The 80/20 Diet: Everything You Need To Know

The 80/20 diet plan allows dieters to still enjoy some of their favorite, less healthy foods in moderation.

The freshman 15.

Beer gut.

Middle-age spread.

Hibernation handles.

The monikers for dreaded weight gain are endless, but no matter what you call it, most of us have jumped on the diet merry-go-round at one time in our lives in an attempt to lose weight.

Dieting is tricky business.

Anyone who’s ever tried to shed pounds knows how difficult it is to give up favorite foods and stick to a diet.

The word “diet” alone makes us feel deprived, which puts us on the slippery slope toward splurging on high calorie, high fat foods.

So you’ll probably like the sounds of this: The 80/20 Diet is a new eating plan that gives you permission to indulge in your favorite foods as long as you eat really healthy the rest of the time.

What is the 80/20 diet?

In the 80/20 diet, Australian nutritionist, chef, and personal trainer Teresa Cutter writes that you can lose weight if you eat nutritiously 80 percent of the time and allow yourself to indulge in less healthy food for the remaining 20 percent of your meals.

By nutritious, Cutter means whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods, lots of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, plus lots of water. Her book contains over 130 recipes to help you eat healthy and lose weight.

Keep in mind, however, that Cutter’s definition of less healthy foods might not square with yours.

You were probably imaging toeing the line with stellar, good-for-you meals Monday through Friday and indulging on pizza and beer over the weekend. Not so fast. This diet does not give permission to binge eat.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week equals 21 meals, so 80 percent would be 17 healthy meals.

That leaves four indulgent opportunities, but Cutter admits that if you gorge on pizza, fries, and cheeseburgers for those four meals, you’ve just undone all the good work of the 80 percent.

You can have that cheeseburger, she said, just don’t get a Whopper and double fries.

Does it work?

“I think an 80/20 plan is a great approach,” licensed, registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick told Healthline.

“I’ve seen with my own patients that willpower [alone] does not work, it just makes people want the foods they are giving up even more,” she says. “Therefore, allowing yourself a few indulgences here and there may not be such a bad thing. With my patients I tend to be a bit more conservative and suggest a 90/10 split though.”

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