People make more than 200 food decisions every day, and what we eat impacts our health and productivity. Since the early 1900s, common plate sizes have grown from 9.5 inches to 12.5 inches, and we’ve increased how much we eat by 27 percent. About 60 percent of the food we purchase is highly processed, fatty, salty, or sugary, and the typical American restaurant entrée weighs in at a whopping 1,000 calories!
Blue Zones Project® programs have sparked large and small changes across an array of spaces that make healthy food choices more enticing and accessible. By working together, we make eating wisely second nature, encouraging people to adopt a plant slant approach to meals, eat only until 80 percent full, and enjoy a day-ending social hour with friends at five.
Power up your well-being by adding a plant slant to your plate. While most people in the blue zones areas only consume small amounts of meat on rare occasions, all of them eat a rich array of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are packed with disease-fighting nutrients. Beans, nuts, and whole grains round out a life-lengthening plant-based diet. (Did you know that snacking on a handful of nuts every day can give you an extra 2–3 years of life expectancy?) Aim to fill 95 percent of your plate with plants or plant products.
Think about the difference between “I’m full” versus “I’m no longer hungry.” Do what the centenarians do and gauge your intake by following the 80% Rule. It’s a strategy that focuses on taking things out of your everyday diet instead of putting things in. Saying “Hara hachi bu”—the 2,500-year-old Confucian mantra—before meals reminds Okinawans to stop eating when their stomachs are 80-percent full. The 20-percent gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it.
Friends at Five
The world’s longest lived people chose—or were born into—social circles that support healthy behaviors. One way you can tap into the health benefits they enjoy is through Friends at Five. Simply get a few friends to commit to joining you for a regular end-of-day activity like walking, making crafts, gardening, or collaborating in the kitchen. Even just sitting together and talking about your days will do the trick. This hour of connectedness will raise spirits and deliver a health and longevity boost to everyone involved.