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Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

The food and beverage department at Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tucson, Ariz., wants guests to have their cake and eat it, too. But you can bet that cake will be low in fat.

Founded in 1979, Canyon Ranch is a year-round resort dedicated to healthy living. Located on 70 acres at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Canyon Ranch can accommodate 240 guests in single-story, adobe-style cottages surrounded by lush landscaped grounds.

Guests sign up for packages of four, seven or 10 nights; the package includes use of extensive spa facilities, fitness and cooking classes, and three meals daily. Prices start at about $2,200 per person for a four-night stay.

The food philosophy at Canyon Ranch has changed since the spa's founding, notes food and beverage director Ted Ent. "In the beginning, we kept people to 800 calories a day," he says. "We carried the 'fat farm' stigma."

That approach has since been moderated to a set of sensible menus that fuel guests with 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day. Staff nutritionists ensure that Canyon Ranch dishes meet a healthful ratio of 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent protein and 20 percent fat. "We believe in a balanced, healthful diet-moderation, not deprivation," Ent explains.

Menus in the four Canyon Ranch dining areas don't list prices, but they do spell out nutritional values. Printed beside each dish is a breakdown of its calories, fat grams and fiber grams. "We added the fiber count a couple of years ago," Ent notes. In contrast to the gargantuan portions offered up by many restaurants today, center-of-the-plate protein portions at Canyon Ranch average a modest 4 ounces.

Thanks in part to the emphasis on vegetables and grains over big-ticket meats and the like, Canyon Ranch's food cost runs a lean 23 percent to 24 percent. But Ent notes he faces other cost pressures thanks to his commitment to quality. "We get the highest quality we can-the freshest produce, certified Angus beef, fish flown in daily and so on," he says. "Because we take the fat out of the dishes, we rely on fine herbs and spices for flavor."

Canyon Ranch uses an eight-day menu cycle. Because the average guest's stay is six days, there's little chance for a diner to grow bored. But Ent tweaks the menu even more with four seasonal variations and a couple of specials each week. "We have more than 2,000 recipes in our database, so even the guests who stay here for a couple of months at a time get something different," he says.

Popular dinner entrees at Canyon Ranch include the fresh Maine lobster with lobster tarragon sauce, wok-seared salmon teriyaki with Asian noodles, duck breast with caramelized pears. Top lunch selections are the open-faced turkey sandwich with guacamole and green chiles, salade nicoise, and grilled salmon over fresh spinach with citrus dressing.

With a staff of 200, the food and beverage department handles more than 1,000 covers each day. Ent oversees 5,000 square feet of kitchen space.

Ent is excited about the Canyon Ranch SpaClub that opened last June in the sleek Venetian Resort-Hotel- Casino in Las Vegas. "We have an exhibition-style kitchen, which is an important part of educating guests about healthful eating," he says. Canyon Ranch also has a sister spa in Lenox, Mass., which opened in 1989.

Even when surrounded by such healthful influences, are Canyon Ranch guests ever tempted to cheat on their diets? After all, the spa package includes all-you-can-eat meals. "We will give them whatever they ask for, even if it's an extra dessert," Ent says. "But we may suggest that they speak to a dietitian afterward."

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