If you want to know the secret to living a long, healthy life, Dan Buettner is that person to ask. An explorer and journalist, Buettner is best known for identifying and studying what are known as blue zones, regions of the world (including Sardinia, Italy and Okinawa, Japan) where people regularly live to be over 100 without any health issues.
Buettner has dedicated his career to sharing the Blue Zones’ lifestyle with the world to help promote longevity and a healthy lifestyle. Knowing exactly what dietary and lifestyle habits are associated with living with the three-digit digits has also influenced his own personal habits. For example, Buettner says he likes to do something active every day, preferably with his son, as movement and personal connections are important to people in any blue zone. “The key is to do something active every day that you actually look forward to doing,” he says. “Cycling, rollerblading and pickleball are all activities that I like to do because they can be social. Or if I go to the gym, I go with my son and we talk all the time.”
But what does he eat, you ask? Buettner says his diet is primarily plant-based and low in processed foods and sugars, in line with the diets of Blue Zones residents. Here he shares what it actually looks like, and reveals what his meals look like on an average day.
Keep reading to see lifestyle expert Dan Buettner’s diary.
Buettner says he likes to start the day with a meal of minestrone soup with avocado on top. “Something I’ve learned from Blue Zones is that people in these regions start the day with something spicy, not sweet,” he says. “When you get over the hump of having to have something sweet for breakfast, beans are a great food to eat in the morning because they provide energy, keep you full and do not give you the sugar rush that foods like cereals or cakes will.”
Buettner is such an advocate for eating beans that he also incorporates them into his lunch. “Usually I make a large portion of beans early in the week so I can work them into a lot of different meals,” he says. A typical lunch for him consists of black beans, roasted sweet potatoes and brown rice. “Sometimes I also want to add sriracha and avocado on top,” he says.
Like meal preparing his beans, Buettner says he likes to fry a lot of sweet potatoes at the beginning of the week to also be incorporated into meals. “There’s probably no healthier meal on earth than beans and sweet potatoes,” he says.
At some point in the afternoon, Buettner says he likes to make himself a smoothie. “I use Vega protein powder ($ 37) – which is plant-based – blueberries and nut milk,” he says. He also likes to add cinnamon for taste and added nutritional benefits as cinnamon is linked to supporting metabolism, healthy blood sugar levels and brain health.
Watch the video below to learn more about the health benefits of cinnamon:
“Honestly, I go out to dinner probably five nights a week,” Buettner says. This is because of something else he has learned from Blue Zones: Enjoying food with loved ones is just as important as what is on your plate. “I’ve spent most of the pandemic in Miami, so luckily it’s very easy to eat safely outside here,” he says.
When it comes to choosing a restaurant, Buettner says he always chooses one with plenty of plant-based options on the menu. Two of his favorite types of cuisine are Indian and Thai. “At Indian restaurants, I love chickpea themed sala. And at Thai restaurants, I order a red or green curry with tofu,” he says.
Buettner says he’s not a big dessert person, but if he eats out, he’ll sometimes order a dessert that he shares with the entire table. “You don’t have to eat a great dessert to enjoy the taste of it,” he says. “In Japan, small pieces of chocolate are popular desserts, and that’s because the enjoyment really comes from the first one or two bites.” The company it enjoys also makes it much more delicious.
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