The Truth About The 80/20 Diet

With so many diets out there, it can be difficult to figure out which eating and lifestyle plan is best for you. The 80/20 diet, also called the 80/20 rule, is a popular eating plan because of its simplicity. The name of the diet refers to how it is followed, which involves eating healthy foods 80% of the time and indulging in less healthy foods 20% of the time.

"The concept is that you're eating really well most of the time," nutritionist Keri Glassman MS, RD, CDN, told Well + Good. "It helps us feel like we don't have to be perfect, and is great if you're using it to give yourself a bit of leeway." Because no foods are off-limits, this diet allows for a lot of flexibility that can be key to helping people create a healthier lifestyle.

"Enjoying small portions of your favorite foods in moderation or designing healthier versions of your favorite foods will help keep you sane and able to sustain a healthy, lifelong diet," Teresa Cutter, the chef and wellness expert behind the book The 80/20 Diet, told Well + Good.

The 80/20 diet has its pros and cons

Even though this diet offers flexibility and plenty of choices for dieters, its vague instructions may not be helpful to those who need a more structured routine. People with certain health conditions, for example, may not be able to indulge in saturated fat or processed sugar at all. Those who are not very good at tracking their eating habits may end up indulging more than 20% of the time as well (via Verywell Fit).

Finally, although the 80/20 plan doesn't ban any specific foods, it does label foods as "good" or "bad." Abby Langer, RD, told Woman's Day that this mindset goes against intuitive eating. "The categorization of food into 80 and 20, good and bad, can be very harmful," Langer said. "It's so subjective. So there's no real official categorization of what's a 'good' food or what's a 'healthy' food or 'unhealthy' food. It really depends on your situation, your likes and dislikes, and frankly what you can afford." Langer believes that all eating should be a "fun pleasurable experience" and that foods should not be split into two categories of healthy or unhealthy.

If you're interested in the 80/20 diet, talk with your doctor before changing your current eating plan.