Vegan Meatball Recipes

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Have you tried the plant based “meats” from Impossible? I don’t eat Impossible Meats often, however I like having a package of the Impossible burgers in the freezer, for an almost instant meal.

Recently I tried the Impossible Meatballs, while preparing a spread of healthy snack foods for Greg and our son Nate to graze on while they watched a program together. The plant based meatballs made an easy to make appetizer that even our non-vegan son enjoyed.

I’ve created several vegan meatball recipes, using frozen Impossible Meatballs as the base. Try these for a plant based appetizer or a quick meal.

Vegan Meatball Recipes title

Where to Purchase Impossible Meatballs

Look for Impossible Meatballs in the frozen foods section of the grocery store, where healthy meal alternatives are offered.

The package contains approximately 14 frozen plant based meatballs.

In the same section, you can typically find Impossible patties, Impossible breakfast sausages and Impossible “chicken” nuggets and strips. All of these products are vegan/ plant based.

Keep Impossible Meatballs in the freezer at home until ready to use. In fact, all the recipes I came up with use the meatballs frozen. No need to thaw them first. And, the meatballs are individually frozen. You can use all of them or select a few from the resealable bag.

Vegan Meatball Recipes impossible
Vegan Meatball Recipes – Impossible Meatballs

Vegan Meatballs Appetizer

These plant based meatballs make an easy and delicious appetizer, ready in minutes using an instant pot.

In the instant pot, combine two packages of frozen Impossible Meatballs, 2 cups of sugar free grape preserves, 12 ounces of Heinz chili sauce and 1/4 cup of water. Stir to coat meatballs, cover instant pot and lock lid into place.

Cook for 6 minutes. Allow natural release. Keep meatballs on warm in instant pot or transfer to a crock pot and keep warm. Serve with long toothpicks on a platter if desired.

These slightly spicy vegan meatballs are wonderful with vegan charcuterie boards, veggie trays, hummus and chips, a fruit platter and an assortment of vegan cheeses and crackers.

Vegan Meatball Recipes appetizers
Vegan Meatball Recipes – appetizers

Vegan Meatballs and Pasta

Another super simple recipe using Impossible Meatballs is to add them to your favorite spaghetti sauce, heat on the stove and serve with pasta.

I used a sugar free spaghetti sauce and gluten free pasta made from brown rice.

Combine half a package of frozen meatballs with a jar of spaghetti sauce and simmer, covered, while cooking the pasta.

When pasta is done, drain, plate and top with heated through meatballs and sauce. Serve immediately.

Vegan Meatball Recipes pasta
Vegan Meatball Recipes – pasta

Barbeque Meatballs and Brown Rice

This equally quick recipe is my favorite.

Combine a package of frozen Impossible Meatballs, 1 cup of sugar free grape preserves, 1 cup of sugar free barbeque sauce and 1/2 cup of water in an instant pot. Stir to coat meatballs, cover and lock lid. Cook for 6 minutes. Allow natural release.

Serve over cooked brown rice. Add mixed veggies or a side salad.

I keep a container of cooked brown rice in the refrigerator, for quick meal prep. And I keep a bowl of chopped veggie salad in the fridge as well. I can have a meal ready in 15 minutes or less.

I’ve found the sauce ingredients can vary, with excellent results. For the latest batch of barbeque meatballs I used 1 cup of sugar free preserves, 1/2 cup of catsup and 2 teaspoons of mustard for the sauce. You can substitute a different flavor of jelly or cranberry sauce for the grape jelly.

I like a sauce that isn’t too sweet, that’s a bit tart and a bit spicy.

Vegan Meatball Recipes
Vegan Meatball Recipes – barbeque meatballs and brown rice

Try These Vegan Meatball Recipes

I practice a plant based lifestyle, avoiding animal products in my food, clothing, beauty products and life. And I follow the Blue Zones lifestyle, which discourages processed foods. Impossible meats DO fall under the processed foods category, which is why I use them sparingly.

They make a nice treat when I need a fast meal beyond a salad or a change of pace from beans and rice.

Have you tried Impossible Meatballs? Which of these recipes would you most enjoy?

Vegan Meatball Recipes spaghetti


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Walk with Your Ears

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Do you know that one of the main stressors in our lives is noise?

From traffic sounds to construction work to people talking to loud music or the television blaring in the background to the constant ding and chime of our electrical devices, we are bombarded daily with noise.

My activity this week, from the book 52 Ways to Walk, led me to a stroll through nature with the goal of disconnecting from all the noise in my life.

This is walk number 14, Walk with Your Ears.

Walk with Your Ears title meme

Bombarded with Noise

Noise is a by product of our lives, especially for urban and city dwellers. Various studies show that city noises result in an increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Exposure to noise also elevates stress, creating inflamed blood vessels which raises the risk for stroke.

Studies of schools near busy airports found that students tested more poorly in cognitive and literary skills than those not near an airport. The World Health Organization believes that traffic noise alone contributes significantly to the loss of a healthier life. And even in a deep sleep, noise affects heart rate and blood pressure.

A study at Brighton and Sussex Medical School monitored the heart rate and brain activity of healthy adults as they listened to a variety of sounds. The brain region that’s active when we are resting and relaxed, referred to as that default mode, changed according to the sound listened to.

When participants listened to ocean waves, their brains switched into an outward focus of attention. Traffic sounds caused the brain to focus inward, in a state observed in people with anxiety, trauma and depression. And interestingly, the participants bodies followed their minds. In a more relaxed state their heart rates slowed, muscles relaxed and their digestive systems worked better.

Walk with Your Ears path
Walk with Your Ears – walking in the woods near Shoal Creek.


Walk in Nature

The answer to all the noise in our lives, is to take time frequently to walk in a quiet, natural area. Nature sounds bring powerful healing to the body, reducing stress and anxiety, lowering cortisol levels and boosting overall health.

