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What is the 80/20 Rule?

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While eating clean, or choosing minimally processed, natural foods, can help you lose weight, boost energy, and improve performance, it can be a challenge to eat perfectly all the time. Many of us go days, weeks, months, or even years without even putting much thought into what we’re eating. By the time we do think about it, we’re often so overwhelmed that we go in the other direction and try to eat too perfectly, which isn’t sustainable. No one is perfect, and putting that kind of pressure on yourself can lead to unhealthy habits. The solution: Adopt the 80/20 mindset.

It’s pretty simple really. You eat clean 80 percent of the time by filling your meals with fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. The other 20 percent of the time, you indulge in foods that might not be the best for your body, but they satisfy your need for a sweet treat, your favorite takeout meal, or a cocktail with a friend. The root of the 80/20 rule is more about creating a sustainable balance and keeping a handle on your nutrition without overthinking it.

How to do it: If you’re eating five times a day (three meals, two snacks), you’re eating about 35 meals/snacks a week. So 20 percent of that would be seven meals/snacks. That can be one small treat a day—a piece of chocolate or a fancy coffee—or a day, like Saturday, where you’re indulging at a party, barbecue, or sporting event. But try not to make it an all-day binge fest. Limit yourself to a simple cheat like a beer with a hot dog or a piece of cake. This way you’ll enjoy your treat without getting too far off track.

For more tips, read “How to Eat Clean.”

Tags: Food, Nutrients, Health