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Vegas New Year's for health-conscious

For folks who vow that the New Year will include more exercise and fewer calories, Las Vegas can be a place where good intentions disappear like a $20 bill into a slot machine.

For folks who vow that the New Year will include more exercise and fewer calories, Las Vegas can be a place where good intentions disappear like a $20 bill into a slot machine.

However, for those determined to keep those resolutions, a few resorts and restaurants have come up with ways to make it more fun and tasty to honor those earnest pledges of better fitness and nutrition.

At the Mirage Resort and Casino, guests can keep themselves in a self-improvement groove by attending yoga while focusing on the graceful and soothing movements of the dolphins who reside in the resort's dolphin habitat. The habitat is open to visitors, along with a small zoo featuring some of the animals associated with the former magic show of Siegfried and Roy.

But three days a week, before the habitat and zoo open to the public, the Mirage spa offers a 60-minute yoga session at 8:30 a.m., in a viewing area below the water's surface.

An instructor leads the class while standing in front of the large windows that provide a view of the dolphins. There are two separate tanks, one with a mother and calf, and the other with three males, and they're usually excited to see the yoga folks show up first thing in the morning, said Stephanie Doud, the Mirage spa director.

"It's quite relaxing for [the yoga students] because here you are sweating trying to hold some yoga position," she said, "and you're watching these graceful dolphins swimming by and you get this very peaceful feeling."

Along with the dolphins adding to the meditative quality of the yoga, there's new-age music playing in the background.

The dolphin yoga class is $50 and is held three days a week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Doud recommended making reservations about two weeks in advance.

Another yoga class is held at the Mirage swimming pool at 7:30 a.m., also Friday through Sunday ($40). All skill levels are accommodated in both yoga sessions. For reservations, call 702-791-7111, Ext. 7146.

Anyone who has seen a Cirque du Soleil show has to marvel at the incredible flexibility of the acrobatic performers, and now the Bellagio has a workout class that makes students feel as if they're in the show - sort of.

The class, designed by sporting goods company Reebok in conjunction with Cirque du Soleil, is called Jukari Fit to Flex and utilizes an elastic band. Holding onto the colorful band, students manipulate it to create resistance and the proper range of motion for a series of exercises.

As with the Mirage's dolphin yoga, ambience is an important part of the Jukari experience as the class is conducted to the percussive, international, Latin beats often associated with Cirque productions.

"The word Jukari means 'to play,' and there's a playfulness to the workout session," said instructor Dustin Bradshaw.

"It's fun and entertaining, and still you're achieving all the fitness goals of any fitness class, such as cardiovascular and flexibility," he added.

The movements in Jukari approximate the dancelike aesthetic of Cirque performances, Bradshaw said, such as the exercise movement called La Capa, which evokes a bullfighter swirling a cape. As the participant stretches and leans, the elastic band holds muscles under tension, giving the movement its physical benefit.

Classes are kept small, to about six participants, and movements can be adjusted for all fitness levels. The 45- to 50-minute workouts cost $40 and are held three days a week, at 9 a.m., on Thursday and Friday, and at 10 a.m., on Saturday. Participants also have access to the spa's fitness facilities. For reservations, call 702-693-7472.

Trying to keep New Year's resolutions about getting into or staying in shape usually involves a little dietary discipline as well. On vacation in Vegas, where waist-expanding buffets beckon on every marquee, that can be a problem.

Several restaurants offer more virtuous alternatives.

Picasso's, the AAA five-diamond French restaurant with Spanish influences at the Bellagio, may be associated more with its sautéed steak of foie gras - not likely to be on any weight-watcher's menu. But there's also a vegetarian prix fixe menu featuring items such as a farcie of curried couscous, artichokes, zucchini sofrito, peppers, and sautéed onions, and Meyer lemon ravioli with asparagus and goat-milk cream sauce.

Shibuya, a Japanese restaurant at MGM Grand, has a vegetarian teppanyaki menu that includes a lineup of field greens with apple yuzu vinaigrette, kani or mushroom miso soup, and an entrée of tofu, seasonal vegetables, and mushrooms with fried rice.

And for those who prefer to go gluten-free, the Border Grill Mexican restaurant at Mandalay Bay has gluten-free lunch and dinner menus, substitutes corn tortillas for its quesadillas and burritos, and uses dedicated fryers to fry chips.