Photo credit: repinanatoly at iStock by Getty
We’ve written a lot here (and in our book) about the Blue Zones — five longevity hotspots around the world, explored by Dan Buettner, who looked for common denominators. Diet was a big one. In general, all the Blue Zone communities favored plant-based diets, and there is a wealth of online Blue Zone information including menu plans and recipes.
The food is one thing; but what about the kitchen itself?
Surprisingly, it can play a role. As reported here, Blue Zone residents create an environment that — automatically and unobtrusively — promotes the healthy eating choices. They set up their kitchens so they’re “mindlessly making slightly better decisions all day long.” Are they consciously “on a diet?” Buettner answers: “Nope.” The healthy eating flows naturally from the set-up.
How do you set up such an environment? The article offers a number of tips:
Use hand tools
“Residents in Blue Zones often use traditional tools for cooking. You can do the same by reaching for a potato masher, garlic press, salad spinner or whisk when you prepare fresh food. Buettner says this is an easy way to stay moving and active as you prepare your meals. It can also turn meal prep into a more restorative and meditative experience.”
Have an Instant Pot or other slow cooker
This can help make “healthy meal prep happen effortlessly in the background throughout the day.”
Create a herb garden
“Herbs can help you incorporate more fresh flavors into your meals. If you don’t have space outside, it can be a small row of containers on your kitchen windowsill.”
Keep the healthy foods in plain sight, and hide the junk
“The first thing you see when you walk through your kitchen should be something healthy,” says Buettner. This means keeping fresh produce at eye level in your fridge and moving packaged snacks to somewhere inconvenient (or better yet, ditch them altogether).
Eat on smaller plates
“This will help you mindlessly control portion sizes, abiding by the Japanese principle of hara hachi bun me, or eating until you’re 80% full.”
The article also recommends switching up some food choices and make the substitutions routine:
- Snack on a handful or two of nuts
- Use honey as your preferred sweetener (a few teaspoons a day)
- Stock whole grains, including oats, brown rice, quinoa and sourdough bread
- Eat a cup of beans a day
- Instead of soda, drink cold tea sweetened with honey
What’s revolutionary here is not the diet itself (it’s basically the Mediterranean Diet) but the way in which Blue Zone residents incorporate it into their natural daily environment. It’s not an external “thing” or “regimen” — it’s how their life works. (They do the same with fitness and with socialization. You can learn more about it in our book.)