Using the 80/20 Approach With Your Nutrition

Tucson Nutrition Coach

We’re halfway through January, and it’s about that time when people start to struggle with their lofty “clean eating goals” 

It’s so tempting to come out of the holidays where you have indulged a little more than usual and create some pretty harsh restrictions for yourself. 

No sugar. No carbs. No eating after 7pm. Sound familiar? 

Beware – it’s a trap! More restriction almost never works in the long run.⁣

If you have put these strict restrictions on yourself in the past (or are even trying to do it right now!) and then quickly gone back to including these banned items or eating after the sun goes down, it might be time to ask yourself the following questions:

“Why am I doing this again?”

“What will happen if I eat a BAD food?” 

“How is this affecting my life and relationships?”

“Could a different approach be more successful for me?”

At Telos, we use an 80/20 approach with nutrition. We gently encourage our clients to abandon the all or nothing mindset. Life requires some flexibility, and if you’re going to succeed long term, learning how to include carbs, sugar, and your favorite treat is ESSENTIAL. 

If you feel like a failure every time you have a piece of cake or eat dinner out with your family, you’re never going to have a healthy relationship with food, which will be a huge barrier to reaching your goals. It’s also incredibly hard to live like that! 

Where to start with the 80/20 approach

To begin, it’s important to note the 80/20 approach isn’t a diet or weight loss tool. Rather, it is a mindset for healthy and sustainable living; teaching mindfulness, balance, moderation, and how to indulge without guilt. 

Aim to cook from scratch using fresh ingredients

Foods that come ready made in a package – often advertising to support a specific diet plan like keto or weight watchers – are many times just loaded with artificial ingredients or unhealthy oils. 

If a product sounds like a gimmick, it probably is. 

Your best bet is to prepare your own meals from minimally processed whole foods that are full of nutrients. 

Add rather than subtract

What can you ADD to your nutrition that will help you reach your goals? A good start is to have half your plate at lunch and dinner be vegetables. Then work on adding good sources of lean protein at all your meals. Finally, address your sources of carbohydrates. These should again be whole food sources like sweet potatoes, squash, or brown rice. 

Get into a consistent routine

Work towards creating a meal plan on the weekend so you can be prepared for a busy week ahead. Write out a grocery list and get to the store to shop for delicious, nutrient dense foods. This doesn’t have to take all day or ruin your weekend! Check out another one of our blogs HERE to learn how to meal prep for busy people. 

Don’t start by thinking about what you’re taking away

As hard as it is, do your best to not fixate on the 20%. It’s a raindrop against the tidal wave that is your 80%. 

Along these lines, don’t set a time limit for yourself. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have an expiration date. Even if one day doesn’t go as planned, keep trying to get a little bit better each day to come closer to the 80/20 rule. 

Always go for quality

When you do eat a treat during the 20%, you still want to aim for quality ingredients. Pick the homemade birthday cake with a recipe that has been passed down for generations in your family over the Safeway cupcake. Choose high quality gelato over that gallon tub of store brand ice cream. This way, even your treats will be full of far less artificial ingredients, sweeteners, and chemicals used in processed foods. By doing this, you are choosing the least processed option and even though it isn’t contributing to optimal health, it’s not nearly as artificial. 

Avoid binge eating

If having a dessert at a nice restaurant leads to an all out pantry raid at 9pm once you get home, this is not considered to be part of the 20% and is possibly an indicator of an unhealthy relationship with food. The 80/20 approach is all about moderation and balance. Enjoy the treat, and then move on with your life to the next nutritious meal. 

Above all, enjoy every meal, not just the 20%

Keep in mind, every meal is an opportunity to nourish your body. Food should fuel us with fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

If you learn to love the 80 percent you won’t be dying for the 20 percent. Instead of thinking of it as a cheat or a reward, think of it as some wiggle room to enjoy your life to its fullest!

Want some help incorporating the 80/20 rule in your nutrition and improving your relationship with food? Schedule your free intro with us below!