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“Dieting” usually means “cutting” out of your diet when you’re craving Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. That’s because most people can’t stick to a strict diet 100 percent, and then feel guilty when they eat sweets, chips, or shakes.

But following the 80/20 rule is a healthy, low-restriction eating option that doesn’t feel like a diet. Eating 80/20 is more “real life” and easier to follow than other diets because it allows you to eat smaller portions of your favorite foods while still eating healthy.

What is the 80/20 rule for eating?
The 80/20 rule is a guideline for your daily diet, eat 80 percent nutritious foods and the other 20 percent enjoy your favorite treats.

Focus on drinking plenty of water and eating nutritious foods during the “80 percent” part of the plan. It includes:

Whole seeds
Fruits and vegetables
Lean protein, such as plant-based protein such as beans, soy, and edamame
Contains limited amounts of healthy fats from avocado or olive oil
For meals, or “20 percent,” eat small portions of your favorite foods. For example, you can have a small chocolate cake today and a glass of red wine tomorrow, but not both at the same time. This way of eating is easier than a strict diet like the ketogenic or paleo diet, which restricts carbohydrates and processed foods.

The best thing about the 80/20 rule is that you never say, “I can’t eat that.” But you say, “You can eat this today and eat it tomorrow.”

What is the best way to use the 80/20 rule?
Try to stick to these guidelines for as many days as possible to make the 80/20 rule a success. If you’re aiming for 80 percent of your diet to come from fresh, unprocessed foods, why not eat up to 20 percent of your favorite treats? For someone aiming for 1,500 calories a day, that means you’ll spend 1,200 calories on healthy, nutritious foods and 300 calories on desserts.

Some people try to use the 80 percent rule on weekdays and the 20 percent rule on weekends, but this leads to overeating because they have given up sweets for the week.

If you follow the 80/20 rule every day, you will be able to spend money every day. As a result, you will never be denied the pleasure of eating a small portion of what you love.

Can you lose weight by following the 80/20 rule?
Follow the 80/20 rule to help you lose weight. But how much weight you lose depends on how healthy or unhealthy your eating habits were before you started 80/20.

Portion control and regulation are key to success when eating 80/20. Therefore, even when eating healthy foods, it is still possible to exceed the body’s energy needs and gain weight. Calories always count, even when it’s healthy.

In addition to losing weight, following the 80/20 rule will help you have a balanced mindset when it comes to eating. It removes the guilt, emotion and stress associated with dieting and allows you to eat less of your favorite foods. In addition, it can be adjusted to work for people with diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.

How do I start applying the 80/20 rule?
If you need help getting started with the 80/20 rule, make an appointment with a Virtua registered dietitian. Your dietitian can review your regular diet and help you identify areas where you can make more nutritious food choices to help you reach your fitness and nutrition goals. Most importantly, she’ll help you create simple, healthy eating habits through small changes you can make over time.

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