The following nature sounds seem to positively impact health the greatest:

  • birdsong
  • moving water in a river or the ocean
  • rustling tree leaves
  • silence
  • twigs snapping underfoot
  • animal sounds
  • wind whistling through the trees
  • rain falling
  • acorns hitting the ground
  • squelching mud

And experiencing these sounds outdoors is better than listening to recordings of nature sounds. People report feeling happier and more relaxed after walking in nature, verses listening to an app with nature sounds. Additionally, the activity of walking contributes to the powerful effects of listening to nature.

Walk with Your Ears creek
Walk with Your Ears – stopping by a gurgling creek.

Tips for Walking with Your Ears

Following your ears as you walk in nature guides you to fresh experiences and an outwardly directed focus.

Choose an outdoor area away from traffic and city noises, preferably with trees and a river or stream nearby.

Walk alone, so that other than nature sounds, you walk in silence.

Listen for nature sounds such as birdsong, animal noises, water gurgling over rocks and the wind shushing through the trees. This is called susurration, which is defined as a whispering, murmuring or rustling sound.

Cup your hands around your ears, to amplify sounds around you.

Close your eyes occasionally, to turn focus from the visual to the auditory.

Follow a nature sound that you hear, to see where it leads.

Record your walk, catching some of the sounds you hear, to replay later.

Walk with Your Ears river
Walk with Your Ears – Shoal Creek

My Walk with My Ears

I chose a wooded area south of my city, for my walk with my ears. The Shoal Creek area offers walking trails along the river and paths through the woods, making it an ideal location for this activity.

There were other people around, walking dogs, jogging along the paths and playing in the river. However the walkers passed by with a smile and a nod and my walk took me deeper into the woods, where it was quiet except for birdsong, insect noises and the gentle breeze moving through the trees.

Near the river I discovered that one animal noise is somewhat annoying…the incessant barking of a dog. I’m an animal lover, however when out walking for the benefits it brings, a barking dog is low on my list of what I hope to experience. Fortunately, away from the river, I couldn’t hear the dog.

The auditory focused walk soothed my body, which felt tired after a very busy week. I loved the sound of the breeze stirring the leaves and listening to different bird calls and insect sounds. The cicadas sang their undulating song of summer while crickets chirped. I heard small animals rustling in the underbrush although I never saw them. And I stopped to talk to my old friend, Oak Tree.

I left the woods and the creek refreshed and feeling happy.

You can watch a ten second video of my nature walk HERE.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

Is walking an important form of exercise and relaxation for you? Then you would enjoy this book as well. The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. Throughout the next year, I intend to randomly select walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk by clicking this LINK. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.

Do you have a quiet, nature area to walk in?

Walk with Your Ears me
Loving the Walk with Your Ears activity!


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Green Beans and New Potatoes

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This week is National Farmers Market Week. These markets are a great place to gather fresh produce, organic ready made meals, handmade goods and a variety of other products such as herbs and plants.

In my community, the Webb City Farmers Market sets up every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday under an open air pavilion. It’s one of my favorite places to visit, especially during the summer and fall months when there is such a bounty of fruits and veggies.

On a recent trip to the market I picked up fresh green beans and new potatoes, along with other veggies. Although I grew up eating green beans and new potatoes that included bacon or ham, I knew I could create a tasty vegan version.

And I did just that! It’s such a simple, wholesome recipe too. Paired with fresh sliced tomatoes, this easy to prepare meal is one of my favorite eats on hot summer days.

Green Beans and New Potatoes title

Health Benefits of Green Beans and Potatoes

Before sharing the recipe, check out why green beans and potatoes are a good for you meal.

Green Beans

These veggies are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world. And they are highly nutritious. Green beans contain vitamins A, C and K along with folic acid, calcium and fiber.

Green beans are also rich in iron, containing about twice the amount found in spinach, which means they are great for boosting energy and metabolism. They also offer an easily absorbed type of silicon, which is crucial for healthy connective tissue, nails and skin.

Because of their vitamin K content, green beans supports bone health, strengthening them from the inside out. And they are loaded with antioxidants that prevent free radical damage in the body’s cells.

The calcium in green beans protects heart health and helps prevent blood clots in arteries. And finally, these nutritious beans help prevent macular degeneration while maintaining good eyesight and night vision.

New Potatoes

Potatoes have a bad rap as an unhealthy food. They are, in fact, a very healthy and nutritious food.

The entire potato is edible, with the skin being very high in nutrients. Because they develop underground, potatoes draw trace minerals from the earth. They are high in potassium, B6 and amino acids…in particular Lysine in its bioactive form. Lysine fights against cancers, viruses such as Epstein-Barr and shingles, liver disease and inflammation.

Potatoes strengthen the kidneys and liver, soothe over excited nerves and help the digestive system to heal from Crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers. They are antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial, relieving stress, supporting the brain and helping us to feel centered and grounded.

New potatoes are simply small potatoes dug up from the ground before they fully mature.

Green Beans and New Potatoes from the farmers market
Green beans and new potatoes fresh from the farmers market.

Simple Vegan Recipe

Excited to prepare the fresh from the market green beans and new potatoes, I considered how to season them for the best flavor. I didn’t want to add bacon or ham…but what could I add?

Instead, I came up with a very simple seasoning…smoked paprika. I loved how it gave the green beans and new potatoes a subtle “meaty” flavor and created a rich broth as the veggies cooked.

Here’s what you need for this recipe:

  • 12 small new potatoes, skin on, scrubbed and halved or quartered
  • 2 pounds of fresh green beans, washed and ends cut off
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 6 cups of water or veggie broth

Cooking green beans and new potatoes:

  • in a large cooking pot, cover prepared green beans with 6 cups of water or veggie broth (make your own vegetable broth HERE)
  • add smoked paprika and sea salt
  • bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for up to an hour, checking beans for tenderness after 45 minutes
  • add prepared new potatoes, stir to combine with green beans
  • bring mixture of veggies back to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender
  • makes 4 – 6 servings…store leftovers in refrigerator
Green Beans and New Potatoes plated
Ready to eat…green beans and new potatoes

Enjoying Green Beans and New Potatoes

I tell you sincerely that this recipe is so delicious! I love the combination of these two vegetables. And the flavor added by the smoked paprika was perfect. In fact, the broth is so good you’ll want to drink it if you have any left.

