What Is the 80/20 Diet? (2023)

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What Is the 80/20 Diet?

The 80/20 diet suggests eating nutritious foods for 80% of the time and relaxeing on the remaining 20%. The idea is based on The Pareto Principle, an economic rule stating that 80% of consequences (or outputs) come from 20% of causes (or inputs). This way of eating is not a diet plan but rather a mindset and is open to individual interpretation.

What Experts Say

"The 80/20 diet approaches healthy eating with a message of moderation—80 percent healthy choices and 20 percent flexibility for less healthy options. Nutrition professionals back this approach, as it’s feasible for all, allows for a variety of foods, and avoids deprivation."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

The 7-Day Diet Plan

There are endless possibilities for meals on the 80/20 diet. Below is an example of a week's worth of eating 80% healthy foods and 20% indulgences. Note that what is considered "healthy" or "unhealthy" is open to interpretation, and in fact, there are no foods that need to be strictly off-limits when you consume a generally well-balanced diet and eat in moderation.

  • Day 1: California summer vegetable omelet; spinach and radicchio salad with warm bacon vinaigrette, turkey sandwich on sourdough; 2 chocolate chip cookies with milk; chipotle lime chicken thighs with pineapple salsa
  • Day 2: Maple pumpkin pie buckwheat groats with blueberries; portable tuna pockets; miso marinated steak with bok choy stir-fry and brown rice; chocolate brownie with milk
  • Day 3: Savory spinach and feta oatmeal bowl, melon; mocha dusted almonds, cottage cheese; sweet potato falafel with za'atar yogurt sauce, small bag of salt and vinegar kettle chips, diet soda; habanero cheese grits with pan-blackened fish, green salad
  • Day 4: Vegetarian hummus breakfast bagel, grapefruit; chili and lime roasted meatless Buddha bowl; apple and almond butter; 2 pieces takeout pizza, spring green salad with vinaigrette, steamed broccoli with lemon
  • Day 5: Tomato and broccoli broiled top breakfast frittata; yogurt with banana and chia seeds; kale and lentil stuffed roasted sweet potato; beef, brown rice, and mushroom soup, whole-grain roll, side green salad
  • Day 6: Coffee-shop croissant and latte, apple, walnuts; chocolate chia smoothie; vegetable and cheese enchiladas; carrots and hummus; chicken Caesar salad with homemade dressing, potato, leek, and white bean soup
  • Day 7: Greek yogurt blender pancakes, maple syrup, berries; cup of tomato soup, piece of cheddar cheese; cheeseburger with side salad; strawberry sweet potato toast; Vietnamese vermicelli with chile sauce and pork

What You Can Eat

Technically, you can eat anything you like on the 80/20 diet, so long as you stick to the premise of eating healthy foods for 80% of your meals and snacks. To fully benefit from the plan, make sure that your 80% contains a variety of nutrient-rich foods.Focus on whole foods, including whole grains. These foods are generally recognized as healthy.

Whole Grains

Whole grains offer carbohydrates for energy, along with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and some protein.

  • Brown rice
  • 100% whole wheat bread and pasta products
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and veggies are whole foods and therefore rich in key nutrients. They're a good source of dietary fiber and are also naturally low in calories.

  • Leafy greens
  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Melons
  • Berries
  • Citrus
  • Apples
  • Peaches

Lean Proteins

Build your meals around lean sources of protein. Do your best to avoid trans fats.

(Video) How to make the 80/20 diet approach work for you

  • Lean meat
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Legumes
  • Fish and seafood
  • Soy protein

Saturated Fats

For 20% of your calories, you might choose to consume foods higher in fat, but portion control and moderation are still important.

  • Higher-fat meats
  • Butter

Refined Carbohydrates and Sugar

As with saturated fats, moderation is key for your carb and sugar intake. You can enjoy some pasta or white bread—just don't go for the whole loaf. The same goes for processed foods you might choose to include in your 20% of "less healthy" calories.

Alcohol

You might choose to avoid alcohol most of the time. Then, you might enjoy a beer with friends or a glass of wine with dinner once a week or so.

What You Cannot Eat

There is nothing you cannot eat on the 80/20 diet, and although you should consume only 20% of "unhealthy" or "indulgent" foods, which foods constitute this 20% are open to interpretation and personal beliefs. Some people believe anything that isn't "whole food," such as bread products instead of unprocessed grains, is unhealthy, while others say the unhealthy foods are things like candy, dessert, and chips.

