80/20 – My kind of math

March is not always my favorite month, but it IS National Nutrition month, which makes it a little better. Anyone who knows me knows I love talking about nutrition (maybe too much?), but this year, I want to focus my ranting on a nutritional rule I live by, that keeps food from ruling my life. You’ve all heard of this 80/20 rule by now, no? Many health and nutrition experts recommend following an 80/20 lifestyle, in which you eat healthy, wholesome foods 80% of the time, and “cheat foods” 20%. But how many of us put this into practice so seamlessly? I mean, are we really thinking of our meals in terms of percentages?

So to make it easier for you, I did the math (if you know me, you also know math is not a strength of mine). But here goes…if you eat 3 meals/day, the number of healthy meals you’re aiming for is about 17 per week, out of 21. If you eat 1-2 snacks per day, you want about 6-11 of them to be truly healthy during the week. That gives you 4 meals and 1-3 snacks to eat that are not the healthiest. So go ahead and enjoy that macaroni and cheese, pizza, cocktail or bag of pretzels. But it also means that the rest of the time, your meals do have to be healthy. Made of whole foods, with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Not packaged. Without added sugars. You get the idea.

Now, how to do this:

  1. Plan your cheat meals. This is key. If you’re going to be going out to eat on the weekend or heading to a party, budget in those cheat foods and factor them into the rest of the week. Planning your treats can make eating whole foods the rest of the week a lot easier and will ensure you don’t go over the 20%.
  2. Plan your healthy meals too. We know this…meal planning is key to keeping yourself on track. You don’t want to be stuck wasting a cheat meal just because you didn’t pack lunch that morning.
  3. Consider that most restaurant meals (breakfast, lunch or dinners) constitute a cheat meal. Even when we think we’re making the healthiest choice, we have no control over how the food is prepared and I can promise you it’s worse than you think.
  4. Keep a food journal. At the end of every week, go back and see if you stuck to the plan. Maybe you ate more than the 20 % cheat meals…that’s ok, just plan better next week. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll find you have room for one extra treat next week…there’s a surprise I wouldn’t want to miss!

Also, I should note that the 80/20 rule applies to other areas of your life as well. But more on that later…


Happy March…and Happy Spring!!


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