Skip the booze to hop on the mocktail wellness trend. Praewphan | Adobe Stock
Gone are the days of a virgin beverage meaning a fizzy pink concoction with a maraschino cherry or a slushy colada from a machine. (And really, thank goodness.) These days, non-alcoholic or low-ABV (low alcohol by volume) cocktails don’t mean settling for something less than sophisticated. In fact, the opposite is true. “They can be just as festive and fun as alcohol-laden ones,” according to Red Hook resident and beverage aficionado Natasha David. “They’re definitely on the rise.” More and more restaurants and bars are adding thoughtful nonalcoholic options to their menus.
David created over 100 original recipes for her 2022 book Drink Lightly: A Lighter Take on Serious Cocktails, concepted and contracted before the pandemic, when she still co-owned a popular Manhattan bar. Six months after Covid struck, she had to close the bar and sell off its contents. With her manuscript deadline looming, David had to kick recipe development and testing into high gear while staying at home.
In David’s mind, alcohol-free drinks are about creating options that make everyone feel included. “Recently at a restaurant, after one glass of wine I still wanted to still be part of the fun but without the booze,” recalls David. “I ordered a wonderful non-alcoholic cocktail. It was served in a beautiful glass, over crystal clear large ice cubes and garnished with fresh fruit. It was presented with the same care as all the other cocktails on their menu.” Put another way, the movement is about inviting more people to the table.
Sleep isn’t just a wellness trend; it’s essential! Adobe Stock | Yeti Studio
When it comes to sleep issues, Barbara Chatr-Aryamontri, M.D., a pulmonologist and sleep medicine expert at WMCHealth’s HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston, has heard it all. “Most people say they’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, that they’re exhausted all day, or that they snore so loud that their partner can’t sleep and it’s causing a problem at home,” says Chatr-Aryamontri. Her clinical approach is a highly structured interview, “with particular questions to elicit a lot of useful detail.”
One important thing she reassures patients is that as you get older, it’s not unusual to wake up several times a night. If you can get back to sleep, that’s not insomnia, and it’s okay. “Performance anxiety around sleep is a thing,” she says. Occasional insomnia, such as once a month or so, is normal. Whatever you do, don’t look at the clock—that’s a surefire way to ratchet up your stress around not sleeping, which perpetuates it.
Her top strategy is to figure out how much sleep you need and aim for that consistently. “The right amount of sleep is different for everyone, and it’s genetically predetermined,” says Chatr-Aryamontri. The oft-cited eigh-hours-a-night guideline is just a ballpark figure. For some people it’s seven. For others, nine. The way to know your personal need is this test: Think about when you’re on vacation. What time do you go to bed, and when do you wake up? That’s the number of hours of sleep you need.
She also suggests adopting an open mindset to changing sleep needs. “As we age, we accept that things may change, such as our hearing and eyesight,” she points out. “We make adjustments as needed. Sleep warrants the same approach.” For advice, self-tests, and other useful info, she suggests the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website (sleepeducation.org) as a good place to start.
Mindfulness is a powerful wellness trend. Adobe Stock | Mix and Match Studio
A fascinating study published November 9 in JAMA Psychiatry found that an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course got similar results to taking escitalopram, a generic medication commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and depression. Granted, it’s one new study, but hopefully it will spur more research into the potential psychological lift of practicing to be present in the moment. (MBSR has also demonstrated effectiveness as a complementary therapy for a slew of physical ailments including diabetes, fibromyalgia, and hypertension, among others.) Katie Stoeckeler, founder and owner of yoga and wellness center Peace in Piermont, leads MBSR both in person and online, with systematic instruction, gentle stretching and yoga, and one-to-one check-ins. Classes are held weekly (two and a half hours each) with assignments to do at home between sessions, so the commitment is substantial. Nyack resident Katie Furr, mom to an 18-month-old daughter and an assistant principal at a Manhattan middle school, says it was time well spent. “I was going through a lot of big transitions in my life and figured I could use help with coping with stress,” she says. “Over the eight weeks I learned how to experience thoughts without judgement and how to be proactive versus reactive. And I slept great on the nights we had class. I absolutely loved it.” Visit peaceinpiermont.com/mbsr for this season’s class schedule, pricing, and more.
