10 Longevity Secrets from My Armenian Grandma

My grandma  or “Gram” as we called her, was 91 when she passed, healthy and independent until the last couple days of her life. Her last chosen meal was chocolate birthday cake. It makes me so happy to think how much she enjoyed that cake.

She lived a long healthy life, and maybe some of that is contributed to her Armenian genes.

I was always fascinated with they way she lived. Her habits were undoubtedly part of the reason she lived so well to the age of 91. I want to share some of the funny, but useful habits she taught me that make me smile when I think about her.

But first, one of them was humor. Because she passed during the holidays, I wanted to add a funny video that she liked. You have to understand that my grandma was pretty conservative, from the East coast and soft spoken. When she said she liked this commercial a couple years ago, I couldn’t stop laughing. It seemed out of character, but then again not. She did like a healthy dose of cleverness. She was unexpected in ways, like watching all the TCM movies to watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Here’s the jingle bells video. Enjoy


Grandma’s tips for a healthy and happy life

1. Eat 1/2’s or even 1/4’s

Some of my grandma’s favorite meals out where burgers, fries, and pizza and salad. This is usually what she would order. You would think it was unhealthy, but her secret is that she would usually only eat half and take the other half home. As she got older she ate even less, like a 1/4.

Not only did eating light keep her thin, but it helped her save room for dessert, her favorite. She never really over indulged though. She was a woman of grace and although she enjoyed her life thoroughly, she was far from the impulsive culture that we have today. She ate when it was time to eat, not just for entertainment.

She lived such a simple life that most are envious of now, as life is in fast forward. Flying here and there is normal and getting food delivered instantly is praised. My grandma never had a microwave and even though is was annoying to warm something up at her house, it was a slower life that helped keep her life in a state of peace.

Takeaway tip: When you order food, cut it in half or share with a friend. Eat meals at regular times. Be conscious when you are eating just for entertainment. 

2. Eat salad every night

My grandma had a salad almost every night and it was almost always the same. Red wine vinegar with olive oil and lemon was the dressing she always made on the spot. My favorite is that she would always make carrot ribbons on top. I started doing that for my friends and they loved it. They made me happy every time they said that, thinking of Gram.

Takeaway tip: Always have salad, and make it simple. Make your own dressing. Again, it was the simple thing over time that made her healthy. She always used romaine lettuce, too. Arugula was too bitter for her.

3. Spend most of your time in the produce aisle at the grocery store

When I would take Gram to the market, I knew I would be super cold for most of the time. She spent half the time in the produce aisle. She would always grab 10 or more plastic bags and ask me to help her open them. I had a little more grease on my fingers as a kid and it was easy for me to get them open.

Takeaway tip: Now we have Amazon and can instant groceries, but make 50% or more of your groceries fresh produce. Then, clean and store them well in the fridge. 

4. Have a little dessert now and then (another reason to have 1/2 the burger)

My grandma loved dessert. She loved Strawberry cheesecake from Cheesecake factory, ice cream tiramisu, cake, and a variety of Armenian pastries. She had a small baked good many mornings with a bowl of fruit. She did not restrict herself, but she knew the amount to have. She never had shame in taking half of the dessert home to eat it later. The key is that she balanced her diet, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, eating moderate amounts of everything. This way she was able to enjoy dessert as she wanted.

Takeaway tip: If you balance your diet, don’t feel bad having dessert. 

5. Always have lemons on hand for iced tea or salad dressing

My grandma loved lemons, and really all things yellow. Her whole kitchen was dressed in sunflower wall paper. I’ve noticed anyone who loves sunflowers are some of the happiest, most caring people I know. My Grandma was certainly one.

She loved yellow lemons too, adding them to salad dressing, iced tea, and chicken soup. Citrus is a great addition to our diet and can help alkalize the body. It also adds seasoning, without needing to add a lot of salt. She lived in California, too, so she had access to some great lemons, especially ones in her backyard from an overgrown neighbor’s lemon tree.

Takeaway tip: Include citrus fruit in your diet like grapefruit, lemon, or orange. There are a lot of health benefits in these fruits, and are part of a healthy Mediterranean diet. 

6. Always have a little bowl of fruit in the morning, like pineapple, berries, papaya, banana. 

There were a few times that I got to spend the night at Gram’s house. The thing she always had for me was “hot coco” as she would call it and a bowl of freshly cut fruit. There would always be some berries, bananas, and whatever else was fresh.

