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  5. Blue Zones researcher says to forget your New Year's diet resolution. Instead, try sticking to this new habit every Sunday.

Blue Zones researcher says to forget your New Year's diet resolution. Instead, try sticking to this new habit every Sunday.

Hilary Brueck   

Blue Zones researcher says to forget your New Year's diet resolution. Instead, try sticking to this new habit every Sunday.
  • Dan Buettner popularized 'Blue Zones' – regions where people live joyous, healthy lives into old age.
  • He says if you want to lose weight, instead of dieting, learn to cook a few healthy meals you love.

Dan Buettner knows most New Year's resolutions are doomed to fail.

His favorite statistic to cite? The 2019 Strava app data suggesting that "over 70% will fail by January 19th."

After 20 years of studying the world's "Blue Zones," regions where people live into old age with their minds and bodies still happily humming along, he'd like to propose a new kind of New Year's tradition for you. This one, he suspects, will have better odds of success.

"Instead of making the resolution, 'I'm going to get on a diet to lose weight,' which never works," Buettner said. "Spend January — a week of Sundays — and cook healthy food with your family."

By doing so, you're setting aside a reasonable amount of time to complete a more realistic and specific kind of resolution that may help you and your whole clan eat better. Plus, you might even notice you'll spend less, and enjoy the extra bit of built-in social time while you're doing it too.

Try 3 new recipes each week this January

Buettner has traveled the world collecting recipes from Blue Zones. His favorite is a minestrone soup from Italy, but there's also Costa Rican gallo pinto, and Japanese chanpurū stir fry. The one key thing these recipes all have in common — in addition to being healthy (and loaded with beans) — is that they're delicious and filling at the same time. Buettner says that is the key to lasting change, enjoying what you eat, and feeling satisfied with healthy choices instead of deprived.

Don't worry if your passport isn't quite as worn as his, either. He suggests that anyone looking to improve their cooking skills this year should go out and find a whole food, plant-based cookbook that appeals to you. Then flag 12 recipes to try before the month is through.

"Cook three recipes every Sunday for a month, recipes that look delicious to you," he said. "At the end of the month, you'll have achieved three things:

  • The skills to cook 12 meals.

  • You'll know you have the hardware to cook those, because you'll have cooked them.

  • You'll have the experience of tasting them."

Buettner says that last piece, the lived experience and enjoyment, is especially key to your success. Nutrition and diet experts generally agree, saying that meal prep and planning is an essential part of creating a sustainable, healthy eating routine.

The Sunday part of his tip is just about creating a specific, actionable routine (a time-honored technique for many successful resolutions), but do what works for you and your own schedule. You can make multiple meals on Sundays so you have healthy and filling food to eat throughout the week, or you can use that time to bookmark the three new recipes you want to make in the coming days.

"As long as you can get to four or five meals that you like that are whole food, plant-based, you're on your way to eating to 100," he said.

Making healthy, nutritious choices second nature is the big Blue Zones longevity secret

Buettner has seen firsthand how people around the world who enjoy healthy meals make it easier for themselves to stick to their routines. As a result, they tend to live, if not to 100, well into their 90s, feeling generally happy and well. In Loma Linda, California, plant-based Adventists outlive other Americans by about 10 years, for example. They keep up healthy routines for life because they enjoy them, and don't see healthy eating as an extra chore.

"When it comes to longevity, there's no short-term fix," Buettner said. "You have to think about things that will be in your life for a long time, a good recipe and a good friend."

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