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Five Fitness and Nutrition Secrets

Five Secrets for Healthy Living Through the Holidays

Chef and pioneering brain health advocate Kim Baretta and her husband Julian had myriad reasons for joining Sea Pines Country Club. Not the least of which was its designation as one of “America’s Healthiest Clubs,” bestowed based on rigorous criteria.

To Baretta, this was more than just another industry accolade. It was a clear sign of the club’s unwavering commitment to health, wellness and longevity.

But commitment is tested during the holiday season. Eleven months of healthy eating, rigorous workouts and deep, peaceful rest can be undone in the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

“It’s a challenging time for all of us, no matter how disciplined we are,” Baretta says. “But there are ways to successfully manage your diet during the holidays and still eat food that brings you joy.”
Baretta recently spoke about the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle to a packed house at Sea Pines Country Club.

Members and guests were treated to a delicious, compliant dinner of roast pork tenderloin and fresh greens prepared by award-winning executive chef Brian Coseo (whose son is also a nutritionist).

Her presentation took place just a few paces from the club’s stunning new $3 million fitness center, led by director of fitness and wellness Wendy Kelly. Kelly oversees the programming for the 7,200-square-foot facility that features just about every type of equipment and a variety of exercise classes. She’s one of only a handful of club fitness professionals to earn the prestigious “Certified Club Spa and Fitness Director” designation from the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA). Together, the dynamic duo of Baretta and Kelly offer non-members and members alike five secrets for healthy living through the holidays.

1. Make Subtle Substitutions

When it comes to holiday appetizers, meals and deserts, substituting healthy for unhealthy can make a world of difference. How and when to start? Try using extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) instead of butter for rubbing and roasting your Thanksgiving Turkey. “EVOO provides all the browning and crisping benefit of butter without burning,” Baretta says. “If that’s too extreme a departure from tradition, trying using half butter, half EVOO.”

And speaking of traditions, what holiday season doesn’t include a constant barrage of chips and dips? These creamy delights are the silent assassins of many a yuletide gathering. Even grazing for five or 10 minutes can mean racking up thousands of extra calories. What others serve at their parties is out of your control. But when playing host, there plenty of healthy options.

“Bean-based dips are ideal and easy substitutes for sour cream or cheese-based dips,” Baretta says. “And it doesn’t always have to be chickpea-based hummus. You can use great northern beans smashed or blended with roasted tomatoes and garlic.”

2. Heap on Healthy Additions

Let’s face it, when it comes to holiday family meals, the rest of the gang might not be on board with wholesome substitutions. Not to worry, there’s an uncomplicated solution involving a counterintuitive tactic: add more food. Not just any food, but healthy foods with nutritional benefits above and beyond the calories they bring to the party.

For example, both Baretta and Coseo love the idea of fall-themed salads. Try roasting butternut squash and caramelizing red onions to toss with pecans, yellow raisins, goat cheese and fresh greens.

For desserts, it’s even easier. Add nuts – especially almonds – to chocolate treats. And speaking of chocolate, Baretta says to use the dark version as much as possible. Too rich? Lemon or pumpkin cakes become veritable protein bars when iced with vanilla Greek yogurt.

3. Practice Preventative Portion Sizes

It’s no secret that portion size is the runaway train of the standard American diet. Our plates are frequently full of four to five times as much food as other cultures. The rule of thumb recommended by National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner in his study of the world’s Blue Zones is eat until you’re 80% full. Can you imagine trying this during Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner under the watchful eye of your spouse, mother or friend who just slaved over a hot oven for hours? More realistically, aim for 80% rule 80% of the time through the holidays, and simply deny yourself that second helping of food the other 20%.

4. Master the Micro Workout

It is one of the cruel ironies of the “most wonderful time of the year.” All that free time you thought you’d have by taking a few days (or couple weeks) off work seems to disappear. Shopping, family outings, time spent traveling and simply lounging around with friends leaves little time for extended workout routines. Don’t despair, says Kelly. Any workout, even 10 to 15 minutes, is better than no workout.

“You can pack a lot of intensity and metabolic burn into a quick body weight, dumbbell or kettlebell routine,” Kelly says.

To torch the max amount or calories in the shortest period, combine short spurts of cardio with light hypertrophy-focused exercises. For example, run on a treadmill for a minute, rest for 30 seconds and then knock out a series of pushups for 30 seconds. Repeat five to seven times for a workout that will keep your metabolism running high all day.

5. Win the Day with Walking

Busting out an HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout isn’t always practical – or desirable – during holiday down time. Kelly points out that it is simple, and social, to grab a few friends or family members and go for a nice long walk before or after a big meal. “It is truly a win-win solution to burning calories,” she adds. “If you walk before a meal, you’re revving up your metabolism, and if you walk after, you’re helping your body burn the calories it just consumed.”

A post-meal walk can also be a sneaky and effective way of dodging dessert. Rather than repairing to the den with piece of cake or brownie, strike out for a 30-minute stroll. Upon returning, the dessert tray is gone. Magic.

Make Health and Wellness a Way of Life

Sea Pines Country Club is offering a two-month “Preview Trial Membership” invitation through Dec. 31, highlighted by the Full Use Heritage Membership including access to the 18-hole Arnold Palmer designed signature course. Updated by local architect Clyde Johnston in 2001, the “Club Course” is often compared favorably to neighboring Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort, home of the PGA TOUR’s RBC Heritage. The Preview Trial Membership also features a complimentary 30-minute golf lesson, five free fitness classes, a personal training session, discounted massage and a lunch certificate for two at the Club Course Café. For more info on pricing, email Nic Booth at

Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, 3811 Point Grey Road, Vancouver BC, V6R 1B3

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