It has been a very full but good week. Fall colors are beginning to peak and with the full moon last night, it has been Nature at her best here at this old house.
Two weeks ago, we began looking at the Blue Zone, those characteristics of people around the world who live healthy lives until they are 100 and beyond. The first week’s task was to find ways to move more in natural ways throughout our days: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking when possible instead of e-mailing or riding your bike instead of driving. This past week, we focused on hara hachi bu, the idea of eating 20% less at each meal. I found that to be a useful benchmark; when I was 80% full, I stopped. I did struggle a few times with being hungry a few hours later but all in all, I felt like I was more mindful of my food intake and my body is beginning to adjust to not being fed until stuffed at every meal.
This week, we will examine what is called “the plant slant.” As Dan Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones, says, “Another common denominator of centenarians in the world’s five Blue Zones is that they’re all cut off from food culture influences so they’ve never really had the chance to eat processed foods or salty snacks. And they rarely eat meat, either because they’ve made choice to avoid it or because they don’t have access to it.” These centenarians eat a diet based on beans, whole grains and vegetables, often grown in their own gardens.
Personally, my body does better eating some meat. Some of us with blood sugar or other issues may not be able to thrive on a vegetarian or vegan diet. The point is not to judge someone else but be in touch with what your body responds best to.
That said, the recommended portion size of meat at a meal is no larger than a deck of cards. Also, most Americans do not eat enough vegetables each day; some go days without eating a vegetable at all. The recommendation is five servings of fruits and vegetables daily with vegetables outweighing fruits. We must shift our thinking, whether we eat meat or not, that vegetables are the basis of a healthy diet.
The challenge for this week, in addition to moving more and eating until you are 80% full, is to find ways to include more vegetables in your diet. Pick a vegetable you like and do an Internet search for recipes that include it. There are a number of great cookbooks available devoted to eating vegetables that are in season where you live. Consider getting one and using it to help you connect with the produce of the earth in its various seasons.
By eating seasonally (and locally, as much as possible), you will be getting the freshest, healthiest, tastiest produce possible. You will also get a good variety as some go out of season and others come into their prime. Shop at your local farmers’ market as they will be selling what is in season for your locale. Make it a treasure hunt to find a new vegetable to try this week. Again, the Internet is your friend if you don’t know what to do with it when you get it home!
Mainly, be mindful of what you are eating. If you need an afternoon snack, could you have an apple instead of a candy bar? Can you have a veggie burger one night instead of a meat burger of some kind? Can you ask for extra veggies on your sandwich at lunch? Do what you can, not what you can’t. Your body will thank you if you do.
I look forward to hearing how your lifestyle changes are going each week!