I didn’t miss the bacon or ham at all. With a sliced garden fresh tomato, this is the perfect summer meal. No oven use to heat up the house, one cooking pot and easy clean up. I kept the leftovers in the covered cooking pot and popped it into the refrigerator.

If you don’t have a farmers market near you, or a garden to grow your own veggies, look for fresh green beans and new potatoes in the produce section of your favorite grocery store.

Do you like fresh green beans and new potatoes combined together? If you make this simple recipe, let me know what you think!

Ready to eat
Ready to eat!


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Walk Backward

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I recently shared about the book 52 Ways to Walk. You can check out a review of the book HERE.

Although I’m excited to try out all 52 ways of walking, as suggested in the book, I found myself derailed.

I initially selected, randomly, a walk with others activity. And then the weather turned incredibly hot with temps at or above 100 degrees daily. Excuses, excuses.

Eventually I found a group to walk with and I’ll enjoy that shared activity with them soon. For my first walk from the book, I chose this one: #49 Walk Backward.

And yes…it is exactly what it sounds like!

Walk Backward title meme

Why Walk Backward?

There’s a fun story behind this walking activity.

In 1931 a Texan named Plennie Wingo decided to walk backward around the world. After practicing for six months, Wingo set out from Santa Monica, California with a stout walking stick for balance and tiny mirrors attached to his glasses so that he could see behind him.

Wingo walked backward across the US to Boston, Massachusetts. He sailed from Boston to Germany and continued his backward walk. Although he was jailed in Turkey, Wingo eventually completed a walk of 7,000 miles…all in reverse. He gained recognition as the Guiness record holder for “greatest extent of reverse pedestrianism” and lived to the amazing age of 98. Wingo attributed his good health to regularly walking backward.

The Health Benefits of Walking Backward

It seems that Wingo discovered a truth.

According to recent studies, the best way to improve walking forward is to occasionally walk in reverse. Doing so strengthens the lower body while improving balance and stability.

Plus when we walk backward without using our eyes to see ahead, we learn to rely on something called proprioception, a system of neurons embedded in our joints, muscles and limbs that work with our senses to communicate with our central nervous system and brain.

Researchers speculate that walking backward requires unfamiliar, more complex movements, enhancing proprioception abilities along with balance and perception.

Walking in reverse demands more physically as well as we start on the toes and roll to the heel. (Wingo went through 13 pairs of shoes on his historical walk.) We engage the shin muscles and glutes differently and lengthen out hamstrings.

Backward walking aligns the spine and pelvis, reduces lower back pain, strengthens knee joints and improves stride and gait.

Walk Backward view behind
Walk Backward – my view behind me as I walked

Tips for Walking Backward

Engaging in this activity requires some care. Wingo sprained one ankle and broke the other and he caused a car accident.

For safety, walk in a familiar area that is level and without obstacles. Ask a friend or family member to join you, walking forward and serving as a guide.

Focus on each step, walking slowly and pushing off the toe then rolling to the heel. Let arms swing naturally and keep back straight and head centered.

Keep the walk short if this is your first time walking backward. If you enjoy this activity build up to longer backward walks.

My Experience Walking Backward

I chose my neighborhood for this backward walk. Greg accompanied me as my guide and to offer an arm if I felt unsteady. My neighborhood contains fairly new sidewalks, making a smooth, level surface to walk upon.

Due to the heat, even in the morning hours, we kept the distance short and I didn’t walk backward the whole way. After climbing a hill part way, I turned around and walked in reverse for a while. And then I returned to normal walking for a distance before reversing again.

Immediately I noticed a difference in my lower back and legs. I could feel muscles working in ways I don’t notice when walking normally. Although the distance was just under a mile, I later experienced a bit of soreness in my left leg and foot from the unaccustomed gait. The discomfort quickly disappeared.

Overall, it was a fun and unique experience. And not one person looked at me strangely…well maybe Greg did…and no one ran off the road while driving by due to the unusual sight of a woman walking backward!

To receive the most benefits, I intend to include walking backward as a regular activity.

Walk Backward cindy
Me on number 49 walk backward.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

Is walking an important form of exercise and relaxation for you? Then you would enjoy this book as well. The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. And it inspires me to create other interesting walks as well.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk by clicking this LINK. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.


52 Ways to Walk book


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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas

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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.

Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas title meme

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 Zones Meal Ideas travel
It’s easy to eat the Blue Zones way while traveling. Beans and brown rice with sourdough bread.

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.

Easy Blue Zone Meal Ideas beans and rice
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas – black beans and rice for breakfast
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas oats
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas – oatmeal with berries


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.

Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas salad
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas – chopped salad with cherry tomatoes and turmeric/paprika chickpeas
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas soup
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas – veggie soup with lentils and herbs


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.

Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas pasta
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas – brown rice pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil for dinner
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas noodle dinner
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas –  raw chopped veggies and cold rice salad with cooked broccoli and cauliflower


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.

Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas tea
The perfect afternoon treat…herbal tea and a bowl of fresh fruit.
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas watermelon
Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas – watermelon as a snack or a meal

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.

Easy Blue Zones Meal Ideas simple meal

Interested in the Blue Zones Four Week Challenge? Check out these posts:

Blue Zones Challenge Week One

Blue Zones Challenge Week Two

Week Three Blue Zones Challenge

Blue Zones Challenge Week Four


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Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil

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There’s a lot of confusion out there about cooking oils. In recent years, we were encouraged to use vegetable oils, with canola oil at the top of the list, since they are high in unsaturated fats and low in the saturated ones.

However, saturated fat content doesn’t tell the whole nutrition story. And, in fact, canola oil is NOT the best oil to use for several reasons. Want to get the scoop on why this oil may be causing you health issues?

Read on for the concerns about this popular oil and discover healthy substitutes for canola oil.

Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil title meme

What is Canola Oil?

This neutral tasting oil comes from crushing the seeds of the canola plant.

The canola plant, however, originated as the rapeseed plant. That plant contains toxic compounds, making it unsafe for consumption. Canadian scientists learned to remove those toxic compounds through the targeted cross breeding of plants and came up with the canola plant, so named for Canada – can, and oil – ola. Most canola crops are also genetically modified (GMO). GMO products can create inflammation in the body.

