Blue Zones Food Guidelines
Fad diets flood the internet and social media streams daily. They tell us what not to eat, how to lose weight quickly, and which supplements we should take. Unfortunately, little or weak research back up many of these fad diets, quick solutions, and supplements. They can lead to endless cycles of yo-yo dieting, emotional stress, and wasted money.
To improve your overall quality of life and enhance your longevity, try the Blue Zones Food Guidelines—simple and realistic solutions for healthier eating. Researchers have developed the guidelines from 150 dietary studies conducted in the blue zones over the past decade, and they parallel diet recommendations from major health organizations and educational institutions.
Aim to have 65 percent of your total calories from complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, beans/legumes, fruits, and vegetables. About 20 percent of calories should come from plant-based fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados. About 15 percent of total calories from mostly plant-based proteins, such as beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. A ~2,000 calorie sample Blue Zones menu can be found here.
Eat plants. 95 percent of your food should be fruits, vegetables, grains, greens, beans, and fruits. Use olive oil to flavor vegetables. Aim to eat 1 cup a day of beans, 2-3 servings of fruit, 1 cup of whole grains, and 4 servings of non-starchy veggies per day.
Think of meat as a celebratory food. Portions should be no larger than a deck of cards, once or twice a week. Avoid processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, deli meat, ham, and sausages.
FISH IS FINE
Enjoy fish up to three times weekly. Wild-caught salmon or smaller fish like sardines, trout, snapper, cod, and anchovies are okay choices. Limit portion sizes to 3 ounces (about the size of the palm of your hand).
Avoid dairy when possible. If cheese is a must, try ice-cube size portions of sheep (pecorino) or goat (feta) cheese to flavor foods. If you eat eggs, limit intake to 3/week.
DAILY DOSE OF BEANS
Eat a cup of beans daily spread out across breakfast, lunch, or dinner. All beans count, including tofu. They contain high-quality protein and fiber. If you buy canned beans, avoid added salt, sugar, and chemicals.
Consume only 28 grams (7 teaspoons) of added sugar daily. Reserve cookies, cakes, and candies for special occasions. Read labels on packages and avoid foods with more than 8 grams of sugar. Make honey your go-to sweetener.
SNACK ON NUTS
Eat a handful of nuts daily: almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, and peanuts. Try different nuts so you don’t tire of them. Avoid sugar-coated nuts.
SOUR ON BREAD
Eat only 100% whole grain breads or authentic sourdough bread made from live cultures. Limit bread to two slices daily. Chose whole grain corn tortillas over flour tortillas. Avoid white breads and wraps.
GO WHOLLY WHOLE
Try to eat only whole foods or processed foods with fewer than 5 ingredients: If it’s manufactured in a plant, avoid it. If it comes from a plant, eat it.
DRINK MOSTLY WATER
Drink six glasses of water daily. Feel free to drink unsweetened teas and coffee. Enjoy Wine at 5 with friends or with Blue Zones-inspired meals. Avoid all sugar-sweetened and diet sodas.