How to Prepare the 80/20 Diet & Tips

To follow the 80/20 rule, you eat a "clean" diet 80% of the time and allow yourself to enjoy a few indulgences 20% of the time.For many people, this means they focus on nutritious, whole foods during the week and relax a bit on the weekend. Others may choose to consume a bit of indulgent food each day, or some other combination.

The plan allows you to enjoy indulgences on a regular basis without making you feel like you are straying from your diet.This can be a balanced approach to a healthy diet and lifestyle for many people.

If you are pursuing this eating pattern to lose weight, remember that even your 20%indulgences should be enjoyed in moderation. If you overdo it, you can gain weight. AndIf you overeat any food, even healthy food, you are likely to gain weight.

If you find that you are unable to lose weight, or are gaining weight, on the 80/20 diet, you might want to consider making an adjustment. Adjustments can include additional exercise, counting calories to ensure a deficit, watching your portions more closely, or moving to a 90/10 style instead.

Sample Shopping List

There are no foods you need to buy or avoid specifically, but focusing on healthy, whole foods during your shopping and a few indulgent foods will help. This is not a definitive list and other foods may work better for you.

  • Whole grains (oats, whole grain bread, brown rice)
  • Vegetables (leafy greens, zucchini, asparagus, potatoes)
  • Fruit (apples, citrus, melons, berries, bananas)
  • Lean protein (chicken, beef, eggs, fish)
  • Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese)
  • Your favorite treats (chips, cookies, dark chocolate, ice cream)

Pros of the 80/20 Diet

This style of eating has much to recommend it, including these advantages.

  • Easy to do: The 80/20 diet is not a restrictive, feast-or-famine plan.All of your meals and indulgences are included. The only thing that changes is their relative proportions.
  • No counting: There is no need to use food intake apps or food diaries to track your food choices, or to count calories or carbs.
  • No foods to avoid: On the 80/20 diet, no food is off-limits.You can enjoy everything you like, just not all the time.
  • No deprivation: If you have a party or a special night out, you can still enjoy indulgences like a restaurant meal or birthday cake and ice cream.
  • Promotes healthy habits: Since you are eating nutritious foods 80% of the time,you learn to adopt healthy cooking methods and healthy grocery shopping strategies.
  • Acceptable for any diet needs: Anyone can try this diet since no foods are demanded or restricted completely. So, if you are gluten-free, vegan, diabetic, or have an allergy, the 80/20 diet can work for you.

Cons of the 80/20 Diet

There are still a few drawbacks of this plan, even though it is quite modifiable.

  • May not work for everyone: If you currently eat high-fat, high-calorie foods every day, the 80/20 diet is likely to help you lose weight—at least initially.You will need to eat lower-calorie foods most of the time. The result should be that you consume significantly fewer calories overall and lose weight. However, if your current diet is fairly healthy, you’re not likely to see a calorie deficit large enough to produce weight loss. You may need to evaluate your caloric intake andadjust your energy balance to lose weight.
  • May not have enough structure: The 80/20 rule is not an excuse to overeat or overindulge. On your relaxed days, you should stillpractice moderation. The only change is that you are not as rigid about your food choices.For example, you might choose to have a slice of chocolate cake after dinner. However, if you eat three slices of cake, you’re not following the 80/20 principle and you won’t see any change in your weight. If you need more strict rules to stick with an eating plan, the 80/20 diet might not be right for you.

Is the 80/20 Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

With its flexibility and lack of restriction, the 80/20 diet is in line with expert guidelines and shares similarities with other gradual weight-loss plans. For example, the MyPlate guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggest a balanced eating plan of reasonable portions of grains, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, which aligns with the 80/20 diet's principles.

(Video) The 80/20 Approach To Healthy Eating

For weight loss, the USDA suggests a daily calorie intake of roughly 1500 calories for women and 2000 calories for men, but these numbers can vary based on age, sex, activity level, and weight. The 80/20 diet doesn't set a recommended calorie count (that's one of the reasons it's simple to follow).

The 80/20 diet is a good introduction to moderation and eating a balanced, nutritious diet. Learning to plan for and accept indulgences without guilt can prevent feeling like a diet is too strict. However, it may not be enough to induce weight loss, if that is your goal, since it doesn't necessarily create a caloric deficit.