A plant-heavy diet is a popular wellness trend. Adobe Stock | Jane Vershinn
The research is clear: a plant-heavy diet may help reduce the risk of cancer. But is this a death knell for steaks? Not necessarily, according to David Kamen, director of client engagement for CIA Consulting at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. “We need to make a distinction between plant-forward and plant-based. Plant-forward cooking and eating means that the amount of animal protein is reduced, not eliminated, and the amount of plant products, both protein and carbohydrate, are increased.” This approach has been a big part of diets in other parts of the world, where animal products are used as an ingredient rather than the main event, he notes. Think about a stir-fry or curry dishes, where meat and fish are paired almost equally, if not in lesser proportions with vegetables, grains, and legumes. As for sacrificing flavor in going meatless, he reassures that the meaty, umami-ness of animal protein can be achieved in plants through proper cooking. “Roasting cauliflower, grilling mushrooms, and charring eggplant are all ways to get more umami out of plants,” says Kamen. “We just need to rethink the way we cook.”
His advice for anyone not yet on the bandwagon: Go slow. “Start by gradually reducing the portion size of meat and adding more varieties of plant products.” Second, look to global dishes for inspiration. With a few northern European and South American exceptions, most cuisines, especially those from Asia, Latin America, and the Mediterranean, will already be more plant forward simply because those regions don’t have large amounts of animal products available as we do here. Last but not least, aim for balance. “Red meat, saturated fat, and even added sugar are all OK in moderation. We just need to redefine what moderation is. A whole-food, plant-forward diet is a good goal for reducing the items we should be eating less of and promoting the things we should be eating more of.”
CBD wellness products can be found throughout the Hudson Valley. Adobe Stock | adogslifephoto
It’s been over a year since marijuana was broadly legalized in New York and enthusiasm in the Hudson Valley is still high—with no signs of coming down. Hemp-based CBD products can be used as desired by anyone, no medical clearance necessary. (CBD is short for cannabidiol, the active compound in marijuana, whose effects are non-psychoactive.) Hudson Hemp co-founder and brand director Freya Dobson describes demand for CBD products as steadily growing in the company’s core markets—a key one of which is the Hudson Valley—especially among edibles that aid in sleep. “People are looking for plant-based solutions to ease pain and inflammation, manage anxiety, reduce stress and remediate insomnia,” according to Dobson. She notes that two tinctures from Hudson Hemp’s Treaty line, Calm (featuring basil, rose and linden) and Sleep (chamomile, catnip, valerian) are their most popular.
CBD is an ever-growing wellness trend. Adobe Stock | Benjamin Branding
Hillary Peckham, chief operations officer of Etain, a Katonah-based medical cannabis company, says sought-after products include Commons sleep tablets, fruity Tribe Tokes CBD gummies, and Little Saints CBD mocktails, which are sugar-free, non-alcoholic beverages in four distinctive flavors: mimosa, paloma, ginger mule, and spicy margarita.
Interestingly, Dobson predicts that legalization will bring about a rise in canna-tourism, travel experiences that will help bridge the gap between agriculture and culture. “Humans are not separated from nature,” she says. “If we can create moments that bring us back to the earth, we can find ways to collectively heal.”
Pickleball is a popular wellness trend. Adobe Stock | G.Edwards
If tennis, badminton, and ping-pong had a love child, it would be pickleball. The paddle sport’s popularity is growing exponentially in the U.S. and around the world, probably because there’s nothing not to like. You can play singles or doubles, indoors or outside. For local pickleball fans, opportunities abound for friendly competition.
USA Pickleball North Mid-Atlantic Region ambassador Jayne McLaughlin, a Red Hook resident, plays at numerous places. “James Baird State Park [in Pleasant Valley] is one of the larger multi-court venues in the mid-Hudson Valley,” she says. “There are six courts with more to be added.”
The City of Kingston is planning to construct eight courts next year and many communities now offer or plan to offer pickleball soon. “Dutchess County Parks is currently developing the first of what I hope to be many pickleball complexes in their great park system,” adds McLaughlin. (Check out the searchable database maintained by USA Pickleball at places2play.org.)
Exercise-wise, pickleball offers an active, full-body workout, says McLaughlin. “One of the great aspects of the sport is that it is accessible to all ages and fitness levels,” she explains. Research at Western Colorado University showed that pickleball players who hit the court three times a week could expect to reap measurable health benefits including lower blood pressure, higher good cholesterol, and improved cardiovascular health.
Better yet, McLaughlin points out that the culture of pickleball is noted for being especially open and friendly, with people getting to know one another and veterans gladly giving newbies pointers. “They just show up at a venue and get swept up in the activity and the fun.” Her top tip for anyone interested? “Come play!”
Related: 8 CBD and Hemp Goodies to Shop in the Hudson Valley
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