Wellness and Balance for the Holidays Ahead


By Dawn Watson

Between the abundance of festive feasts, naughty nibbles and too bountiful bevvies, the holidays can be sheer torture for those who are trying to maintain some form of healthful control of their lives. But not all is lost if one starts the season with a few smart plans in hand, says Wellness Foundation President and CEO Michele Sacconaghi.

The key is keeping in balance, reports the nutrition expert and certified Vinyasa yoga teacher. Consuming and imbibing in moderation and adding in movement-based activity will add up to healthy bodies and minds during the long winter months, she adds.

Especially during this time of year, perfection is not the ultimate goal, says the Wellness Foundation leader. Striving for continued progress and trying to lead a healthy lifestyle is.

“During the holidays, eating healthy is a challenge for everybody,” she says. “Even me.”

Keeping on track can be easier if you know what you’re eating, according to Ms. Sacconaghi. In addition to noshing a bit on tasty and nutritious foods before going out so as not to fill up on less healthy options, be sure to take a something with you to the party.

“I’ll bring something to share with everyone, even if a covered dish isn’t requested,” she reports of her party planning recommendations. “That way I know I’ll be able to eat something that’s good for me when I’m out.”

Even when dining out, thanks to the approximately two dozen local restaurants that offer Wellness Foundation-approved options, it’s possible to make better selections, she says. In Sag Harbor, those eateries include: Dockside Bar & Grill, Golden Pear Café, Juicy Naam, Harbor Market and Kitchen, Page at 63 Main and Sen.

Whether it’s about counteracting some inevitable poor choices or just keeping your body fit, Ms. Sacconaghi recommends getting out there and doing something physical every single day. Especially during this time of year when it takes a Herculean effort to peel oneself from the cozy confines of the couch.

“We all feel like hibernating when it gets really cold, to hunker down and sit by the fire,” she says. “Fight those feelings. Embrace being outside. Go for a walk on the beach, go sledding, go ice skating. Get your body moving.”

Citing the Wellness Foundation’s four philosophical pillars to keep minds and bodies healthy, Ms. Sacconaghi says that the holidays are critical times to engage in good nutrition, activity, stress management and social connection. And those who need a little help should have no fear, they can always reach out to the Wellness Foundation for some guidance and support, she adds.

In fact, getting in touch with the East Hampton-based organization, now celebrating its tenth year, will be even easier in January once the offices have moved to 34 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. And soon after the move, the non-profit will once again offer its popular Wellness Challenge program.

The main goal of the Wellness Challenge, which begins on January 13 at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton and January 25 at the Wellness Foundation’s new digs in Sag Harbor, is to help participants feel their best through the incorporation of a plant-based diet, regular exercise and mindfulness. The six-week program—which costs $150 and includes expert guidance, a Wellness Challenge Guidebook, Wellness Challenge Survival Guide for Beginners, demonstrations, tastings and recipes—was conceived to help participants permanently lose weight; significantly reduce their cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure; reduce the risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes; and add healthful years to one’s life. Approximately 1,000 East Enders have taken the Challenge since its inception.

When it comes to striving for happiness and healthiness, the benefits far outweigh the alternative, says Ms. Sacconaghi. And the good news is that it’s something that everyone can do.

“Everybody wants to feel their best and live their lives to their fullest potential,” she says. “I encourage them to take that step and take charge of their health.”

 Learn more about the Wellness Foundation at www.wfeh.org.




From Jenn Taylor


1 medium butternut squash (3 cups cubed)

1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme

Sea salt, to taste

2/3 cup raw chopped pecans

2 cups cooked quinoa

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 cups roughly chopped baby kale or baby spinach

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Drizzle of olive oil, optional

2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup


Preheat oven to 425°F. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of a medium butternut squash. Cut in half vertically and scoop out pulp and seeds. Lay squash halves cut side down on cutting board to cut squash in 1-inch cubes. Arrange squash cubes on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with rosemary, thyme, and sea salt. Drizzle with olive oil, and then toss by hand, spreading squash in one layer on baking sheet. Roast for 25-40 minutes, until soft, and then allow to cool completely. While butternut squash is cooling, arrange pecans on a separate small baking sheet. Toast for 8-9 minutes (watch carefully), until aromatic and lightly golden. Allow pecans to cool completely. When squash and pecans are cool, make salad. Measure quinoa into a large bowl that can be covered and stored in the refrigerator. Add butternut squash, pecans, cranberries, and kale. In a separate small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil, and honey. Drizzle over the quinoa mixture and use a spoon to thoroughly mix ingredients together.