Extracting oil from the canola plant is a long process that includes using chemical solvents such as hexane or a combination of chloroform and methanol. That extraction step removes most polyphenols, a healthy compound that promotes longevity.

The high heat used during the process can also affect the stability of the oil’s molecules, turning it rancid and destroying the omega-3s. The addition of synthetic antioxidants increases shelf life.

Canola oil may also contain small amounts of trans fats, which can lead to harmful effects on health.

How Canola Oil Can Impact Health

Canola oil can impact health in negative ways.

Those synthetic antioxidants, which include BHA, BHT and TBHQ, when consumed over time are toxic and carcinogenic.

Canola oil contains a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, while consuming too much omega-6 contributes to inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Canola oil’s ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 2:1, adding to the overconsumption of omega-6s that’s common in the typical American diet. Most in the US consume these two fatty acids in a 20:1 ratio.

The spike in inflammation that canola oil can cause contributes to many chronic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and colitis.

Recent studies show that canola oil can cause impairment in cognitive function and memory. Plus it can worsen hypertensions and damage blood vessel function, especially when the oil is combined with salt when frying foods.

Beware of studies and reports claiming canola oil is a healthy oil to use. Most of those are funded by the Canada and US Canola Associations. There are better oils to use.

Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil

Try one of these oils, if using oil is a part of your diet.

Sesame Oil

Use sesame oil to sauté veggies or add to marinades and dressings. It comes from sesame seeds and is one of the earliest known crop based oils.

Health benefits include anti-inflammatory properties, boosts heart health and protects skin from sun damage.

Avocado Oil

Made from the pulp of the avocado, this oil is rich in oleic acid, a healthy omega-9 fatty acid. Use avocado oil as a high heat cooking and frying option and in baking.

Benefits include reduces cholesterol and improves heart health, supports eye health, enhances the absorption of nutrients and reduces symptoms of arthritis.

Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil avocado
Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil – avocado oil

Peanut Oil

Made from peanuts, this oil is ideal for cooking at high temperatures. It’s high in unsaturated fats, antioxidants and phytosterols, a plant compound that blocks the absorption of cholesterol from foods.

Highly refined peanut oil is free from the allergen that causes a reaction. However, if you have a peanut allergy, do not use cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil. Always ask your health care provider for guidance.

Health benefits include lowers bad cholesterol, reduces risks for heart disease and strokes and maintains immune system and metabolism.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil comes from the coconut palm fruit. It’s a white solid fat that melts easily at room temperature, turning into a clear liquid. Use for frying, baking and DIY skincare and haircare recipes.

Coconut oil contains rich fatty acids and antioxidants.

Health benefits include fights against Alzheimer’s, reduces risks for heart disease, boosts liver health and energy and aids digestion.

Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil coconut
Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil – coconut oil

Flaxseed Oil

This oil is made from ground flax seeds. Use for cooking, dressings, sauces and frying and also as an ingredient in DIY skincare recipes. Flaxseed oil is high in omega-3s.

Benefits include reduces inflammation, improves heart and skin health, lowers blood pressure and may help reduce cancer cell growth.

Pumpkin Seed Oil

Also called pepita oil, this rust colored oil is extracted from pumpkin seeds. It’s versatile as a cooking oil and also as a supplement. And it’s rich in nutrients, fatty acids and phytoserols.

Health benefits include lowers cholesterol, eases symptoms of an enlarged prostate, lowers high blood pressure, eases menopausal symptoms and improves urinary tract health.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This well known oil comes from olives. Use it for cooking, frying, baking and salad dressings.

Look for cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil as it is the least processed and often considered the healthiest oil to use. It contains heart healthy fats and antioxidants and possesses a rich flavor.

Health benefits include anti-inflammatory properties, supports heart health, promotes longevity, helps manage blood clotting, lowers blood pressure, lowers the risk of cancer and reduces the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.

Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil olive
Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil – olive oil

Which Oil Do You Use?

If you prefer not to use oils, you can substitute applesauce or mashed bananas in baking recipes. Use a small amount of water or vegetable broth when sautéing.

I’ve lightly used olive oil, since going plant based. However, since embracing the Blue Zones lifestyle, I use more than I used to, and love it. Look for the best quality cold pressed olive oil, for the most health benefits.

Do you use oils? Which is your favorite to use?

Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil peanut
Healthy Substitutes for Canola Oil – peanuts for peanut oil


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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.


For Longevity Eat Foods High in Polythenols

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As I fully embrace the Blue Zones lifestyle, I’m learning more about the foods and activities that contribute to a longer, healthier, higher quality life. There are reasons people living in the Blue Zones eat the way they do. Today, learn more about a group of foods that are rich in natural compounds and antioxidants, that help counter the effects of aging.

For longevity eat foods high in polythenols.

Eat Foods High in Polythenols title meme

What are Polythenols?

Health boosting polythenols are found in certain fruits, vegetables and plant based foods such as grains. These powerful compounds are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that improve cognitive function and bolster the immune system.

Additionally, polythenols fight free radicals, UV radiation and pathogens while providing antifungal and antibacterial properties. It is essential to eat foods high in polythenols to protect the brain and heart and the immune and digestive systems.

More than 8,000 polythenols exist. And they are divided into four categories: flavonoids, stilbenes, lignans and phenolic acids. It’s the polythenols in plants that provide their colors. As we eat for longevity, consuming a variety of colorful foods ensures we are getting the polythenols we need. Those foods also offer essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Foods that are High in Polythenols

Add as many of these foods as possible to your diet, to boost longevity. Incorporate them into daily meals when planning for the week.


Apples symbolize health, don’t they? Remember the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? There is a reason for their association with health. Apples, and especially red skinned apples, supply all four categories of polythenols plus vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.

Apples play a crucial role in fighting inflammation of all kinds. They calm the systems of the body by reducing viral and bacterial loads that inflame the body. Plus apples feed the neurons of the brain and increase electrical activity while strengthening and cleansing the digestive system.

