re inclined to make your own dessert, trifles and bread puddings are two well-loved ones that are perfect for a crowd. And with the many, many recipes out there for these desserts, you’re sure to easily find one that appeals to you. An added bonus is that both trifles and bread puddings can be made in one large serving dish or in individual ones.

The entire Blue Plate team wishes you and your loved ones a happy, healthy 2016!

Healthy Alternatives to Your Favorite Holiday Foods

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Holiday Food - Blue Plate CateringThe holiday season is notoriously known for its delicious, and rather gluttonous, menu options. However, it doesn’t have to be. At Blue Plate Chicago, we’ve curated a list of healthy alternatives to all of your holiday favorites (without sacrificing flavor!). From the side dishes, to the main menu to the desserts, read on for our top recommendations.

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Oven roasted sweet potatoes are tasty, side-dish-substitute to candied yams. With 115 less calories per serving, (and that includes a ¼ cup more of potatoes per serving) brush with canola or olive oil for extra, heart-healthy flavor!

 

Fresh, Steamed Green Beans

Steamed green beans are an incredibly healthful alternative to the holiday classic, green bean casserole. Sprinkle with slivered almonds and enjoy.

 

Doesn’t quite seem like the holidays without the casserole? Substituting full-fat cream of mushroom soup for a reduced-fat option will help you save at least 40 calories per ½ cup serving!

 

Cranberry Relish

Cut down on your sugar intake by replacing store-bought, cranberry sauce with homemade, cranberry relish. When made with stevia natural sweetener, it has 75 calories less per serving than its sugar-doused, holiday table competitor – and every bit as delicious. We promise!

 

White Meat Turkey

A 3.5-ounce, recommended serving of white meat turkey has half the amount of fat as a same-sized portion of dark meat, plus 40 percent fewer calories. That’s a healthy substitute!

 

Whole Wheat Rolls

At 100-200 calories per serving, white flour rolls can add sneaky, nutritionally empty calories to your meal. Whole-wheat rolls are a great and fiber-packed, alternative. Aiming for an especially healthy holiday? Bread might be a good place to skip.

 

Reduced Fat Gravy

Gravy is a delicious holiday staple atop your meat and potatoes. Keep your carbohydrate intake in check, with a reduced-fat recipe. Be mindful of portion control, as gravy calories can add up fast!

 

Pumpkin Pie

We’re not willing to go so far as a “healthy” alternative on this one. But come on, it’s still the holidays! Pumpkin pie has about 200 calories less per serving than competitor, pecan pie – plus a little vitamin A, calcium and iron. We’re not including the whip cream!

 

Our last pro-tip from Blue Plate Chicago is to experiment with all menu items pre- holiday table. That way, there are no surprises come the big day. Happy holidays!