Why you should be following the 80/20 eating rule

Amy McNeel

My mom always told me that a good diet is all about balance; it’s okay to eat junk food as long as you balance it with healthy food. Through the years, this was an idea that I stood by, tinkered with and am still trying to perfect. As I got more interested in nutrition, I tried clean eating, cutting out sweets and giving myself one cheat meal a week, but from these attempts I found that trying to cut out treats entirely is completely unsustainable. Today, I try to follow the 80/20 rule, an idea that is more of a healthy lifestyle than a diet. 

The basic concept of the 80/20 rule is that you should dedicate 80 percent of your food intake to nutritious food, leaving yourself wiggle room to indulge with the remaining 20 percent. This is a great dietary plan because you don’t have to cut out any foods or restrict your eating. Instead, the 80/20 rule provides a healthful, manageable balance. 

Moderation is also a very important part of the 80/20 rule. If the 20 percent of unhealthy food is over the top, it won’t balance out with the rest of the food for the day. While completely indulging is perfectly okay every once in a while, the 80/20 rule should be followed with balance and moderation to promote the healthiest lifestyle. 

One challenge that comes with the 80/20 rule is that there is no one way to determine the proportions of 80 percent healthy and 20 percent indulgence. The rule could be applied by eating healthfully all week but having one cheat day, having four cheat meals throughout the week if you eat a regular three meals a day or eating healthfully every meal with a dessert every night. While the proportions can be difficult to map out, it can ultimately be shaped to each person’s lifestyle, which makes the rule even easier to follow. Mapping out the week’s meals—including desserts, snacks, and eating out—can help make the 80/20 rule easier to implement and follow.

Overall, a good diet really is all about balance. It can be easy to overindulge, but it can also be easy to attempt unsustainable diets that restrict indulgence over and over again. The 80/20 rule is the perfect compromise. It doesn’t restrict any foods, but instead allows you to eat both nutritious and junk foods in a balanced, effective way. In the end, my mom was right: Balance is the key to a healthy diet and lifestyle.