80/20 Eating Explained

  • May 18, 2016

With the pressures of a modern life, how is it that we can eat well and do it consistently? I mean everyone battles the demands that a busy life requires, and when life gets tough its easy to reach for the ice-cream, chocolate, beer, burgers and chips! So can you have your cake and eat it too? Can you still eat well and not get derailed when you’ve had a challenging day?

We believe you can. So listen up if you want to have your favourite treats and still eat better than 95% of the population!


80/20 Eating


This concept is different to the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 Rule, whereby 80% of your results comes from 20% of your work; or 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your customers. Whilst this concept, named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, is often true in a business sense, we can’t use this relationship in a food sense. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it would  be great to have 80% of your health come from 20% of your nutrition, or 80% of your fitness from 20% of your workouts, but it isn’t that easy!


In the 80/20 Eating concept we look at the percentages of our meals that we consume in the week in order to ensure that a) we are eating top notch for the majority of the week; and b) that we able to experience living and allow ourselves some of our favourite treats, some of the time as well (can I get a heck-yeah!).


So 80% of your meals are totally on point: fresh, nutrient rich and super healthy. The 20% can sit outside of this (if you choose)! What this can do for sustaining long term consistency is incredible. Actually being able to have some of the foods that may be frowned upon can actually bring you joy and can take away the guilts associated with consuming these foods.


Let’s get real for a moment. Sometimes we may need to stray from an eating regime. It may be a moment of stress from a difficult day of back-to-back client visits and the only food that is in sight are leftovers from the work fridge. Or maybe you have a family event on the weekend and the food available is outside of your eating regime (and are some of your favourite meals)! There will be times that things won’t go as planned. So, instead of beating yourself up for “slipping” you can actually eat and enjoy whatever you are choosing and being ok with yourself, knowing that it is actually part of your plan. This is crucial. Being stressed or guilty around food is a complete waste of time and may be contributing to a negative state of health or wellbeing. Not only from the negative aspects of some emotional stress, but it could lead to an eating disorder. Not good!


So How Do I Do This?


Living an 80/20 life is super easy. It may however not be aligned with your health goals. The first step though is to work out if this is for you, or, if a 90/10 or 100/0 approach would be better (explained below). 


If 80/20 is for you, the first step is to work out how many “treat meals” you can have each week, and keep a count as you move through your week.


So, if you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner (3 main meals per day), you will consume 21 meals per week. To find out the 80/20 ratio, lets do some simple maths. 80% of 21 is 16.8 meals, so lets round this up to 17. So that leaves 4 meals that can be “treat meals”. Therefore, 17 meals per week are to the letter and 4 are flexible and up to you. Give yourself some freedom here, but don’t go overboard! Keep the portion sizes the same as you don’t want to blow out, just allow yourself some flexibility on foods that you wouldn’t normally have, if you choose. And remember this is guilt-free because it is part of your program!


Now its up to you how you may want to spread these 4 meals out. You may have 2 during the week, and 2 on the weekend. Try and spread these out, as it is probably not be wise to have 4 treat meals on Saturday! That is definitely a blow out and you probably won’t be feeling too crash-hot! Don’t worry though, you won’t intuitively do this as after eating so well all week, your body is getting used to this way of life and you won’t be going in for the binge. If you do have a big weekend planned and have a few treat meals organised, see if you can counter-balance this somewhat with some quality movement. Even if it is just 20 minutes exercise, this will keep you feeling like you are still on track and help out with energy levels as you enjoy the treat meals.


Plan your treat meals. If you are like us and really enjoy your food (who doesn’t really!) then this is a really exciting part of this concept. There may be a meal that you absolutely love, however it doesn’t fit into your wellbeing paradigm. That’s ok, just plan to have it as one of your treat meals and at your favourite cafe or restaurant. Or cook it at home (always healthier) and share the experience with someone. You will find that planning these meals will keep you on track, be a great reward and be even tastier when you eat it!


We are all about creating the lifestyle of wellbeing that suits you. One that enables a healthy outlook and is sustainable and enjoyable!


90/10 or 100/0 – Next Level Health Goals


We use the 80/20 concept with many of our clients, particularly as a tool to assist with habit changes and managing eating well. It is not a “for everyone” item though. For most it will be a minimum standard approach and whilst it will assist some people to new levels of wellbeing, a higher ratio is normally required for those with a health challenge or someone wishing to really up their game and attain optimal levels of wellness. Even a weight loss goal may require higher level approach, but once again everyone is individual and your goals are unique to you.


90/10 and 100/0


The next level to the 80/20 is actually very attainable, and the results are noticeable. You may be that all or nothing kind of person, or have a health challenge to transform like cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease, or any serious illness, you may wish to consider another ratio. Perhaps 90/10 or 100/0 is more appropriate for you to stack the odds in your favour and give your body your best. This is certainly another level of commitment and willpower however how hard this will be all depends on the value you place on your health and recovery.


You may be an elite athlete; interested in longevity or high performance in your work-life; or simply committed to feeling great. These are all fantastic reasons to up your game to these higher ratio’s.


How long do you need to do this for?

For as long as you are interested in your health and wellbeing.


Try out these Lifestyle Ratio’s and see which one may suit you. Hopefully you will find them to be a valuable tool as we have.


Practical Steps to Success with the 80/20, 90/10, 100/0


So now that you are keen to make some changes and try out this concept, how do you get started?


Step 1

Understand your current eating habits. Do you eat two, three or more main meals a day? How many snacks do you have in between meals? If you eat more or less than three main meals, or two snacks per day you will have to change the ratios in the table below. Keeping a food diary for one week can be helpful (contact us if you need help).

Step 2

Use the table below to see how many “treat meals” you are allowing yourself each week.

Step 3

Track your meals throughout the week. A great way is via a smartphone App like Evernote as you will most often have this with you around meal times. If you prefer pen and paper, make small notes in your diary.


If you want to level-up on this, write down how you are feeling after your meals. This can be a great way to start to understand which foods work well in your body.



We would love to hear if you are on one of the above ratio’s and how it is benefitting you? Comment below!


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