How The 80/20 Rule of Clean Eating Will Change Your Life

by NaturalDeets
A picture of uncooked salmon among fresh fruits and vegetables

Have you ever been on a dreaded cleanse? You know the one…smoothie for breakfast and dinner with a boring salad for lunch. It was supposed to help you get healthy but all it really did was make you a miserable and angry person for a week! If you had known about the 80/20 rule, you could have avoided the mood swings and you could come off the cleanse feeling better than ever! 

If you know any one who follows a clean eating philosophy, you have probably heard of the 80/20 rule. But what exactly is the 80/20 rule, and how will it change your life? 

a pinterest pin with a table full of fresh fruits and vegetables

The 80/20 rule is the idea that you eat clean, nutrient rich foods 80% of the time and splurge the remaining 20%. Not only does this keep you from feeling deprived (and makes it more likely that you will stick with clean eating for life) but it also teaches you about moderation. 

We all know…everything in moderation… but we don’t always fully understand it. 

What is the 80/20 Diet Rule? 

The 80/20 clean eating rule was intended to be a daily rule. Eat clean 80% of the day and indulge (reasonably) for the remaining 20% of the day. You may already be doing this without knowing. Do you eat an unhealthy lunch and then choose to have a healthy dinner? Or do you crave a salad after a sweet and sugary breakfast? 

This works great when you are starting out because it still allows you to enjoy happy hour or to go out to dinner without any guilt. It also allows you time to learn how to eat clean (when starting out it can be overwhelming). 

The best part about clean eating is that it is a lifestyle change. So it doesn’t require sudden and drastic dietary changes. You can implement just one aspect and gradually add more. The 80/20 rule gives you time to get used to eating healthier. 

However, once you have been eating clean for a while, you will start to discover that your body actually starts to crave heatlhier foods. It may take some time, but the 80/20 rule will help you get there!

Eventually you may find that the foods you have become used to eating are too sweet,  or just taste processed. That’s when you can apply the 80/20 rule on a weekly or monthly basis. That’s when you know you’ve made it! 

How To Implement The 80/20 Rule? 

We can say eat healthy 80% of the time, but saying it is easier than implementing it. How you calculate the 80% will depend on your personality. If you are a spreadsheet, journaling, food diary master, you could track eveything you eat in a day and calculate what 20% would look like. 

If you are more of a fluid personality, you could say that 1 snack per day would be your 20%. That’s assuming you eat 3 meals and 2 snacks each day. 

Over time you might find that it is easier to implement the 80/20 rule over a week. For example, happy hour on Friday and dinner out on Saturday could be your 20%. I find it much easier to keep track of that way. 

The 80/20 Rule and Kids

The motto in our house is that we eat clean at home, so we don’t have to worry when we go out. When we do go out, we look for healthy options, but if the kids want to eat a sweet treat on the weekend, we will let them have it. 

A while back, my company had a summer picnic at a local park. Families were invited and we BBQ’d and played silly games. There was one family that I knew fairly well who didn’t allow their kids to eat any sugar. This wasn’t due to allergies, it was just becuase they wanted their kids to be healthy. 

Well that day the parents decided that the kids could have a small piece of cake. Once the kids tried the cake, they were so excited! I still remember the look on their parents faces when they found out that the kids had 3 pieces (and a juice box)! 

Now, I completely understand wanting your kids to eat healthy, but if we completely cut them off from all sugar, they will overindulge if given the opportunity. And what does that teach them? It teaches them shame, regret and disappointment when they look over at their parents and see their faces. 

And you better believe that association with food is going to last a loooong time. 

We need to teach our kids that it is ok to indulge. But to do it in moderation.  Afterall, isn’t that what we as adults are trying to learn? This is essentially the 80/20 rule in action! 

What Can I Eat for the 80%?

The 80% should be filled with healthy, nutrient dense foods. These are fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, grass fed meats and pasture raised chicken, etc. Try adding superfoods like flax seeds and hemp hearts (get a free list of mix ins when you join our Facebook group!), This is an easy way to add nutrition to the foods you are already eating. 

Basically cut out processed foods and you will be on the right track. I like to challenge my clients to start with eliminating High Fructose Corn Syrup. This in an artifical sweetener that messes with your metabolism and your body in general. By eliminating it, you will essentially eliminate the majority of processed foods. 

It is a great guide to get you started on your journey!

A few kid friendly, and easy recipes to try include Yakitori Chicken, Chinese Chicken Salad and Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps!

Does the 80/20 Rule Help You Lose WEight?

You know how much I hate to talk about weight loss, because weight loss can be a side effect of clean eating, but not the primary focus. Clean eating is about being healthier and eating foods that fuel your body rather than hold it back. 

However, depending on your eating habits prior to eating clean, weight loss may happen just because cutting out processed foods naturally reduces caloric intake. 

If you are following the 80/20 rule AND you are consuming less calories than you are burning, then yes, you could lose weight following the 80/20 rule. If that is your goal, you just need to be sure to make smart choices during your 20%. Again, I am not a doctor, so consult your doctor before trying it. 

Still have questions? Let me know in the comments below and I will be sure to answer them!

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