By Rachel Bosworth
The most popular New Year’s resolution is weight loss. January sees an increase in gym memberships and fitness classes, an abundance of fresh and healthy food purchases, and motivational quotes manifesting themselves into mantras. While it is the go-to resolution, it’s one of the hardest to keep up, especially without the right support. It’s also hard to avoid indulging in a night out with so many delicious dining options on the East End. This is where organizations like the Wellness Foundation come in.
Classes, coaching, kids programs, and the Wellness Challenge serve as a means to get participants motivated and making better choices when it comes to food. Small sessions of 15 people can join the six-week Wellness Challenge program to create a healthy body and lifestyle through lectures, interactive exercises, cooking demos, and more. Healthy eating can be hard if you’re new to it, and “cheat days” defeat the purpose of any wellness program. With this in mind, the Wellness Foundation enlisted the help of favorite local spots to promote healthy eating, even with a coveted 7 p.m. Friday night reservation.
The W Program enlists the support of Hamptons restaurants to offer “Wellness Foundation Approved” menu items that allow participants in the Wellness Challenge to enjoy fresh, healthy dishes without the anxiety of determining ingredients are healthy and fit within program guidelines. Local favorites like Mary’s Marvelous in Amagansett, Sen in Sag Harbor, Golden Pear Café in Southampton, and Farm Country Kitchen in Riverhead bear a “W” next to selection items to ease your mind while you enjoy your meal.
When Chef Craig Attwood joined Page at 63 Main in Sag Harbor in April 2016, he heard about the Wellness Foundation’s collaboration with East End restaurants. He amped up the restaurant’s current offering to give guests something even healthier, lighter, and more delicious.
“[Chef] Attwood has made some incredible plant based dishes for a private gratitude gathering recently for the Wellness Foundation,” says Wellness Foundation Community Outreach Director Barbara Kinnier, “but my favorite one thus far is his stewed lentils in coconut milk with winter vegetables.”
Inspired by the Wellness Challenge, Chef Attwood took it a step further and created a three-course vegan tasting menu. Available every Thursday for $28, dishes change with the seasons depending on what’s fresh and available. Guests can currently expect dishes like heirloom yellow beet tartare with butternut squash, pickled red onion, and spiced almonds; French green lentils in coconut milk, Baharat spice, braised spaghetti squash, Brussels sprout leaves, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, and persimmon; and maple yuzu poached bosc pear, toasted coconut, and candied fennel.
“The inspiration comes from seasonal vegetables, maybe meat or fish dishes I’ve done before and changing them to focus on the vegetables and grains,” says Chef Attwood of the new menu. “I’m not going to put something on that I don’t like or don’t think is great. The French lentil dish is really nice; you feel like you just ate a stew and the coconut milk with some spices and ginger warm you up on these cold days.”
Of the program, which began in 2009, Ms. Kinnier says one of the real win-wins is that people are able to easily identify the Wellness Challenge approved items on the menu because it bears the green “W” logo.
“[It has the] Wellness Foundation’s stamp of approval, which is a healthy vegan or what we like to call a plant-based dish, that is low in fat, low in sodium, and has whole grains without added sugars,” says Ms. Kinnier. “The emphasis is on vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds for the healthy fat our bodies need to absorb certain nutrients. Only the Plant Kingdom has phytonutrients, which heal the body and fight against free radicals, which cause inflammation and disease.”
Founded in 2005 by Doug Mercer, the Wellness Foundation encourages health lifestyles through various programs for men, women, and children in the Hamptons. Unhealthy lifestyles are the base of many chronic diseases, and the nonprofit was founded to promote preventative methods through wellness. Through the foundation’s many offerings and expansion, participants can find ways to embrace and enjoy a healthier lifestyle with the support of the community.
“It’s been very exciting working with the different businesses that offer plant-based options as this is not a fad, but a true movement because of the proven science behind the lifestyle,” says Ms. Kinnier. “It’s not only great for us, but for the animals and the environment as well.”
For more information on the Wellness Foundation, visit wfeh.org. For more information on Page at 63 Main, visit page63main.com.