An 80/20 Diet Allows You To Reach Nutrition Goals and Eat Your Cake Too

An 80/20 Diet Allows You To Reach Nutrition Goals and Eat Your Cake Too I Mirra Skincare

Deciding to go on a diet is generally followed almost immediately by going off a diet the moment you start craving Mom’s classic chocolate chip cookies or a meal from your favorite local Mexican restaurant, and believe me, it isn’t a “you” or a “me” thing; it’s just the truth. Most people can’t stick to a diet and feel guilty when wanting to indulge in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s; it’s normal!

The reality is that successful eating plans and habits need to be individualized, and the 80/20 diet does just that. This lifestyle approaches healthy eating with an even healthier message of moderation and the understanding that fueling your body doesn’t have to be feast or famine. Here’s how an 80/20 diet allows you to reach your nutrition goals and eat your cake too. 


1. What is an 80/20 diet?

2. The 80 percent

3. The 20 percent

Key Points

  • The 80/20 diet is a lifestyle that consists of eating nutritious, whole foods 80 percent of the time, and enjoying everything else the other 20 percent of the time. 
  • The 80/20 diet is easy to follow, helps with weight loss, and supports overall health, all while instilling an “everything in moderation” mindset. 
  • The 80 percent should consist mostly of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, while the twenty percent is left for you to eat all of your favorite foods in moderation. 

What is an 80/20 Diet? 

The 80/20 diet is the best guide for an “everyday” diet, or more realistically, a lifestyle pattern. Honestly, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Staying true to its name, the 80/20 rule consists of fueling up on nutritious foods 80 percent of the time and helping yourself to your favorite tasty treats the other 20 percent of the time. 

This diet was founded on the basis of The Pareto Principle, an economic concept that maintains that 80 percent of the output in any given situation is caused by 20 percent of the input. This way, the diet is less of a strict, harsh diet plan, and more of an eating pattern tailored to the individual partaking. An individualized approach makes dieting much more realistic to follow, as it is catered to the habits, patterns, and preferences of the individual to more easily incorporate the new pattern into their lifestyle. 

Because the 80/20 diet doesn’t specifically label any foods as “off-limits,” it almost resembles a mindset left to be interpreted by you in a way that works best for you. In the same way, it instills a mentally healthier mindset that food isn’t all or nothing; you don’t have to eat fruits and vegetables and protein 100 percent of the time to care for your body. Eliminating anything remotely “unhealthy” from the diet can often end in binge-eating or overeating accompanied by feelings of guilt, anxiety, and shame surrounding food. 

Via Giphy

For many, the pluses of the 80/20 diet reveal themselves in the flexible foundations and freedom from restrictive eating tendencies to effectively balance nutritious and more *satiating* foods. Other benefits of the diet look like this: 

  • It’s easy to follow.

Think about it like this: no deprivation, restriction, or counting necessary (a bonus for us numerically-challenged people out there!) There is no need to purchase any special health products, and it doesn’t have a laundry list of rules to cater to. A true chef’s kiss to the way this diet keeps it super simple.

  • It helps with weight loss.

One of the best aspects of this approach is the stress on eating healthy most of the time, rather than all of the time. In fact, while there isn’t specific research linking the 80/20 diet directly to weight loss, there is a plethora of research continuing to find that less restrictive diets have a higher likelihood of aiding in weight loss (and maintaining it.) 

  • It supports overall health. 

It’s important to note that in terms of supporting a healthy mind and body, not all diets are going to be your best friend. Fortunately, the 80/20 diet covers all of your bases in terms of a nourishing diet (and mindset.) Prioritizing mental and physical health via a nutritious diet reaps life-changing benefits that extend well-beyond losing weight. Filling your body up with the necessary macro and micronutrients can also help with digestion and gut health, better moods, higher energy levels, and glowing skin (among many other benefits.) 

The biggest concern surrounding the 80/20 diet is defining what exactly “clean” or “healthy” foods look like for the 80 percent. While it seems simple to define what “clean eating” is, unfortunately, it isn’t. “Clean” looks different for everyone. Is it eating whole foods? Is it eating organic foods, free from GMOs or toxins? Is it gluten-free, dairy-free, or added sugar-free? 

Via Giphy

Society has created a delusion surrounding clean foods that can create fear or obsession with consuming healthy food. Thus, while it is impossible to define “clean” eating, we can conclude that it simply doesn’t exist! It’s time to step back and consider a healthier approach to labeling our foods. 

The 80 percent

The 80 percent can be broken down to focus on four main components, along with emphasizing hydration (this is your sign to drink some water today!) These components include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. 

  • Whole grains

Hearty whole grains are chock-full of nutrients (such as iron, B-vitamins, potassium, and magnesium) and fiber that provide us with carbs for energy, keep you feeling full, and can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. When eating whole grains, think of brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and 100% whole wheat bread and pasta. 

  • Fruits and vegetables

I think this one speaks for itself. Produce is Mother Nature’s color-coded way of providing us with all of the key micronutrients we need in our diet. Additionally, they are a great source of fiber and are naturally low in calories. Incorporating fruits and veggies from every color of the rainbow can ensure that you’re getting all of the vitamins. Try out leafy greens, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, apples, peaches, mushrooms, onions, berries, squash, and whatever other produce your stomach desires!

  • Lean proteins

Lean meats are a great source of protein and generally have fewer calories than non-lean meats. Other lean proteins are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, and iron. Examples include low-fat dairy, beans, fish and seafood, chicken, and soy protein. 

  • Healthy fats

Fats may get a bad rap, but contrary to popular belief, they have a laundry list of benefits. Healthy fats lower your risk of heart disease, lower bad cholesterol (while increasing good cholesterol), support your immune system, and help with the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Foods that are high in good fats include fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. 

The 20 percent 

Here is where things get tricky (and fun!) 

Because the 80/20 diet doesn’t limit or restrict any foods, it’s all up to you, and there are no guidelines or definitions, or rules to follow! Simply make sure to consume all of your favorite foods, guilty pleasures, and fancy drinks all in moderation. Space out your favorite treats, but ensure that you’re truly treating yourself and satisfying your cravings. 

Via Giphy

While the twenty percent doesn’t have any clearly defined boundaries, things to consider enjoying include refined carbs and sugar, processed foods, saturated fats, and alcohol. This part of the diet is meant for you to treat yourself to create a healthy balance between wants and needs. 

Just like the entirety of the 80/20 diet, just remember that moderation is vital. We don’t do all-or-nothing thinking around here! Fuel your body, but make sure you eat your cake too. 

Written by Morgan Taylor

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    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6163457/
    2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4429593/
    3. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/
    4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4644575/
    5. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/nutrition/pdf/rtp_practitioner_10_07.pdf
    6. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210513100030.htm
    7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5577766/
    8. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/
    9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25926512/
    10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4560866/
    11. https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/8020-diet-efficacy-in-regard-to-physiology-and-psychosocial-factors-2165-7904-1000357-97315.html
    12. Photo by Diana Light on Unsplash


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