The 80/20 Nutrition Rule: Here to Stay or Just Another Trend?

By Alejandra Zamora
80/20 rule

Plenty of diet fads and other crazy, unattainable nutrition trends have come and gone over the years. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight or live a little healthier after setting a New Year’s resolution, you probably know that these short-term, fast-tracked methods are usually unsustainable.

What’s more, countless experts have come forward in recent years saying the way to meet your health goals
isn’t with these glamorous quick-fixes. It’s with smaller, buildable and more realistic lifestyle changes in your diet, movement routine and mentality. And, above all with any of these plans, balance is key.

What is the 80/20?

That’s the idea behind the 80/20 nutrition rule, a dietary routine that’s come to popularity in recent years. Essentially, it advocates for eating healthy about 80% of the time with a more relaxed, less rigid eating plan the other 20%. It sounds promising, as it allows for more wiggle room in your diet with less unreasonable expectations, but, what exactly does eating “healthy” mean? Can you actually divide your meals and snacks in an even 80/20 split? Will this help you lose weight, or is it better for weight management? Before you say “this is the one” to this or any other nutrition plan, consider all of the facts, and always consult with your doctor or nutritionist before starting any regimen.

According to Tavis Piattoly, a Louisiana sports dietician, the 80/20 Rule emulates Pareto’s Principle, which states: “For many events, roughly 80%of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” As a dietary plan, Piattoly said it strives for nutritional balance, rejects the restriction mindset and “cheat day” mentality and promotes actual long-term sustainment. “Just making one nutritional change in habits can result in significant [change] in your body weight, body composition and performance goals,” Piattoly said.

Putting it into action

In a profile by NBC News in 2017, Talia Koren, a New York City blogger, lost 10 pounds on the diet in six months. Here’s what one of her daily meal plans looked like:

• BREAKFAST: two slices of wheat toast with peanut butter and blueberries

• MID-MORNING SNACK: a piece of fruit (whole apple, whole plum, whole peach)

• MID-AFTERNOON SNACK: sliced pepper with hummus, or a handful of almonds with dates

• DINNER: scrambled eggs with veggies

For Koren, she took a week-long approach to the rule rather than a day- long one, meaning she chose 80% of her meals of the week to be healthier and the remaining 20% to be used while eating out or on special occasions. Quality over quantity of foods is
also another major emphasis of this rule. In a study by the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, weight gain was more likely to be associated with processed foods, like chips and artificially sweetened beverages, whereas weight loss was associated with eating more vegetables, whole grains, fruits and nuts (Hao et. al, 2011).

Of course, like all lifestyle changes, results vary among everyone, as they depend on a multitude of factors like age, sex, genetics and more. Kathleen Zelman, the director of nutrition for WebMD, recommends combining the regimen with around 30 minutes of exercise a day and personalizing the routine to your unique body and lifestyle.

Think you’re up to the challenge? Start by assessing your health goals and make sure you consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes

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