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All About the 80-20 Diet

What Is It?
The idea is simple: Eat healthy meals 80% of the time, and have more liberty with the other 20%. But how it’s done and how it will change your weight can be different for everyone.

The 80%
The basic principle is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables and modify them up often. The rest of your plate should be whole grains and lean protein with a serving of low-fat dairies, like yogurt or milk, on the side. Aim to limit saturated fat and added sugars.

The 80%: Vegetables
Add fresh, frozen, or canned ones to salads, or have them as side dishes or even entrees. Look for lots of different colors, which mean many different nutrients. You can steam, saute, roast, or grill them to change the flavors and find what you like the most. Just watch the extra calories and salt in sauces and oils. Most adults should get around 2 ½ to 3 cups a day.

The 80%: Whole Grains
Look for these to be listed first on prepared foods like bread. Or go straight to the source with oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown rice. Try to limit snacks, cakes, and cookies made with refined grains like white flour, though. They can spike your blood sugar.

The 80%: Dairy
Go with fat-free milk, soy, yogurt, and nut milk to cut back on saturated fat. When you do have dairy fat, keep it to a minimum with low-fat versions of cheese and sour cream.

The 80%: Protein
Beef, pork, and chicken are fine, especially when they’re low in fat, but it’s better for your health to mix it up a bit. Fish, beans, peas, seeds, nuts, soy, and eggs add a variety of tastes for your palate and nutrients for your body.

The 20%
After you’ve eaten healthy most of the week, it‘s time to get some pleasure, within reason. You might have French fries as a treat at lunch, a glass of wine at dinner, or an ice cream treat for dessert. But keep in mind that overdoing can throw all your hard work out the window. You have three approaches to choose from:

‘Cheat Days’ Approach
With this, you fix a couple of days each week to indulge a bit. But try not to think of your meals as “rewards” or “punishment”. It’s best to embrace and enjoy both your healthy meals and special treats.

Calories Approach
If you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to be a little more specific and indulge in 20% of the recommended number of daily calories. For example, if your target is 1,800 calories a day, you might have 360 more calories 2 days a week.

Mixed Approach
Here, instead of that soda and double bacon cheeseburger that you only get once in a while, you fold treats into everyday eating. Sprinkle a little sugar on your grapefruit in the morning. Have some fresh whipped cream and berries as a dessert. It’s a way to take pleasure in eating every day and keep a positive attitude toward food.

Can the 80-20 diet help You Lose Weight?
Since the 80-20 diet features a healthy, balanced diet with a few splurges, it may help you shed some kilos if you use it to cut down on fattening foods and watch your calories. Any time you burn more calories than you take in, you’re expected to lose weight.

Exercise Is Important, Too
If you’re trying to lose weight, dieting alone usually isn’t enough to reach your target. To aid your body burn more calories than you take in, aim for 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Weightlifting or push-ups boost muscles, which burns calories all day long. If you can’t hit the gym, a walk around the block at lunch is a great way to get moving.
Check this article for some fitness tips for beginner athletes.

Make It Personal
We’re all different. Some people enjoy a little freedom at the end of the week, while others prefer to indulge a little every day. Just ensure to talk with your dietitian about whatever you decide. Your age, weight, sex, and activity level all play a part in what’s a healthy diet for you.
Finally, to help you stop cheating on your diet and stay on the right track during the 80%, read: How to stop cheating on your diet.

Christelle Bedrossian

Author Info

Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian

Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian dedicates some of her time to address us through the various media outlets and provide answers to our questions. As a prominent professional in the field of dietetics, Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian is frequently hosted on several local and international television and radio stations to offer up to date advice and tips on health and nutrition. Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian is a writer and nutrition consultant for a variety of written publications, both print and online magazines and newspapers.