Be sure you eat the skins of the apples, as that’s where the strongest flavonoids are. Eat sliced apples for a snack or add chopped apples to salads and oatmeal.

Tea and Coffee

Drinking a cup of coffee or tea each day is great for health. Both are excellent sources of the polythenol phenolic acid. And green tea contains flavonoids as well. To avoid caffeine, try a cup of green or herbal tea in the afternoons. That soothing anti-inflammatory drink strengthens the cardiovascular system while supporting brain health.

Check out these 10 herbal teas that boost health.

Eat Foods High in Polythenols tea
Eat foods high in polythenols – green tea

Spices and Herbs

Spices and herbs are some of the best sources of polythenols. Aromatic herbs such as rosemary, sage, cilantro, thyme and peppermint top the list along with turmeric, black pepper and ginger.

The antioxidants in spices and herbs reduce free radical damage in the body, a primary cause of aging. Anti-inflammatory properties fight chronic disease.

Rather than seasoning foods with salt, try including more herbs and spices for flavor and their longevity inducing benefits. Or use herbs to make teas or tinctures.


Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and elderberries all provide anthocyanins, a form of flavonoids. These compounds protect the body from oxidative stress, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Berries also help keep a woman’s reproductive system in balance.

Enjoy berries in smoothies, oatmeal, chia pudding or alone as a healthy snack.

Eat Foods High in Polythenols berries
Eat foods high in polythenols – berries

Olives and Olive Oil

Olives and olive oils are foundational to the Mediterranean diet and those who live in Blue Zones. Black olives provide more polythenols than green olives, however both rank high on the list.

Look for extra virgin, cold pressed, organic olive oils for the best health benefits. And enjoy black or green olives alone or in salads and pasta dishes.


Nuts such as walnuts, almonds and cashews rank high as nutrient dense foods. They also provide healthy fats, vitamin E and polyphenols.

Walnuts contain more ALA, an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid, than any of the other nuts. They also provide antioxidants, 4 grams of protein per serving, fiber and 11% of the daily magnesium requirement.

Enjoy a couple of handfuls of nuts daily. Eat as a snack or add to oatmeal, homemade granola that includes dark chocolate, salads and grain and veggie bowls.

Eat Foods High in Polythenols nuts
Eat foods high in polythenols – nuts

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder rank high as polyphenol rich foods. They contain flavonoids that provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.

Look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao for the most benefits. Add a spoonful of cocoa powder to smoothies or make a cup of hot chocolate using plant based milk. Here’s a great recipe for vegan hot chocolate.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are an excellent source of lignans, a form of polythenols. Grains such as oats, quinoa and brown rice also provide protein, fiber, B vitamins and essentials minerals like magnesium. Plus quinoa provides all nine essential amino acids that the body needs

Pair grains with veggies for a hearty bowl. Add berries and walnuts to cooked oats. Make a brown rice and black olive salad.

Eat Foods HIgh in Polythenols grains
Eat foods high in polythenols – whole grains

Flax Seeds

These tiny seeds are an excellent source omega-3s and also polyphenols. This lignan, found in legumes and whole grains, protect against heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis.

Add flax seeds to smoothies, oatmeal bowls, salads and homemade granola. They make a great egg substitute in baking, as well.

Red Wine

Although it’s important to consume alcohol in moderation, red wine is known for its health benefits. Red wine’s resveratol, in the stilbenes category of polyphenols, provides antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Red wine can even protect against tumors and cancer, landing it on the longevity list.

Cannonau, a red wine from the Blue Zone area of Sardinia, offers up to three times the polythenols of other reds.

Red Onions

The red onion is particularly high in polythenols, in the form of flavonoids. Red onions offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as quercetin. This flavonoid fights cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders and helps rid the body of bacteria.

Use red onions in guacamole, salads, cooked meals such as veggie bowls and grain bowls and in homemade vegetable broth.

Eat Foods High in Polythenols red onion
Eat foods high in polythenols – red onions

Include Polythenol Rich Foods in Meals

Make a game of including more polythenol rich foods in your diet this week.

  • Start the day with a bowl of oatmeal topped with blueberries and strawberries, flax seeds and walnuts.
  • Create a lunch salad made from quinoa, red onion, green olives, fresh herbs and chopped veggies and legumes.
  • Enjoy afternoon tea with a cup of hot green tea and a snack of walnuts and chopped apples.
  • Season your recipes with more herbs and spices.
  • Cook with olive oil, creating an evening meal bowl with brown rice, sautéed veggies, chickpeas and red onion.
  • End the day with a glass of red wine and a couple of squares of dark chocolate.

How many of these health boosting, life extending foods can you add to your meals this week? Let me know how you do!

And check out the Blue Zones website, for more information about that lifestyle. Ready to start the four week Blue Zones Challenge? Week One is HERE.

Eat Foods High in Polythenols wine


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52 Ways to Walk

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Greg recently brought home a book from our local library, because he thought it might interest me. And does it ever interest me!

The book, 52 Ways to Walk by Annabel Streets, carries the subtitle “The surprising science of walking for wellness and joy, one week at a time.” I appreciate the “wellness and joy” aspects of the book. And, I absolutely love the format. My imagination immediately fired up as I read through the book.

I’m excited to put this book into practice. And I’m equally excited to share the book with you.

52 Ways to Walk title meme

Meet the Author, Annabel Streets

Annabel grew up in a carless family. Her father never learned to drive and her mother failed her driving test seven times. The family lived in remote places without access to public transportation, so if they needed something, they walked to obtain it.

As a young adult, Annabel bought her first car and enjoyed driving it around her little town. She also accepted a desk job. Soon she noticed changes in her body and wellness level.

Her body grew rounder, softer, achier, stiffer and more stooped. And Annabel felt more anxious, unsettled and discontent. She chose to reconnect with the simple joys of walking, to reclaim her health and wellbeing.

As she returned to walking frequently, she made two rules for herself: walk instead of using the car, unless absolutely necessary and convert as many sedentary activities as possible into walking activities.

52 Ways to Walk was born out of Annabel’s reconnection with walking and the desire to encourage others to rethink walking and reclaim it from their molecular memories.

