The 80/20 concept is a popular approach to healthy eating that involves balancing your food choices so that 80% of your diet consists of nutrient-dense, whole foods, and the remaining 20% consists of more indulgent or discretionary foods.
The idea behind the 80/20 concept is that it allows for flexibility and enjoyment in your diet while still prioritising health and wellbeing. By focusing on nutrient-dense whole foods for the majority of your diet, you can ensure that your body is getting the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to function optimally. At the same time, allowing for some flexibility and indulgence in your diet can help you maintain a healthy relationship with food and prevent feelings of deprivation or restriction.
The specific breakdown of the 80/20 concept can vary depending on individual needs and preferences, but some common examples include:
- Eating nutrient-dense, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats for 80% of your meals, while allowing for occasional indulgences such as dessert or processed snacks for the remaining 20%.
- Focusing on high-quality, nutrient-dense foods for 80% of your meals and allowing for some flexibility within that framework, such as incorporating occasional treats or more indulgent meals.
- Prioritizing healthy, whole foods for the majority of your meals and allowing for some flexibility and indulgence on weekends or special occasions.
Ultimately, the 80/20 concept is a flexible approach to healthy eating that can be customized to fit individual needs and preferences while still emphasizing nutrient-dense whole foods as the foundation of a healthy diet.
While there is limited scientific research specifically on the 80/20 concept, the individual components of the approach (i.e., consuming a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet and allowing for some flexibility and indulgence) have been studied and shown to be beneficial for overall health and wellbeing.
A diet that emphasizes nutrient-dense, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats has been shown to be associated with numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. For example, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
At the same time, allowing for some flexibility and indulgence in your diet can help prevent feelings of deprivation or restriction and promote a healthy relationship with food. Research has shown that overly restrictive diets can lead to disordered eating behaviors and poor mental health outcomes. In contrast, a balanced approach that allows for occasional indulgences or treats can help support long-term adherence to a healthy diet and overall wellbeing.
Overall, while there is limited research specifically on the 80/20 concept, the individual components of the approach are supported by scientific evidence and can be a healthy and sustainable approach to eating for many individuals. As with any dietary approach, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine what approach is best for your individual needs and goals.
Studies that show an overly restrictive diet can lead to disordered eating behaviors and poor mental health outcomes:
- Tylka et al. The Weight-Inclusive versus Weight-Normative Approach to Health: Evaluating the Evidence for Prioritizing Well-Being over Weight Loss. Journal of Obesity, 2014.
This review article highlights the negative impacts of weight-focused interventions and diets on mental health, including disordered eating behaviors, anxiety, and depression.
- Linardon and Messer. Food and Mood: A Review of Supplementary Prebiotic and Probiotic Interventions in the Treatment of Anxiety and Depression in Adults. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, 2020.
This review article explores the role of gut health and dietary interventions in mental health outcomes, including the negative impact of restrictive diets on mental health.
- Elran-Barak et al. Eating Behaviors and Attitudes Following Prolonged Exposure to Television among Ethnic Fijian Adolescent Girls. British Journal of Psychology, 2015.
This study examined the impact of exposure to Western media on eating behaviors and body image among adolescent girls in Fiji. The researchers found that those who reported exposure to Western media had higher levels of disordered eating behaviors and body dissatisfaction.
Overall, these studies suggest that overly restrictive diets and weight-focused interventions can have negative impacts on mental health and may contribute to disordered eating behaviors. A balanced approach that prioritizes overall wellbeing and a healthy relationship with food may be more effective for long-term health and happiness.
Well, folks, if you’re looking for a flexible approach to healthy eating that won’t leave you feeling deprived or cranky, the 80/20 concept might just be the ticket. By focusing on nutrient-dense whole foods for 80% of your meals and allowing for some indulgences and treats for the remaining 20%, you can enjoy a healthy and balanced diet that supports your overall wellbeing. And the best part? The science backs it up! Research has shown that overly restrictive diets can lead to disordered eating behaviours and poor mental health outcomes, so it’s important to find an approach that works for you. So go ahead and enjoy that slice of pizza or bowl of ice cream – just make sure to balance it out with plenty of fruits, veggies, and other whole foods too. Your body (and your taste buds) will thank you!