A Word From Verywell

If you are looking for a way to maintain healthy eating habits, consider the 80/20 diet. It is the diet of choice for many people because it allows for both balance and indulgence.

If you want to lose weight, you may need to adjust the 80/20 rule to a 90/10 diet to see results. After you lose weight, you might be able to shift back to the 80/20 plan for maintenance, since it is simple to follow for the long term.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

2 Sources

(Video) The 80/20 Principle For Losing Weight And Keeping It Off | Lose Body Fat Without Feeling Miserable

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Hernandez M. 80/20 diet efficacy in regard to physiology and psychosocial factors.J Obes Weight Loss Ther. 2017;07(06). doi:10.4172/2165-7904.1000357

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. What is MyPlate?.

What Is the 80/20 Diet? (1)

By Malia Frey
Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.

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(Video) CAN YOU CHEAT EVERY DAY & STAY LEAN: WHY 80/20 WORKS

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FAQs

What do you eat on the 80/20 diet? ›

The 80/20 rule is a guide for your everyday diet—eat nutritious foods 80 percent of the time and have a serving of your favorite treat with the other 20 percent. For the “80 percent” part of the plan, focus on drinking lots of water and eating nutritious foods that include: Whole grains. Fruits and vegetables.

Can you lose weight eating 80 20? ›

Because the 80-20 diet features a healthy, balanced diet with a few splurges, it may help you shed a few pounds if you use it to cut down on fattening foods and watch your calories. Any time you burn more calories than you take in, you're likely to lose weight.

What does 80% diet 20% exercise mean? ›

The theory is that to lose weight, it's 80% about eating properly and 20% about doing the right exercise. This makes clear that you can't simply lose weight by exercise alone – diet is the most important part of the equation.

How did Martine mccutcheon lose weight? ›

Giving more details about her diet, she added: “For 80% of my week, I will have mainly just healthy proteins, vegetables and fruit, organic and veggie juices, and Flora ProActiv spread. And then I'll have treats 20% of the time.

What are the 5 foods that burn belly fat? ›

7 Foods that Burn Belly Fat
  • Beans. “Becoming a bean lover can help you lose weight and whittle your middle,” registered dietitian Cynthia Sass told Today. ...
  • Swap your beef for salmon. ...
  • Yogurt. ...
  • Red bell peppers. ...
  • Broccoli. ...
  • Edamame. ...
  • Diluted vinegar.

Does lemon with water burn fat? ›

The answer to this is easy: No. Lemons do not have special fat-burning qualities, explains Czerwony. A squeeze of the fruit's pucker-inducing juice won't help you squeeze into a smaller pair of jeans.

How can I lose my belly fat? ›

To battle belly fat:
  1. Eat a healthy diet. Focus on plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and choose lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy products. ...
  2. Replace sugary beverages. ...
  3. Keep portion sizes in check. ...
  4. Include physical activity in your daily routine.

Is working out 30 minutes a day enough to lose weight? ›

Researchers say the results suggest that 30 minutes of exercise a day may provide additional weight loss benefits. For example, people may still have extra energy leftover after shorter workouts to be more physically active throughout the day.

What if you eat fast food every day? ›

In the short term, fast food impacts blood sugar and blood pressure, increases inflammation, and may mean an individual does not eat enough necessary nutrients. In the long term, a diet rich in fast food could lead to issues with digestion, immunity, inflammation, heart health, obesity, and more.

Why do I lose more weight when not exercising? ›

If you've lost weight without exercise, it may be because you're losing muscle mass. Second, your stress hormones may have leveled out and as a result led to weight loss.

Which is better to lose weight exercise or diet? ›

"For weight loss, diet seems to be more effective than physical activity," he says. "You have to do huge amounts of physical activity to lose weight, but you can get a better energy deficit just by cutting down on calories."

How can I boost up my metabolism? ›

5 ways to boost metabolism
  1. Exercise more. Add interval training to your cardio routine and burn more calories in less time. ...
  2. Weight train. Add muscle mass to your body and you can burn more calories at rest. ...
  3. Don't skip meals, especially breakfast. ...
  4. Eat fat-burning foods. ...
  5. Get a good night's sleep every night.

