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The 80-20 Rule

Diets are restrictive. No snacking. No ___ (fill in the blank with your favorite food). No fun. The 80-20 rule, created by Dr. Partha Nandi author of ASK DR. NANDI, looks at the way you think about food in a healthy and guilt-free way.

Once you’ve changed the way you eat, consuming what you like, I want to introduce you to the 80-20 rule. At least three times a day, you have the opportunity to make great choices for your body’s nutritional needs. However, eating and food are for your enjoyment and should be treated as such. You should not be paralyzed by having to adhere to the ideal food choices all the time. You should also eat a diverse diet, learning about new foods and ways to prepare them. Food should never be boring. There are just too many choices, and using the Internet, you can find countless recipes for every ingredient.

It’s easy to get lost when you have so many options, but with choice comes self-reliance and knowledge, two of the greatest engines of change on the planet. If you can make good choices at least 80 percent of the time, you should meet your goals to be a #healthhero. Using the 80-20 rule gives you room for the vacation to recharge and meet your goals, the birthday dinner for your kids, or the work party. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and if thinking about it and preparing it become a chore, the experience stops being about shared good times, bonding, and joy. What did I do wrong? you keep asking yourself. Nothing is the answer. Go ahead and enjoy; just be selective about how often you do it.

My father had a life-altering stroke several years ago. He was my hero, so I always found ways to celebrate him. For his birthday, we had chicken Alfredo and lasagna with rich creams and melted cheese. This is how we live our life. We don’t have tiramisu every day, but when we do, we enjoy it. We love our food and what it does for our body and mind. Our family follows the 80-20 rule.

Not only during celebrations do we maintain our practice. Our young kids often want unhealthy snacks and we do occasionally reward them with treats. Of course we do our best to give them reasons they should be healthy eaters more often, but if they have great nutrition at least 80 percent of the time, we feel we are doing quite well. This flexibility allows our family to thrive. With our sons, we remind them that they are receiving a treat and that treats are not the rule. This reinforcement helps maintain the nutritional habits we want to instill.

In fact, we ourselves often need this reinforcement as well. Instead of feeling guilty about a little “cheating” on your diet, let yourself know that a little treat is okay. When I travel, I often find unique treats that I want to enjoy. They almost always are not healthy and are not a part of my daily nutritional plan.

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