The 80/20 Rule of Healthy Eating: Why Follow It and Reasons to Live by It

Eating real, healthy, nourishing foods 100% of the time is hard.

It might actually be impossible.

So at our home, we compromise. In fact, I may or may not have a package of chocolate dipped ice cream cones and 2 cartons of ice cream, (which is NOT organic), in my freezer.

We follow an 80/20 rule – we eat healthy, nourishing food 80% of the time and then we don’t really worry about the other 20%. After all, what fun is it if you can’t have the occasional bit of junk food or an ice cream cone? Although, I’m finding out that homemade ice cream in our ice cream maker is the BOMB!

Here are some reasons why we follow the 80/20 rule (rather than a 100/0 or 90/10 or even 20/80 “rule”):

1. It gives us at least an 80% chance of being healthier.

It’s just a theory, but I’m sure someone could prove it, right?


2. We need the 20%.

Because otherwise it would be a frustratingly miserable endeavor. In other words, none of us is perfect. And let’s not try to pretend to be that. Someone, somewhere, spent a lot of time creating an artificial flavor that we have cravings for (hello Reese’s peanut butter cups). Okay, so we don’t really NEED the 20%. I am a type-A perfectionist by nature, so in a perfect world I would feel my family organic, nourishing, whole foods 100% of the time. But, that is just not the reality of my life. I could make myself crazy trying to make it reality, but then I would have time for nothing else.


3. It is unavoidable.

(Examples: school parties, birthday parties, church potlucks, dinner at friends’ homes, etc). I don’t know about you, but I’m not that mom who is going to forbid her kid to eat birthday cake at a party, turn my nose up at potluck offerings that aren’t made using real food ingredients, or refuse to eat something that  friend made while graciously having us for dinner. I would never do any of those things. Well, okay, I might pass up the potluck fake food since there would be lots of other options available.


4. 80% is high enough to demonstrate that the stakes are high.

AND it shows you are serious about doing something significant for yourself and your family. The 20% demonstrates that you are honest and humble enough to hang out with the rest of the world.


5. You are putting yourself/your family ahead of the curve.

Have you noticed the trends toward the organic, the healthy, and all the stuff I blog about? If you commit to this now, think about all of the stuff you get to share with your friends someday when they “join the club”.  But even better, think of all of the sicknesses, diseases, missed school/work days or days of feeling under the weather that you will miss ALL because you chose to nourish your bodies MOST of the time with Real Food. Did you know that Real Food has been said to boost your immune system? I have noticed less sicknesses and Dr’s visits with my kids since we’ve made the change towards eating Real Food.



How about you? Do you follow an 80/20 rule? What are exceptions to“Real Food” that you

make regularly (or at least some of the time)? Please tell me I’m not the only one!!!



Photo credit


  1. Leave a Reply

    February 26, 2013

    Have you been snooping around in  brain?! I could not agree more! When I first began my real food journey, food really did become an idol for me…I was obsessed with reading labels, researching, and cutting things out! I still have a ways to go (next up, fermented foods!), but I can happily say I’ve come out of the obsession stage and into a more balanced (but still so much healthier!), steady paced, 80/20 kind of place 🙂

    • Leave a Reply

      February 27, 2013

      @mindyw Yup – that’s how I was at the beginning too! Obsession is NO FUN, but being balanced is. Good for you for realizing that!

  2. Leave a Reply

    September 2, 2012

    Melissa–I use this phrase all the time! Mainly when I’m justifying eating a s’more by the campfire. 🙂 But hoenstly, I enjoy cooking in the Nourishing Traditions style BUT I also want to enjoy my life and not let food become an idol. We do pretty darn good most of the time, so an occaisional treat is just fine. I loved this post and really appreciate your honest voice!

    • Leave a Reply

      September 3, 2012

       @MenagerieSub Thanks! I agree completely on “not letting food become an idol”. I think that is so easy to do. The 80/20 rule helps keep me in check (and in reality)!

  3. Leave a Reply

    September 1, 2012

    Great post!  We do something similar…probably a variation of 80/20 or 90/10.  My biggest reason is that it the junky food is so unavoidable, especially when you have kids.  My daughter likes healthy food and I have been teaching her to read labels (i.e. not all ice cream is bad…just make sure it is ice cream not a chemical storm of ingredients).  But, we are constantly surrounded by bad choices.  We go out a lot with friends, travel, etc. and I try to bring my own snacks, etc. but it is difficult.  Plus, since we don’t have any serious illnesses or food allergies, I do feel that a little bit of junk isn’t going to seriously harm us.  Very honest post!  Love it!

    • Leave a Reply

      September 1, 2012

       @OhLardyCom Yes! It was definitely an honest post. And you are right, it is easier to do the 80/20 when there are no food allergies or intolerances in the family. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Leave a Reply

    August 30, 2012

    I personally am more 90/10…my 6 year old daughter is more 30/70 (LOL).  sigh.  Its a daily fight with her to tip those scales.  

    • Leave a Reply

      August 30, 2012

       @KimberlyBrobstThomas Yes, I am mostly 90/10 as well….kids a bit less than that. I figure whatever real, nourishing food I can get in them the better. My youngest, who grew up with mostly “Real Food” is the best eater  and I think it’s because that’s all he knows! Keep trying – I think every little bit helps!

    • Leave a Reply

      September 3, 2012

       @KimberlyBrobstThomas Why fight? You are indeed the mother. Giver her what you have lovingly prepared to eat. If she doesn’t want it, save it for the next meal. When she is hungry, she will eat, as long as you don’t get dramatic about it. Our homes are not restaurants. We all eat together what the good Lord has provided. Once she knows that her fussiness will not be catered to, she will cease to be so. Of course don’t serve sardines with jalapenos, but good, wholesome food she can learn to like and soon love. I also use the “label reading” stategy. When they beg for something at the grocery store, I just read the ingredients list and they always say Yuck! Patience and loving persistence cures all things!

      • Leave a Reply

        September 4, 2012

         @ChildrenoftheLord  @KimberlyBrobstThomas This is true, although if you’ve made the switch towards Real Food when your child has already had a “taste” of un-real food it makes the switch more difficult. I think switching gradually will help cement those lasting changes!

  5. Leave a Reply

    August 30, 2012

    Great post!  We follow the 80/20 rule, as well.  

    • Leave a Reply

      August 30, 2012

       @OurSmallHours Thanks! This was a totally honest post – not hiding anything! I think we can be committed to real food and still be “normal” sometimes! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

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