The Golden Rule: 80/20

Food and nutrition

Published on 28 August 2019
by Isabelle Huot

The famous Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of results come from only 20% effort.


While this popular saying can apply to a range of situations in our lives, it is applied differently when it comes to nutrition. If your nutritionist suggests you follow the 80–20 rule, they are not telling you to put in only 20% effort (unfortunately).


What it means, is that 80% of the food you consume should be healthy, leaving 20% for occasional indulgences (which are less nutritious). When it comes to nutrition, nothing is forbidden; however, some foods should be a regular part of our diet, while others should only be eaten from time to time. This is where the 80–20 rule starts to make sense. People who want to change their lifestyle often have an unrealistic view of what balance looks like. 


Perfection is neither attainable nor desirable. Following the notion that food is one of life’s pleasures, it’s important to learn to enjoy less nutritious foods in moderation. Overly rigid dieting often leads to overeating. How many times have you heard someone say they went on a strict diet only to give up on it as short time later?


Unfortunately, this approach simply doesn’t work. If you want to change your lifestyle long term, it is important to be flexible and practice self-compassion. Treats may not be particularly nutritious, but they do have a place in our lives! It’s all about moderation. Be sure to eat mindfully.



Isabelle Huot
Doctor in nutrition