What Happens In Vegas…Stays on My Waistline By Jean Scott September 2, 2014 at 12:10 pm For 30 years I’ve been eating in Vegas casino restaurants, first as a frequent visitor and then, the last 14 years, as a resident. Although I’ve always been very health-conscious, regularly exercising and watching my diet, I’ve been losing what might be called the Buffet War. This war has not been a series of dramatic battles, but a slow chipping away of my defenses, about one pound managing to slip through each year. Now, at age 75, I am pre-diabetic – and determined to not go over that line into serious health problems. Could I find enough healthy food choices to still regularly eat in casino restaurants? Or did I have to throw away most of those comps Brad and I get every month? I am happy to report that it is easier today to eat healthy in casinos than it was 30 years ago. Particularly in the last few years I have seen casinos starting to consider the health of their customers: Emphasis on quality rather than quantity. With gourmet restaurants leading the way, this concept is trickling down to medium-priced eateries and coffee shops – and shockingly – even to buffets. Instead of big slabs of cake, you are offered cupcakes and mini-desserts. “Small plate” menus are popping up to help customers with portion control. Wider choice of healthy food. Although in most casino restaurants you can still have a breakfast of bacon and sausage and fried eggs, with pancakes smothered with syrup on the side, you probably will be offered some healthier options. There often will be fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, oatmeal, and turkey bacon/sausage. You might be able to choose cholesterol-free eggs or egg whites for your omelet, with lots of fresh veggies added in. Lunch and dinner will probably have some ethnic options that are lower in calories, at least a couple of fat-free salad dressings, and perhaps some whole wheat pasta and bread. For buffets, the bigger they are the more choices casinos can offer, and casinos are starting to generously sprinkle good choices among the spurges. Healthier food preparation. Many food items that are basically healthy are rendered unhealthy because of restaurant preparation. Now I am finding more “naked” vegetables, not ruined by bathing in thick cream sauces or swimming in a pool of buttery grease. I can usually find a meat or fish option that is grilled, steamed, or baked rather than breaded or fried. Many restaurants label these more-healthily-prepared menu items in some way, like Healthy Choice or Heart Healthy. Consideration for freshness and the “natural.” “Farm-to-Table” is a mantra still in its infancy, but it resonates with customers who are concerned about chemical additives and genetically modified organisms (GMO). Many buffets are adding more fresh fruits and expanding their salad bars to address these issues. There is more cooking from scratch to avoid using so much processed food. Recognition of special dietary needs. For many years I found it fairly easy to find sugar-free/no-sugar-added menu choices but the selection was typically quite limited and many failed the taste-good test. There has been a world of improvement these last few years, both in the number of choices and the tasty factor. This is particularly welcome news for those who struggling against the rising tide of obesity and diabetes. Casinos are also addressing recent, widespread interest in specialty diets. Many people are going gluten-free, whether because of medical needs or simply as a search for healthier selections. The Orleans buffet has posted a list of gluten-free items, and Margaritaville has a whole page of their menu dedicated to these items. And people who choose the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle can now find many eating places in casinos that accommodate these lifestyles. Such places typically have a separate vegetarian/vegan menu or mark these choices on their regular menu. It is true that most visitors would not list “eating healthy” as one of their reasons to come to Vegas. We’re a town built on excesses! But many people embrace a healthy lifestyle wherever they are, even on vacation. And there is an extremely large group of Vegas residents who visit casinos to both play and eat. Many of them, like Brad and me, who are concerned about their health will seek out those places that offer meal options that will contribute to good health – so they can enjoy the entertainment that casinos provide for many more years. P.S. As I was finishing this article, I got two pieces of mail with unusual offers I don’t remember ever being offered before. One was from Caesars Palace, an invitation to a “healthy lifestyle” event (“a spectacular feel-good event with the doctor”) that includes a meet-and-greet and private show by Dr. Oz; yoga, Pilates, and meditation classes; and a healthy cooking demonstration. The second mailing was for the 2014 Center Yourself – a yoga and fitness experience in Lake Tahoe, at Harrah’s/Harvey’s. Wow! Are casinos really starting to care about my health and well-being in addition to how much money they can coax out of my pocket? That would be a trend I could learn to love!