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A couple of months ago, I did the four week Blue Zones Challenge. Find links to those weekly updates at the end of this post. As I completed the last week, I decided to continue, turning the challenge into a lifestyle.
One reason for my decision is the simplicity of this way of eating. I enjoy combining whole foods into meals. And while I love the Blue Zones Kitchen Cookbook, and intend to share some of my favorite recipes from it soon, you don’t really need the book to create your own Blue Zones inspired meals. By keeping some basic staples on hand, you too can enjoy this healthy aspect of the lifestyle.
Check out these easy Blue Zones meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner.
What is a Blue Zones Lifestyle?
I recently came across the books and studies by Dan Buettner. Working for National Geographic, with a grant from National Institute on Aging, Dan identified and studied the longest lived people on Earth.
These people lived in regions in the world that Dan dubbed the “blue zones”…so named because he circled those areas on the map with a blue marker. And what he discovered were commonalities among those who frequently lived at least a decade longer than other people. Check out the website HERE.
These long lived people make moving naturally an important part of their lives, destress regularly, eat a plant based diet, create supportive social circles and know what their purpose is and live it each day.
The long term benefits of living a Blue Zones lifestyle include:
- living a longer, healthier life
- more energy, improved strength and increased health
- better sleep
- weight loss and then weight maintenance
- nurturing supportive relationships
- discovering purpose
- creating a better local community
Easy Blue Zone Meal Ideas
It’s so easy to eat the Blue Zones way. Let these ideas be a springboard for creating your own simple, nutritious meals.
The meals include these staples every day:
- 1 – 3 servings of 100% whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa and brown rice
- 1 cup of legumes such as chickpeas, black beans, red beans, pinto beans, lentils and black eyes peas
- 2 handfuls of nuts such as walnuts, almonds or cashews
- 5 -10 servings of fruits and veggies
Avoid sweet drinks and treats, overly salty foods and processed foods.
Breakfast is the largest meal of the day…and the easiest. I alternate between oatmeal with berries, walnuts and chia seeds or beans and rice plus a fruit smoothie most mornings as well.
Some easy ideas:
- 1/2 cup of brown rice with 1/2 cup of any type of beans, canned or cooked at home
- 1/2 cup of brown rice with 1/2 cup of cooked lentils
- 1 cup of oatmeal (gluten free if you are sensitive to it) with strawberries, blueberries, walnuts and chia seeds
- 1 cup of oatmeal with sliced bananas and a tablespoon of no sugar added organic peanut butter
- 1 cup of oatmeal with diced cooked apples and walnuts and a drizzle of pure maple syrup
- blended fruit smoothie with frozen berries, 2 fresh bananas, chia seeds and 1 cup or more of filtered ice water to create desired consistency
- chia pudding made with coconut milk, walnuts and mixed fresh berries
You can combine brown rice with any legume for breakfast. It is so filling. And combine cooked oats with any type of fruit and/or nuts for a hearty meal.
Lunch is the next biggest meal of the day. This is the time to bring in veggies and lots of them. You can also add another half cup of beans and a grain such as quinoa or brown rice noodles.
Here are some of my favorite Blue Zones inspired lunches:
- chopped veggie salad topped with chickpeas
- veggie bowl with quinoa, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and squash…any veggie
- plain baked potato with mixed veggies, brown rice or beans
- when it’s an oatmeal for breakfast day, a bowl of brown rice and beans with sliced avocado
- vegetable soup
- three…or five…bean chili served over quinoa or brown rice
- curried chickpeas with brown rice or noodles
Use fresh or dried herbs and spices to flavor beans, rice, veggie bowls and soups.
I love preparing this simple chickpea recipe. Heat a couple of tablespoons of high quality extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pan. Add two cups of cooked chickpeas…or one can of chickpeas, drained, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika. Cook and stir over medium high heat until chickpeas are warmed through and fragrant. Add chickpeas to brown rice, veggie bowls or salads.
This meal is the lightest, unless for some reason I had a light lunch. Focus on veggies, fruits, brown rice pastas and quinoa. If I haven’t gotten my cup of beans in, I’ll add beans to the evening meal.
Easy dinner ideas:
- stir fried veggies with quinoa or brown rice
- fruit salad
- chopped veggie salad
- curried noodles with stir fried veggies
- roasted veggie plate with sweet potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts
- brown rice pasta with fresh tomatoes, mushrooms and basil
- brown rice salad with chopped fresh veggies and black olives
- vegetable soup
- fresh fruit and veggie plate with sliced avocado
- sweet potato and black bean stew
Although I keep dinner light, I also use it as a catch up time, to make sure I’ve had all my beans, grains and veggies.
I practice afternoon tea. It’s an important break in the day for me. I typically have herbal tea such as peppermint or green tea with a bowl of berries or sliced apples or pears with walnuts or cashews.
If you need a snack during the day, try fruit, cut up veggies, a handful of nuts or a small piece of dark chocolate.
I drink water all day and I sometimes include a cup of hot tea in the mornings or evenings. If I’m hungry after dinner, I’ll have another handful of nuts or a piece of fruit.
During the summer months I snack on sliced watermelon and seasonal fruits such as cherries and peaches.
Tips to Make Blue Zones Meals Easy to Prepare
I keep canned and dry beans on hand always, for quick meal prep. Also I cook up batches of brown rice in the instant pot, twice a week, so that I have it ready for breakfasts and quick meals. Containers hold quinoa and dried lentils which only takes a few minutes to cook.
Stock up on staples such as diced tomatoes, brown rice pasta and noodles and frozen and fresh veggies and fruits. As suggested in the Blue Zones Challenge Book, keep a large bowl full of fruit out on the kitchen island or counter, for snacks. Have an assortment of dried herbs and spices in the cabinet for seasoning food.
I buy walnuts and cashews in bulk along with large containers of gluten free oats.
I love knowing I can walk into the kitchen and prepare a healthy meal in minutes. Plus that awareness and well stocked kitchen prevents the “I don’t know what to cook, guess we will grab fast food” dilemma.
Does this post give you ideas for easy ways to prepare Blue Zones inspired meals? I hope so! Now is the perfect time to try these simple meals. Plus the health benefits are amazing.
If you have any questions, ask them in the comments.
Interested in the Blue Zones Four Week Challenge? Check out these posts:
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