When Barilla invited me to come to a fitness professional event in Las Vegas, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I like to think of myself as the last gluten-consuming wellness blogger left. I’m a proud gluten supporter and going to Vegas to eat pasta is in fact my idea of a good time.
Full disclosure, this trip was paid for by Barilla. We were not asked to post about the trip nor is this post sponsored. I thought it would be fun, though, to do a recap of what I did in Vegas and what I learned with Barilla. Thank you Barilla for making this little Vegas adventure possible.
The trip was a total whirlwind: I arrived at 10:30AM on Tuesday and flew back to NYC at 10:30PM Wednesday.
First, things first: LAS VEGAS
I’ve only been to Vegas one other time — I was 9-years-old and my family went there on vacation to celebrate my brother’s birthday. It sounds like a weird family vacation, but we had SO much fun as kids in Vegas.
I was excited to go back as an “adult”. Albeit, an adult that could care less about alcohol and gambling.
Upon arriving, I checked in at the Bellagio, dropped off my stuff in the room and set-off to explore. The group wasn’t meeting up until dinner-time and I knew this would be my only real free time in Vegas.
My favorite part of the Bellagio was hands-down the floral room. The smell was AMAZING and I couldn’t get over how gorgeous all the fresh flowers were. Apparently the room’s theme changes every season. Right now it’s ALL about Italy
Like everything in Vegas, as I soon learned, it was also a bit over the top. But I still loved it.
I got lunch at Noodles, a Chinese restaurant, in the Bellagio. I’d say the meal was good not great. And a bit overpriced. But I guess that Vegas for ya. I was hungry and miso soup + sesame chicken did the trick.
The weather was too hot to really explore The Strip. I’m talkin’ 100+ degrees and blazing sun. So I instead took a walk to Caesar’s Palace. And of course realized after the fact that I didn’t have to go outside and the two hotels are basically connected by a bridge. Whoops.
I had some disjointed memories of going to Caesar’s when I was little, but I was half convinced that I fabricated just how ridiculous and grand the forum was at this hotel. Uh, no. It was just as ridiculous as I remembered.
I swear there’s EVERY store you could think of in this hotel. Gap, Lululemon, Tiffany’s, Abercrombie, Nike… it’s INSANE.
While I didn’t do a ton of shopping damage, what I especially loved was that I could walk and explore inside, away from the heat. I legit walked 6 miles inside both the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace. And you guys know how much I love walking on vacation.
I was legit exhausted from exploring and traveling so sought out an overpriced Starbucks latte and relaxed in the room for a bit before dinner. But before heading back to the room I caught the 3PM viewing of the Bellagio fountains. Because if I’m going to Vegas you bet I’m gonna watch a dramatic fountain show.
Welcome Dinner with Barilla
This event was specifically geared towards fitness professionals. Everyone in attendance was either a trainer or had deep roots in the industry. It was fun to hang out with a crew that loves fitness and wellness as much as I do and I was truly honored to be in everyone’s company.
We enjoyed a family-style, Mediterranean meal. Much of the event was centered around the Mediterranean diet and our dinner was an example of this. As I learned, the Mediterranean diet is about so much more than what you’re putting in your mouth. It’s also about really enjoying the food you’re eating and making meals a social experience.
After dinner I got some gambling in 🙂 and by that I mean I spent $12 on the slot machine and called it a night.
The next morning we were up early for a day of eating, discussions and some presentations by Barilla.
Science of Pasta
It was cool to hear from Barilla’s on-staff dietician Anna Rosales talk about the science of pasta and carbs. Some takeaways:
- low carb diets give you quick results because of water loss. But it’s not sustainable in the long run.
- cooking pasta al dente keeps the glycemic index low. Foods with a lower GI are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized. Because of this they also cause a lower and slower ride in blood glucose levels.
Cooking Demo with Chef Lorenzo Boni
You guys know by now I’m VERY nervous in the kitchen and don’t cook much. It was awesome to get some cooking points from Chef Lorenzo Boni. BTW videos of Lorenzo cooking pasta are going viral. That’s how awesome he is. Some nuggets of wisdom from the chef himself:
- when sautéing veggies to serve with pasta: add “pasta water” aka the water the pasta boils in to the mix to keep your dish creamy.
- for the perfect pasta serving size use a ladle to scoop up some pasta. To make it look pretty use a fork to twirl your ladle full of pasta into a nice little mountain of pasta. Voila. The perfect amount of pasta and cute presentation.
- add a touch of olive oil to the dish at the end
We then split up into teams and made our own pasta dish using this recipe builder.
Every dish combination on this chart comes out to less than 500 calories. How freaking easy is that? My team made a simple spaghetti dish with tomatoes, leeks and shrimp.
Mediterranean Diet — It’s a Way of Eating, It’s Not a Diet
Nutrition expert Chris Mohr led a discussion on the Mediterranean diet. I didn’t know a ton about this diet going in — like I know there’s some fish and olive oil? But not much else.
- the Mediterranean Diet is focused on eating real food and less processed food.
- the bulk of your plate should be produce with healthy protein and grains making up the other half of your plate.
- your fat should come from olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.
- focus on fish and seafood versus red meat. A slab of steak should not be a meal but instead a part of a meal served with an abundance of veggies and a grain of sort.
- the Mediterranean diet is believed to be better for your heart than diets more focused on protein.
- and yes, drinking wine is encouraged. But in moderation.
- it’s a lifestyle: not just what we eat but how we eat it. Focus on making meals a time to slow down and reconnect.
Dinner at the Cosmopolitan
Before heading to the airport, I grabbed dinner with one of the people from the event at China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan. The restaurant is an eclectic mix of Chinese and Mexican food. I was SO impressed and we ended up having a great meal at a pretty reasonable price for Vegas.
First off, out waiter asked if there were any allergies. I said yes, dairy. A redeye flight to NYC was not the time to see how much dairy my belly can handle. He came back with an allergen menu which noted which foods were safe for what allergies. Most of the menu was dairy-free so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much.
Our waiter proceeding to give us recommendations. Each option sounded better than the previous one. After much deliberation we decided to split a bunch of dishes. SUCH a good choice, holy moly it was GOOD.
- the fresh, made-to-order at your table guacamole.
- Watermelon Radish Salad
- Tuna Ceviche
- Fish tacos: the Pescado Estilo Baja
The next time I’m in Vegas I’m definitely going back!
And then it was time for me to head to the airport and head on home. But not before I wasted another $5 on the slot machines at the airport.
Airplane reads: Fitness Junkie, AKA my life, satirized in book form.
I’m sad I didn’t get to see any shows while I was there, but all the more reason to return to Vegas!