52 Ways to Walk cold
52 Ways to Walk – Week 1 Walk in the Cold

How to Use the Book

Each chapter in the book is an opportunity to discover a new way of walking. The chapters roughly coincide with annual weather conditions, colder at the beginning and end of the year, and some universally recognized events.

However, the chapters and modes of walking can also be accessed randomly, choosing a chapter here and the next week, flipping to another section of the book.

To best use the book, whether chronologically or randomly, first skim through the chapters and prepare for the variety of walks. During cold or rainy weather, have coats, scarves, umbrellas and proper footwear available. Download map apps and online sites for walking in new areas.

Walking shoes and boots should fit properly. Purchase new ones if they don’t. Quick drying, breathable socks are a must as well. A stout walking stick is helpful for walking in nature. And keep a backpack ready to go with bandaids, snacks, water, sunscreen, wipes, antiseptic, insect repellent and pain relievers.

Pick a week to start, choose your first walk and head out the door!

52 Ways to Walk lost
52 Ways to Walk – Week 41 Walk to Get Lost

Examples from 52 Ways to Walk

Each short chapter includes the type of walk to go on, the benefits from the activity and the science to back the reasoning. At the end of each chapter is a TIPS section with ways to get the most from the walk.

Here is a sampling of walks found in the book.

Walk, Smile, Greet, Repeat

Walking allows us to experience chance encounters with others. Greeting the people we meet with a smile while walking in a neighborhood makes us feel better and return home happier.

Walk in the Rain

Rather than using a rainy day as an excuse to stay home, this week’s activity encourages us to walk in the rain and reconnect with the elements. The falling rain, increased moisture and persistent pounding of raindrops causes specific compounds to be released and combined with the air we breathe. Inhaling those compounds produces a profound sense of well being in the body.

52 Ways to Walk rain
52 Ways to Walk – Week 12 Walk in the Rain

Take a Silent Stroll

A decade ago, scientists discovered that loud noises stopped new neurons from forming in the brain, in the regions linked to memory and learning. Two hours of silence every day produced new neurons. Walking in a quiet place allows the body to reset and the brain to create new neurons.

Amble Amid Trees

in the 1960s biologists realized that the bluish haze often seen over landscapes is a vast cloud of molecules and gases produced by trees and plants. Those emissions benefit earth’s atmosphere. Now we are discovering that they deliver positive benefits to us as well, when we walk in the woods. Health benefits include reduced risks for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, early death, high blood pressure and stress.

52 Ways to Walk woods
52 Ways to Walk – Week 19 Amble Amid Trees

Walk with Your Nose

Our sense of smell is the most primitive of the senses. To fully activate that sense and awaken the other senses, walk in an area rich in aromatic plant life. Walk slowly, occasionally closing the eyes and placing hands over the ears and be guided by the nose.

Follow a River

Landscapes with running water have a restorative effect on the mood of the walker. The mind unwinds and the brain relaxes, helping us to feel tranquil and energized at the same time. Tote along lightweight binoculars for watching wildlife along the river and wear sunglasses to protect eyes from glare off of the water.

52 Ways to Walk river
52 Ways to Walk – Week 17 Follow a River

How I Intend to Use the Book

Since the copy I am currently reading came from the library, I’m ordering my own copy from Amazon.

I love the easy to use format and the mix of tips, stories, science and fun in each chapter. Walking as an exercise is important to me. The health benefits are many plus it is a recommended activity for the Blue Zones lifestyle.

What I appreciate also about the book is the ability to keep the walks interesting by playing a random game. One of the primary reasons people don’t continue a walking practice is boredom. And I get it. Walking the same route the same way becomes more of a mindless activity. I love that 52 Ways to Walk offers a fresh walking activity every week.

My intention is to write out each week’s walk on a slip of paper, fold those 52 slips up and drop them into a container. Each week I’ll draw out a different walk to experience. If the walk doesn’t match the weather or requires something I’m not able to do that week, then I’ll return that slip to the container and draw out another one. This is a form of creative play that I enjoy immensely.

52 Ways to Walk dogs
52 Ways to Walk – Week 18 Walk with a Dog

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

Is walking an important form of exercise and relaxation for you? Then you would enjoy this book as well. The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. And it inspires me to create other interesting walks as well.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk by clicking this LINK or by clicking on the photo of the book below. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.

52 Ways to Walk gait
52 Ways to Walk – Week 2 Improve Your Gait


Click photo below to order book:


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Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling

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Is it possible to eat the Blue Zones way while traveling? I learned the answer to that question recently, when I traveled to Johns Island, South Carolina.

Other components of the Blue Zones lifestyle are easily practiced while on vacation. We naturally move more, hiking, playing and swimming. And often we connect with others while on a trip, such as family, friends or colleagues. How difficult is it to faithfully observe the simple, whole foods plant based diet though?

I found it very doable!

Check out these tips for eating the Blue Zones way while traveling, before your next trip. And appreciate the health benefits that continue to support the body while away from home.

Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling title meme

Blue Zones Travel

I completed the four weeks of the Blue Zones Challenge, literally the day I departed on my trip to South Carolina. The freshness of the experience served me well, I believe. My blood pressure dropped into the normal range during the challenge. I lost weight. And overall, felt amazing. Also, I appreciated the simplicity of the meals and the lifestyle.

While traveling, I strongly desired to continue with the lifestyle. In fact, I intend to continue living the Blue Zones lifestyle indefinitely.

For this trek, I flew out of Tulsa Oklahoma at 6:00 am on a Sunday and returned home Wednesday evening about 7:00 pm. I spent two and a half days in the Charleston/Johns Island area and parts of two days traveling.

Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling airplane
Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling – flying to South Carolina

Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling

These are the tips that made it easy for me to adhere to the Blue Zones way of eating.

Plan Ahead

This might seem obvious. However, having a plan and following a plan enables you to keep to the Blue Zones way of eating…or any diet, really.

I stayed at Sailor’s Rest, a wonderful Airbnb on Johns Island with a full kitchen. When possible, choose accommodations that provide a kitchen for preparing your own meals or at the least, a hotel room with a mini fridge and microwave for storing and reheating leftovers.

