Eating well: What is the 80:20 diet and why should you follow it?

You’ve probably heard of the 80:20 rule – a principle followed by many to maintain a healthier mindset when it comes to food. The rules are simple - eating clean for 80% of the time and then the other 20%, you get to enjoy a few of your favourite treats. For most, this tends to be eating healthy during the week allowing for the odd ‘guilt free’ treat over the weekend.

What foods can I eat on the 80:20 diet?

80% of the time your diet should consist of nutritious whole foods such as vegetables, whole grains, good fats, nuts, lean meats, eggs and fish. Whereas the other 20% can mostly consist of eating whatever tickles your fancy that day, within reason of course. There is no point sabotaging the good work you’ve put in all week by overeating fatty foods for the most part of the weekend, however this plan does allow for a cheeky burger and fries every so often!

Is the plan effective?

For those wanting to follow a diet plan to lose weight, this might not be the plan for you as it doesn’t provide the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss. For individuals wanting to maintain a lean body and weight, the ease and simplicity of this plan could provide the results you're after.

However this does depend on a few factors such as:

  • What your current diet consists of - those with an unhealthier diet beforehand are inevitable going to see greater gains from this plan.

  • Getting the balance right – making sure you maintain a healthy diet for 80% of the time – your 20% treat time roughly equates to 1.5 days a week or around 4 meals over the 7 days. Be careful not to exceed this.

  • Exercise & fitness – physical activity helps balance the extra calorie intake on your 20% days – the more physically active you are as an individual, the better.

  • Overindulgence – those that moderate better on treat days will see bigger gains. On your relaxed days, still remain mindful of your calorie intake and practice portion control – enjoying 1 slice of cake rather than 2 for example.

So why follow the 80:20 plan?

For many the simplicity of the 80:20 diet is what appeals – there is no calorie or carb counting, no strict guidelines and no guilt over eating the odd treat. It’s a balanced approach to eating better and living a healthier lifestyle and the rules can also be extended to beyond your eating habits. Why not extend it to your exercise routine too and see even bigger gains?

Useful links:

NHS Choices - Eat Well

Huffington Post - 80:20 Diet - article by Chris Freytag

My Body and Soul

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