If you want to know the secret to living a long, healthy life, Dan Buettner is the person to ask. An explorer and journalist, Buettner is best known for identifying and studying what's known as Blue Zones, regions in the world (including Sardinia, Italy and Okinawa, Japan) where people regularly live to be over 100 without any health problems.
Buettner has devoted his career to sharing the Blue Zones' way of life with the world to help promote longevity and healthy living. Knowing exactly what dietary and lifestyle habits are linked to living into the triple digits has affected his own personal habits, too. For example, Buettner says he likes to do something active every day, preferably with his son, since movement and personal connections are important to people in every Blue Zone. "The key is to do something active every day that you actually look forward to doing," he says. "Biking, rollerblading, and pickleball are all activities that I like to do because they can be social. Or if I do go to the gym, I'll go with my son and we talk the whole time."
But what does he eat, you ask? Buettner says his diet is primarily plant-based and low in processed foods and sugar, in keeping with the dietary habits of Blue Zones inhabitants. Here, he shares what this actually looks like, revealing what his meals look like on an average day.
Keep reading to see longevity expert Dan Buettner's food diary.
Buettner says he likes to start the day off 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 savory, not sweet," he says. "Once you get over the hump of needing something sweet for breakfast, beans are a great food to eat in the morning because they provide energy, keep you full, and won't give you the sugar rush that foods like cereal or pastries will."
Buettner is such an advocate of eating beans that he incorporates them into his lunch, too. "Normally, I cook a big batch 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'll add sriracha and avocado on top too," he says.
Like meal prepping his beans, Buettner says he likes to roast a lot of sweet potatoes at the beginning of the week to be incorporated into meals, too. "There's probably no healthier meal on earth than beans and sweet potato," 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 associated with supporting metabolism, healthy blood sugar levels, and brain health.
Watch the video below to learn more about the health benefits of cinnamon:
"In all honesty, I go out to dinner probably five nights a week," Buettner says. This is because of something else he's learned from Blue Zones: enjoying food with loved ones is just as important as what's on your plate. "I've been spending the majority of the pandemic in Miami, so fortunately it's very easy to safely dine outside here," he says.
In terms of picking a restaurant, Buettner says he always chooses one with lots of plant-based options on the menu. Two of his favorite types of cuisine are Indian and Thai. "At Indian restaurants, I love chickpea masala. And at Thai restaurants, I'll order a red or green curry with tofu," he says.
Buettner says he isn't a big dessert person, but if he's eating out, sometimes he'll order one dessert to share with the whole table. "You don't have to eat a big 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's enjoyed with makes it that much more delicious, too.
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