But Marc Sorenson, who keeps abreast of the latest research, maintains faith in the low-fat, plant-based diet that was used successfully for over ten years at the old NIF.
"We use the same nutrition program we used before, about 99 percent vegetarian, no animal products except a little fish for those who want it," he said. "We're not quite as strict as we were; we've found we do need Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. But we believe fat is the cause of diabetes, not sugar. Diabetes studies have shown that a high-carb, low-fat diet is beneficial. But we don't serve junk carbs. We use all whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, and no refined sugars except a little dehydrated cane juice with a little apple juice for sweetener."
As to the other diet theories, "There are a lot of ways to lose weight. Atkins may be effective, but high protein diets are apt to ruin your kidneys. We are not carnivores. We have no fangs and claws, so I don't think our bodies are developed to eat a lot of meat. Small amounts are probably OK. I choose not to eat red meat; I do eat a tiny bit of fish. We get plenty of protein in our diet already."
The daily calorie count is around 1,200 to 1,500, but the focus is on the type of nutrient-dense foods, not the amount of calories, said Marc Sorenson.
Breakfast may consist of a green smoothie, whole wheat and applesauce waffles, and hot brown rice cereal. On a recent day in August, lunch was a Shepherd's Pie filled with mushrooms, walnuts, carrots, celery and onions. Its savory flavor came from red pepper flakes, cumin and Bragg's Aminos, a liquid protein concentrate derived from soybeans, that contains amino acids. The flavor is akin to soy sauce, said Joey Pesner, the resort's executive chef.
Another favorite entrée is vegetarian lasagna, made with either whole wheat noodles or thin strips of zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, spinach, sunflower seeds and vegan pasta sauce. Dessert might be a chocolate mousse with the healthy stealth ingredients of avocado and prunes.
Guests help themselves to a salad bar at every lunch and dinner. A curious item amid the usual veggies is diced nopal, or prickly pear cactus pads (spines removed!). Sorenson said research indicates that nopal helps regulate blood sugar levels, a boon for diabetics.
Chef Pesner said Zermatt and the Homestead plan to build a greenhouse, "So we can have fresh picked vegetables all year. We will be using geothermal water to keep the soil temperature warm. I think it will be fun."
NIHF hosts healthy cooking classes so that guests can continue with the eating plan when they go home.
A new component to the wellness program is "safe sun." During his NIF days, Marc Sorenson wondered if the sunshine of Utah's Dixie played a role in enhancing the health of his guests. Since then, he published his research in a book, titled "Vitamin D3 and Solar Power To Enhance Health," about healthful effects of sunlight, which is needed to synthesize vitamin D in the body. He has lectured on the topic at seminars all around the world.
"We have been frightened out of the sun by the dermatologists, and many people are vitamin D deficient," he said.
"But we say, never bake, never burn," added Vicki Sorenson. "We go according to skin type. It may be only a few minutes a day. For people who can't tan, sitting under a beach umbrella and getting reflective light may be enough."
They are also using the same exercise principles espoused at the old NIF, with hikes and workouts based on the person's current fitness level.
"Until a person gets in shape, there's the chance of bringing on a stroke or heart attack with anaerobic training," said Marc Sorenson. "I worry when I see something like 'The Biggest Loser' on TV, with trainers screaming in someone's face to do other things they shouldn't be doing. We get our guests hiking some steep hills, but not right away."
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