Finding the perfect diet plan can be difficult--especially for most of us, who love to eat! But despite what many believe, eating healthy doesn't mean you have to cut everything you love out of your food regime.
According to experts, the 80/20 diet is the epitome of a balanced eating plan--and it's one you can happily maintain throughout your life. The diet involves eating clean, whole foods for about 80 percent of your day, while the other 20 percent is spent eating "cheat" foods, including carbs.
"The 80/20 rule can be a fantastic way to enjoy the foods you love and keep your weight in check," said Sarah Berndt, registered dietician (R.D.) for Complete Nutrition, in an article for Shape magazine.
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Unlike other restrictive plans including gluten-free and paleo diets, the 80/20 diet is an easy one to maintain for long periods of time.
"It's a more livable diet style, which allows you to enjoy a few special treats without feeling guilt," Sharon Palmer, R.D. and author of The Plant-Powered Life, told Shape.
Often, eating a food that doesn't fit into the "healthy" category can lead to harmful tactics like binging and skewed perceptions about body image.
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While this diet plan may sound almost too good to be true, there is a catch: it's not great for weight loss. Even if you are eating large amounts of healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, and lean proteins, you can exceed your body's energy needs and thus gain weight. Overall, calorie intake still counts, so this method may be best for weight maintenance rather than weight loss.
"The 80/20 rule is very loose guidance and could be applied to a diet lifestyle that's already in balance when it comes to calorie needs," said Palmer.
And just because the 80/20 allows you to indulge in some "treats," it doesn't mean you should gorge yourself on that next bag of chips or box of cookies.
"It’s still important to practice moderation and portion control with the 80/20 rule," said Berndt. "Try to consider [the 20 percent indulgence] more as a general rule of thumb," rather than a specific target to meet each day.
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Remember, that 20 percent of wiggle room doesn't mean those calories should be wasted on foods with zero nutritional value--and you definitely don't need to eat your way through the full percentage.
"Every meal is an opportunity to nourish your body," said Palmer. "For many of us, every bite should count in order to reward us with fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (plant compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound)."
Palmer also suggest it's better to aim lower than this allowance, as most "people are really bad at estimating how much food they eat and consistently underestimate calories and portions."
Overall, it's important to think of this portion as a reward rather than a necessity, especially as eating healthy will help you crave fewer sweets in the long run!
So, are you ready to jump on board with the 80/20 diet?
The 63-year-old has been a vegetarian since the age of 13, and she told the L.A. Times that she believes her diet is a good defense against disease. "I call it my rainbow diet," she said. "I like to encompass as many colors as I can in a day because at some point, you always get these news reports that everything gives you cancer. I think that it’s really benefitted me to have had this lifetime of healthy eating behind me. It’s been a great foundation."