Is the Cambridge diet worth it? ›

Bottom line: low-calorie diets like the Cambridge Diet are not sustainable and will not work in the long term, and you're putting both your physical and mental health at risk in undertaking them.

What is the Cambridge Diet? ›

The Cambridge diet is a very low-calorie diet plan designed for a rapid and drastic weight loss. It is basically a meal replacement diet that involves daily consumption of specially made shakes, soups, porridges and snack bars.

Is the Cambridge Diet a fad? ›

The Cambridge Diet was a very-low-calorie meal replacement fad diet developed in the 1960s. The diet launched with different versions in the US and the UK. The US version filed for bankruptcy and shut down shortly after the deaths of several dieters.

What are the 2 vegetables that destroy stomach fat? ›

Eat These 5 Vegetables To Kill Belly Fat
  • 1#: Cucumber. Because cucumber contains so much water, it helps you feel full and eliminate cravings. ...
  • #2: Tomatoes. Tomatoes are rich in both calcium and vitamin C, which is an essential antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in the body. ...
  • #3: Chilies. ...
  • #4: Leafy Greens. ...
  • #5: Beans.
2 Mar 2017

What drink burns belly fat overnight? ›

6 bedtime drinks that can boost weight loss overnight
  • Greek yogurt protein shake. As noted above, having protein before bed—especially if you've worked out beforehand—helps stimulate the repair and rebuilding of muscle (muscle protein synthesis) while you sleep. ...
  • Chamomile tea. ...
  • Red wine. ...
  • Kefir. ...
  • Soy-based protein shake. ...
  • Water.

What happens when you drink lemon water for 7 days? ›

Lemon consumption has been found to reduce stress levels and improve moods. If you drink lemon water for a week, your improved energy levels will combine with the natural stress relief properties of lemon juice and result in optimum and controlled mood levels.

What should you eat for dinner when trying to lose weight? ›

Here are some great low-calorie but nutritious dinner ideas -
  • Baked Chicken Seekh. ...
  • Mustard-Parmesan Whole Roasted Cauliflower. ...
  • Mixed Vegetable Salad. ...
  • Fish Curry Without Oil. ...
  • Low-Fat Celery Soup. ...
  • Spicy Pasta. ...
  • Crunchy Vegetable Stir-Fry. ...
  • Baked Carrot Fries.
3 Aug 2021

What drink makes you lose weight? ›

The best drink for weight loss is water since it has zero calories and can keep you hydrated. Other weight loss drinks include coffee, green tea, vegetable juice, and smoothies. If you're trying to lose weight, avoid high-calorie, sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice.

Does apple cider vinegar burn belly fat? ›

Apple cider vinegar isn't likely to be effective for weight loss. Proponents of apple cider vinegar claim that it has numerous health benefits and that drinking a small amount or taking a supplement before meals helps curb appetite and burn fat. However, there's little scientific support for these claims.

What is the best exercise to start losing weight? ›

The 8 Best Exercises for Weight Loss
  1. Walking. Walking is one of the best exercises for weight loss — and for good reason. ...
  2. Jogging or running. Jogging and running are great exercises to help you lose weight. ...
  3. Cycling. ...
  4. Weight training. ...
  5. Interval training. ...
  6. Swimming. ...
  7. Yoga. ...
  8. Pilates.
19 Aug 2019

How long should I walk to lose weight? ›

Physical activity, such as walking, is important for weight control because it helps you burn calories. If you add 30 minutes of brisk walking to your daily routine, you could burn about 150 more calories a day. Of course, the more you walk and the quicker your pace, the more calories you'll burn.

How many days a week should I workout to lose 20 pounds? ›

To maximize weight loss, aim for 150–300 minutes of cardio each week, or about 20–40 minutes every day ( 27 ).

Are Subway Sandwiches healthy? ›

In general, Subway's meals are low in sugar and a decent source of fiber and protein, however, many are also loaded with fat and sodium. Part of Subway's appeal is that you can customize your meal. Take advantage of this option by choosing healthy toppings and nixing the cheese and full-fat condiments.