Before my departure day, I checked out airport restaurants online. Plus, at the Airbnb owners’ recommendation, I added the Harris Teeter Market to my list of places to visit. There I could stock up on groceries for breakfasts and dinners. I also created a list of possible restaurants for lunches.

In my travel notebook, I jotted down meal ideas. When you are prepared, you can deal with challenges or changes more easily. If you “wing it”, you are much more likely to fall back into old patterns and habits.

Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling market
Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling – Harris Teeter Market near the Airbnb I stayed in

Know Your Diet

It’s easy to eat things NOT on a healthy diet, while traveling. And I know, for many people a vacation from home is also a vacation from eating healthy. You have to do you. However for me, a move away from my healthy lifestyle is a move toward not feeling well. And I do not want to feel unwell while traveling! I channel all of my high, clean energy toward exploring and having fun.

I carry a notebook with me, full of my meal ideas and key Blue Zones components. The Notes app on a smart phone works well also. Whether you are enjoying Blue Zones or embracing another healthy diet plan, know exactly what you can eat…and what you can’t.

Blue Zones is so simple: grains such as brown rice, quinoa and oats, legumes, fruits, veggies, greens and nuts. That’s it. No sugar, overly salty foods, animal products or processed foods. Knowing that list of acceptable foods made it easier to find meals in the airports and in cafés in Charleston and on the islands.

Travel Day Meals

Leaving Tulsa International Airport so early, I chose to eat my first meal for the day while on layover in Houston. At Peet’s Coffee & Tea I found plain oatmeal available, with the added toppings of wild blueberries and slivered almonds. Perfect! I added a green tea and my meal felt complete.

Southwest Airlines offers a complimentary drink and a salty snack during short domestic flights. I accepted the iced water. And I should have bought a small package of unsalted nuts before boarding the plane. I chose not to eat anything during the flight, making me very hungry by the time I landed in Charleston. The timing of the flight caused me to miss lunch.

A better schedule flying home allowed me to enjoy plain oatmeal with pecans at the Charleston Airport for breakfast, while savoring a delicious grains and greens bowl from Mad About Greens for lunch at the Austin Airport. Hunger satisfied, I didn’t need an inflight snack later.

If traveling by car, carry healthy snacks, pack a picnic lunch full of foods on your diet or plan stops at places that you know offer foods you can eat.

oats for breakfast
Oats for breakfast at Houston Airport

Stock Up and Cook Your Own Meals

Preparation and determination paid off after I arrived in Charleston. I drove past many fast food places in my rental car, on my 30 minute drive to my accommodations. Without a firm plan in mind, the temptation to grab fast food in a drive through might have proved too strong to resist.

Instead, I made it to the Airbnb, quickly unloaded the car, and then drove six more miles down the charming two lane road to the Harris Teeter store in Freshfields Village. There I picked up staples for my meals: fresh fruit and berries, brown rice, canned beans, a fresh chickpea salad for dinner the first night, nuts and a loaf of rosemary sourdough bread.

I loved having a kitchen to prepare meals in. It made it easier to stay with a healthy eating plan. And I like the meditative quality of preparing and cooking my own meals. At the Airbnb, eating those meals outdoors on the spacious, beautiful patio was a treat.

Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling kitchen
Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling – having a full kitchen makes meal prep easy

Eating Out While Traveling

With breakfasts and evening meals planned, that just left two lunches while in the Charleston area. I carried a list of possible cafés to dine in. All offered vegan options.

And it’s a good thing I created a list. My first choices for both Monday and Tuesday didn’t open for lunch. Instead, they opened at 5:00. I’m happy though with my ultimate choices, and I found a whole new area to explore on Tuesday in Freshfields.

Lunch Monday at Brown Dog Deli in Charleston was an amazing, filling salad  with seaweed, beans, cashews, greens and fried avocado. And Tuesday found me at Café Eugenia in Freshfields Village, dining on herbed potatoes, bean salad, hummus and toasted pita bread.

Before traveling, I looked at menus online, for every café that I considered as a possibility. That helped me tremendously. I knew what they offered and what I could order.

Brown Dog Deli lunch
Delicious lunch at Brown Dog Deli, Charleston
Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling Cafe Eugenia
Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling – lunch at Café Eugenia in Freshfields Village on Kiawah Island

In Review

When eating the Blue Zones way while traveling:

  • plan ahead…pre-select cafés and check out their online menus. If possible, stay in accommodations with a kitchen for prepping your own meals or book a hotel room with a kitchenette or at least a mini fridge and microwave.
  • know your diet…what you can eat and what foods to avoid
  • anticipate travel day meals and preview restaurants in airports OR pack snacks and meals if traveling by car
  • at your destination, stock up on healthy foods and cook your own meals
  • create a list of possible cafés for meals out…and check out menus online

And…if you do go off track and eat a meal that isn’t the healthiest, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track with the next meal and move on.

I’m happy to report that I did well eating the Blue Zones way while traveling. With a little planning and prepping, all of my meals, including snacks and afternoon teas, contain Blue Zones approved whole food plant based foods. That means, when I came home, I arrived without guilt or that awful feeling of overindulging.

Do you eat healthy when you travel?

afternoon tea
Afternoon tea – fresh fruit bowl and hot peppermint tea



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The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four

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The Blue Zones Challenge week four…completed! I’ve finished the challenge and I’m excited to share the results. Truly what began as a month long shift became a Blue Zones lifestyle that I intend to continue.

Check out the other weeks…One, Two and Three…and then let’s discuss Week Four.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four title meme

The Blue Zones Lifestyle

The Blue Zones lifestyle is based on the information gathered by Dan Buettner while studying regions in the world with the highest proportion of people who live to 100 years old. They are:

  • Sardinia, Italy – an island in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Ikaria, Greece – an Aegean island with the lowest rates of dementia
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California – a community of Seventh Day Adventists who on average live ten years longer than other Americans

The challenge presents a shift in health practices that changes life for the better. It’s not just a diet or a fitness plan. Rather, it focuses on behavior, habits and environment.

