Blue Zone Dishes to Bring to the Holiday Table

As households prepare for holiday gatherings around the table, many families are challenged to reinvent traditional recipes to accommodate individual dietary restrictions.  Celebratory meals are often calorie, fat, and sugar dense but with a few tweaks, feeding the family during the holidays can be nutritious, delicious, and environmentally friendly.   A new recipe book by Longevity Expert and Blue Zone expert Dan Buettner has 100 plant-forward recipes that are not only healthy but developed by chefs to be easy to prepare and delicious. 

Buettner has long studied regions of the world – “Blue Zones”, where residents commonly live extraordinarily long and active lives to uncover their lifestyle habits that promote longevity.  He has found that diet, regular physical activity, and a sense of purpose and belonging help to account for longevity, disease resistance, and cognitive health.  A Mediterranean-style diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, legumes, and fish with very limited amounts of red or processed meats, combined with regular physical activity comes out on top time and again as optimal for reducing the risk of mortality from all causes. 

Keeping healthy snacks, like fruit and nuts, readily available and making movement a regular daily habit helps families embrace a nutritious diet and moderate physical activity.  A daily post-dinner or lunch walk, taking phone calls while standing or pacing, climbing the stairs, or digging into household cleaning chores all add up to more daily movement.  A kitchen dance party or making a snow fort with the grandkids counts too!  

It may take some time to convince family members that healthy and nutritious foods can also be delicious.  Try substituting just one or two dishes over the holidays with a recipe that includes some of the “superfoods” that follow the Blue Zones framework.  The Blue Zones American Kitchen focuses on creating an alternate standard American diet that home cooks can source and make without scouring specialty stores for usual ingredients.  The Washington Post recently featured one such recipe – Sweet Potato and Black-Eyed Pea Soup that can be made ahead, freezes well and is also vegan and gluten-free.  Black-eyed peas are technically a bean, popular in the five Blue Zone regions, and are a rich source of fibre and protein, making them an excellent nutritious energy source full of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals that help the body fight disease.  

Bon appétit!