Starting out the day with fresh fruit will give us good, clean energy. Some people say it has too much sugar, but the health and nutritional properties are too good to pass up. As opposed to juicing, eating whole fruits give you fiber. If you eat them early in the day you will burn most of the energy throughout the day.

Takeaway tip: Eat a variety of fruits in the morning. Have them ready in the fridge or cut them the night before so it becomes an easy go-to habit in the morning. 

7. Don’t snack. 

Every time I would go into Gram’s pantry, I would see every box and package tucked away neatly. She had all sorts of cookies and goodies, but they were all nicely sealed. Compared to my pantry or my mom’s, her’s was ultra organized. It created a hinderance from snaking all the time. Sometimes when I felt like a snack at her house, I would change my mind because I didn’t want to reseal it. It’s like not wanting to be the first to open the package, so you go for an easier open. There was no easy open at Grandma’s- always clips and rubber bands created obstacles to your snacking euphoria. You would only snack if you real felt like a snack.

Takeaway tip: Close all your bags really well in the pantry so they inhibit you from standing and eating at the pantry. Bring them out consciously as an appetizer or if you do, as a snack. Put some in a bowl and eat just one portion. 

8. Always indulge in the local produce and eat fruit as a snack now and then. 

One of my favorite memories at Gram’s was watching TV together and snacking on fresh fruit in the summer. She would always wash fruit and place them on a paper towel in a bowl so perfectly. She would hand you a bowl of cherries and give you a napkin to put the pits in. It was a healthy snack and always held us over between lunch and dinner. I don’t even really like cherries but she always presented them just right and with so much love, I just couldn’t resist.

Takeaway tip: Enjoy fresh stone fruits like cherries and nectarines in the summer. Cook peaches or nectarines down with cloves if you buy too many and they start going soft. 

9. Keep active. 

I don’t mean exercise. My grandma never put on a jogging suit or running shoes to “work out”. She came from a generation where women and sports was just not a thing. She did on the other hand water all her plants, vacuum, dust, iron her bed sheets and do all her house chores until she was 90 years old.

Keeping active goes for your body and your mind.  She still continued to read every day, even if she did nap in between sometimes and still completed almost all the crossword puzzles in the LA Times paper. She was sharper than most of us!

Takeaway tip: Find the joy in cleaning your house and doing the chores. It keeps you moving and keeps your house clean too. And always read. It is the best form of entertainment. 

10. Always have a little container of toasted nuts on the counter, but concealed so you are not always eating them just because they are there. 

Grandma was always a supporter of the Mediterranean diet, long before it became a trend. She grew up in an Armenian household and Armenian was her first language. Nuts are a big part of Armenian cuisine. Walnuts are especially enjoyed as snacks or in stuffed grapeleaves and a variety of other mezze dishes.

I think having nuts daily kept her brain sharp. The good omega-3 fats and other nutrients in nuts are so vital for us. She believed in having 1 Brazil nut a day as a way to get your nutrients. It was her version of a multi vitamin.

Whenever my mom and I would go to her house and were hungry, we went straight to the nut jar to have a little snack (and our daily Brazil nut) until we would take Gram out to lunch.

Takeaway tip: Keep a container of nuts on the counter.  Her favorite combo was macadamia nuts, toasted almonds, a few Brazilian nuts (she always says you should have 1 a day), some honey roasted peanuts, and cashews. She always got them from Trader Joe’s.


I have to say as much as these list of habits are important, perhaps the most telling of her great health was her inner attitude towards life. 
My grandma was soft-spoken, but such a strong and graceful woman. 
I idolized her for the way she was always elegant and put together no matter what time of day or what age. She was so disciplined but seemed to glide through life. She knew the secrets to life that kept her happy and healthy. 
Perhaps one of her best traits was her positivity. She passed little to no judgement on anyone and taught me how to live with an open, gracious heart. 
She was not a woman without struggle, her husband had 9 years of Alzheimer’s and she went through successful cancer treatment in her 70’s. But, she always kept a positive attitude. She taught me how to forgive others and carry on.
Another one of her traits was how she kept her mind active. She read the paper cover to cover everyday and always did the crossword puzzles. She was the brightest, sharpest woman I knew and a great writer, too. I hope I can be as talented as her one day.


In tribute to my late Grandma, I love you and all the things you taught me. You continue to live in me everyday and I miss you every day. When I think about the way you live your life, it makes me feel so light and joyful. I want to be so much like you and live a simple and good life. Thank you Gram. <3

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