What is the healthiest fast food? ›

10 Healthiest Fast-Food Menu Items
  • Arby's Roast Chicken Entrée Salad.
  • Panera's Napa Almond Chicken Salad on Country Rustic Sourdough.
  • Chick-Fil-A's Grilled Chicken Sandwich.
  • McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal.
  • Starbuck's Tomato and Mozzarella Panini.
  • Dunkin's Veggie Egg White Omelet.
28 Dec 2021

What can you eat instead of junk and fast food? ›

18 Healthy Foods to Eat When Cravings Strike
  • Many people get the urge to eat unhealthy foods, especially when they're on a diet. ...
  • Fresh Fruit. ...
  • Greek Yogurt. ...
  • A Hot Drink. ...
  • Snack Bar. ...
  • Dark Chocolate. ...
  • Fruit and Nut Butter. ...
  • Cottage Cheese.
13 Mar 2017

What drink can burn belly fat? ›

13 Drinks That Melt Belly Fat, Say Dietitians
  • Green Tea.
  • Kombucha.
  • Protein Water.
  • Coffee.
  • Black Tea.
  • Raw Apple Cider.
  • Ginger Tea.
  • Raw Vegetable Juice.
14 Apr 2022

How can I lose tummy fat fast? ›

Here's how to whittle down where it matters most.
  1. Try curbing carbs instead of fats. ...
  2. Think eating plan, not diet. ...
  3. Keep moving. ...
  4. Lift weights. ...
  5. Become a label reader. ...
  6. Move away from processed foods. ...
  7. Focus on the way your clothes fit more than reading a scale. ...
  8. Hang out with health-focused friends.

What is a fat burning drink? ›

Heat 1 cup of water and add 2 tsp cinnamon powder to it. Let it cool down for a while. Once it gets to lukewarm, add 1 tbsp of honey. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice. Mix well and your fat-burning drink is ready.

How many calories should I consume daily to lose weight? ›

In order to lose at least a pound a week, try to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days, and reduce your daily calorie intake by at least 500 calories. However, calorie intake should not fall below 1,200 a day in women or 1,500 a day in men, except under the supervision of a health professional.

What food flattens your stomach fast? ›

Foods for flat stomach
  • Our absolute top 10 foods for flatter stomachs. There's a lot of buzz at the moment around research into foods that can help you eat your way to a flatter stomach. ...
  • Yogurt. Choose natural, Greek style, unsweetened/flavoured yogurt. ...
  • Quinoa. ...
  • Almonds. ...
  • Beans. ...
  • Eggs. ...
  • Salmon. ...
  • Extra virgin olive oil.

What causes big stomach in females? ›

If you eat too much and exercise too little, you're likely to carry excess weight — including belly fat. Also, your muscle mass might diminish slightly with age, while fat increases.

Does apple cider vinegar burn belly fat? ›

Apple cider vinegar isn't likely to be effective for weight loss. Proponents of apple cider vinegar claim that it has numerous health benefits and that drinking a small amount or taking a supplement before meals helps curb appetite and burn fat. However, there's little scientific support for these claims.

What should I drink first thing in the morning to lose weight? ›

Here are the ten best morning drinks for weight loss:
  • Amla Juice With Water For Weight Loss. ...
  • Vetiver Concoction For Weight Loss. ...
  • Fennel Seeds With Water For Weight Loss. ...
  • Carom Seeds With Water For Weight Loss. ...
  • Ginger With Hot Water For Weight Loss. ...
  • Green Tea For Weight Loss. ...
  • Chia Seeds For Weight Loss.
10 Aug 2021

Is scrambled eggs good for weight loss? ›

The bottom line. Adding eggs to your diet may be one of the easiest things to do if you're trying to lose weight. They can make you feel more full and help you eat fewer calories throughout the day. Furthermore, eggs are a great source of many vitamins and minerals that are commonly lacking in the diet.

How many calories should I eat to lose 2lbs a week calculator? ›

Calculation. To lose 2 lbs. of body fat a week, you need to eat 7,000 calories less than you would need to maintain your current weight. In other words, if you weigh 200 lbs., you need at least 2,000 calories to maintain that weight.

What should we eat in dinner to lose weight? ›

So, we've curated a list of seven weight-loss foods that you can eat for dinner:
  • Soup. You can never go wrong with soup. ...
  • A bowlful of salad. When it comes to salad, you have unlimited options. ...
  • Idli. We're not talking about white rice idlis here. ...
  • Grilled chicken or fish. ...
  • Quinoa. ...
  • Cottage cheese. ...
  • A bowl of lentils.
25 Aug 2020

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