The 80/20 Rule of Nutrition

I have helped hundreds of clients over the last 20 years stay on track with healthy nutrition. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what is the best nutritional principles to follow with so many different diets on the market. The biggest challenge is the changes you make need to be lifestyle modifications and not a diet that does not fit with your lifestyle or one that is too difficult to maintain. With the 80/20 guideline, it should be a rule you can follow for life.

Simply stated the 80/20 rule of nutrition is to follow healthy practices 80% of the time, and allow “cheats” or splurges, 20% of the time. If we are following healthy practices this would include eating 3 small meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and 2 small snacks. Ideally, your meals should contain 2 servings of vegetables, 1 serving of lean protein, and 1/2 serving of whole grains. Your snacks should be small, with either a serving of fruit (apple) or vegetable (carrots), and a small serving of protein (hummus, almond butter, etc.). There can be healthy fats (raw nuts, olive oil) sprinkled throughout your day based on your calories allowed. Your primary beverage should be water throughout the day (at least 8 cups).

Eating 5 meals per day (3 meals, plus 2 snacks) and then multiply that by 7 days in a week equals 35 meals per week. If you allow 20% cheats, that would equal 7 meals (and snacks) you are able to use as splurges or cheats during any given week. You could, for example, use the cheats for Friday & Saturday night dinner, maybe a Sunday breakfast out, or a not so healthy snack at the mall. The point is to follow healthy, clean nutrition 80% of the time. Knowing you do get some exceptions throughout the week, creates a better mindset, and allows for success with your nutrition. Following a strict diet 100% of the time is next to impossible for most people, and the long term success is close to zero. Most people have the will power for a few weeks or maybe a month. But sooner or later you’ll want to go out to dinner with your friends, attend a party, or go to sporting event and eat chips! This usually leads to overeating on most diets because of the deprivation of calories and the too strict rules. With the 80/20 rule, you get to eat foods you enjoy throughout the week, but still stay on track with healthy nutrition, weight loss and having great energy at the gym.

Follow the rules of good nutrition 80% of the time.

· Eat breakfast within 20 minutes of getting up.
· Eliminate all processed carbohydrates and junk food.
· Use healthy fats freely.
· Eat a high quality source of protein at every meal and snack.
· Don’t drink your calories (sodas, fruit juice, high calorie coffee drinks), use water.
· Limit alcohol.
· Eat vegetables or a piece of fruit at every meal and snack.
· Eliminate sugar from your diet.
· Know your portion sizes.

In essence, try to eat food that is whole, clean, non-processed as much as possible. These are nutrition rules for life!

The 80/20 rule allows you to have your splurges or treats as a normal part of your dietary plan. The key is to splurge wisely and fully enjoy it. Do not feel bad about it and do not beat yourself up when you decide to enjoy something. But do be honest with yourself and know what is a splurge versus what is truly healthy. If you are compliant 80% of the time it will keep you on track for living longer and feeling better!

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