New year, new zone — the Blue Zone.
The leading expert on Blue Zones — communities around the world recognized for their healthy lifestyles and long life expectancy — is sharing how to maintain your New Year’s resolution to finally eat right.
Dan Buettner, who coined the term “Blue Zones,” traveled the globe for nearly 20 years to learn the secrets of long and jovial living. He deemed Okinawa, Japan, Sardinia, Italy, Nicoya, Costa Rica, Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California Blue Zones, because of their large populations of people who live past 100.
To live a longer, healthier, happier life, Buettner suggests ditching unsustainable restrictive diets in favor of discovering healthy meals you actually enjoy.
“Instead of making the resolution, ‘I’m going to get on a diet to lose weight,’ which never works,” Buettner told Business Insider this week, “spend January — a week of Sundays — and cook healthy food with your family.”
The health expert insists that a key factor to getting lasting results when beginning a new diet is enjoying the food you eat and feeling satisfied with your healthy choices instead of being limited by them.
He also noted that consistently scheduling sufficient time to meet your goal will make it more realistic.
“Cook three recipes every Sunday for a month, recipes that look delicious to you,” Buettner recommended.
“At the end of the month, you’ll have achieved three things: The skills to cook 12 meals,” he explained. “You’ll know you have the hardware to cook those because you’ll have cooked them. You’ll have the experience of tasting them.”
The researcher also shared that the meals should be plant-based and centered around whole foods — like the diets in many of the Blue Zones.
But you don’t need to learn a whole cookbook’s worth of recipes.
“As long as you can get to four or five meals that you like that are whole food, plant-based, you’re on your way to eating to 100,” he said.
Buettner has long warned that the traditional American diet is harming people’s health — even setting Blue Zones back.
“They’re all eroding,” he told Salon last fall. “I think they’ll all be gone in a generation, quite honestly. As soon as the standard American diet comes in the front door, longevity goes out the back door.”
That’s why he strongly encourages people to focus on maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, instead of following fad diets or biohacking tricks.
“When it comes to longevity, there’s no short-term fix,” Buettner said to Business Insider. “You have to think about things that will be in your life for a long time, a good recipe and a good friend.”