The long term benefits of living a Blue Zones lifestyle include:

  • a longer, healthier life
  • more energy and increased strength
  • better sleep
  • weight loss and then weight maintenance
  • nurturing, supportive relationships
  • purpose
  • a better local community

Week Four Activities

Expanding on the last three weeks, week four focuses on food, connection and environment.

Review Purpose Statement

During the first week, the Blue Zones Challenge guides you to discover your purpose. Living with purpose is a key element for those in the Blue Zones. Okinawans call it ikigai – “reason for being”. Costa Ricans call it plan de vida – “life plan”. All recognize that a strong sense of purpose in older adults acts as a buffer against stress and helps reduce inflammation. That in turn helps to prevent Alzheimer’s, arthritis and strokes. Embracing a purpose in life…having something to get up for in the morning…can result in a longer, happier lifespan.

My purpose is to inspire others to live life beyond the edges, of fears, comfort zones and limiting beliefs, and to be healthy at any age.

I used this week to review my purpose statement and reflect on  how I am living that every day.

Eat at Least Three Blue Zones Meals

This week I tried three more new recipes from the Blue Zones Cookbook:

  • Ikarian Longevity Stew
  • Pasta with Fresh Tomato and Basil (I used gluten free pasta)
  • Veggie Hash

I haven’t eaten a Blue Zones recipe yet that I disliked! All taste delicious and they are filling and healthy.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four veggie hash
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four – veggie hash

Walk with Buddy

Grateful again for Greg’s willingness to serve as my buddy and complete the challenge with me.

Designate a Space in the Home for Quiet Time

I’m working on this activity still. I’ve selected the space and began clearing the room to create a quiet corner where I can sit on the floor, read, meditate and journal. More on this project another time.

Get Blackout Shades or an Eye Mask to Improve Sleep

I don’t like wearing an eye mask and I didn’t purchase blackout shades. However, I do keep my room dark and cool to help me sleep soundly.

Declutter House

This is another ongoing activity that began several weeks ago, actually. I’m very sensitive to clutter and like the “place for everything and everything in its place” practice. However, it’s a good time to do another sweep through the house and clear away items that I no longer use, need or want.

Listen to Others with Deep Attention

I’m considered a good listener. This week I practiced greater awareness when listening to others. Often we are so busy thinking about what we are going to say next, that we don’t fully listen to the one talking.

Enjoy an Okinawan or Costa Rican Breakfast

Breakfasts in the Blue Zones look very different from the typical American meal. Beans are a common breakfast food in Costa Rica. And in Japan, miso soup and rice are popular. Breakfast looks much like lunch or supper in the Blue Zones

I’ve enjoyed this change for breakfast. Every morning we eat oats with berries, walnuts and chia seeds OR a bowl of rice and beans, in addition to celery juice and a fruit smoothie.

The Blue Zones breakfast basics are beans, cooked grains, fruits and veggies.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four breakfast
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four – a typical breakfast, red beans and brown rice

Start a Container or Outdoor Garden

In the Blue Zones, people continue to garden well into their 90s and 100s. Gardening naturally encourages movement, from planting the seeds to weeding and watering to harvesting. Plus there’s the added benefit of sunshine and fresh air.

I have a large backyard garden, full of plants and herbs, and a raised bed garden for veggies. This week provided the perfect opportunity to work in my garden, planting flowers in containers and tucking some new herbs into the apothecary garden.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four garden
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four – get into the garden

Consider Adopting a Dog or Cat

I have three rescue cats, Shy Boy, Angel and Rilynn, so I did not adopt another. My feline trio would not appreciate a new fur baby in the house.

I checked off all of the activities, or continue to work on them, except for enroll in a savings or investment plan and volunteer for a new group or organization.

Bonus Activities and Daily Check Ins

These remained the same as the last two weeks. See Week Two for a reminder of what those are. I exceeded the daily goal of 12 points. The goal for the entire four weeks is 400 points. I met that goal with a total of 512 points for the challenge.

My Results for the Four Week Challenge

My results for the challenge are so encouraging. I lost 8.2 pounds over the four weeks. My energy came up, joint stiffness improved and I love eating the Blue Zones way.

My biggest win from the challenge is the change in blood pressure. I began the Blue Zones challenge with the hope that I could control my blood pressure, which has crept up the last few months. Although I eat a plant based diet, I know I consumed too much salt, sugar and processed “healthy” foods.

During the challenge I eliminated salt, sugar and processed foods. I carefully adhered to the “rules”, eating 100% whole food plant based with an emphasis on beans, grains, vegetables and fruits. I walked or moved every day for at least 30 minutes. And I worked to reduce stress through meditation, movement, connection with others and relaxation.

Week One my blood pressure was 150/96. This week it was 118/77. That’s a remarkable improvement that I’m so happy about!

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four ikarian stew
The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four – Ikarian stew

What’s Next?

Now that I’ve completed the four week challenge, what next? I’m celebrating my results, not with sugar laden foods or a heavy meal at a restaurant but with the determination to continue this lifestyle.

I appreciate the simplicity of the foods, the nudges to move and the connections with self and others. The book has a Part Five, Sustainability. It encourages the reader to turn the challenge into a lifestyle. I love that the remainder of the book includes monthly activities to continue the Blue Zones way of life for a full year.

I really appreciate the Blue Zones Challenge. What began as a way to lower my blood pressure and improve my eating habits has become a wonderful way to boost health and extend my life.

I leave on a trip tonight. While away I’m committed to following this lifestyle and making it work even while traveling. I’ve already planned out meals. One of my stops, before checking in to my Airbnb, is a grocery store to stock up on nutritious, healthy, simple ingredients.

Join Me?

If you are interested in the Blue Zones Challenge, pick up a book HERE. And make sure you visit their website. It is full of helpful suggestions and information.

I’ll post occasionally, to let you know how this Blue Zones lifestyle is going. I’m excited to continue trying new recipes and finding ways to better connect with others who are on health journeys of their own.

Do you have any questions about the Blue Zones challenge? Ask in the comments below.

The Blue Zones Challenge Week Four cindy



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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.