80/20 Rule: Eat Healthy Most of the Time
One of my passions is food, that probably does not surprise anyone. I am known around town as the health food snob. No really, people hide their shopping carts when I stroll down the aisle of the grocery store. But seriously, I love treats and comfort food as much as the next person.
I would rather be known as the health food guru. I created Food Foundation to help you enjoy your comfort food but with new recipes and nutritional guidance that make those happy meals nutrient dense and delicious.
The reason I lead four seasonal detoxes a year is because I fall off the wagon quicker than most of the people who do my detox. Case in point, we just finished the winter detox and I had a chocolate bar ready and waiting on top of the fridge. It was however a Lulu's Raw Chocolate Smoked Sea Salt and Roasted Almond Bar that is only 1 oz and not sweet.
The most important practice I hang onto when I am not detoxing is the 80/20 rule. My family believes that as long as you eat well 80% of the time, we will look the other way for the other 20%. This is a skill that we have been practicing for the past few years and it has had yielded very positive results with my grade school aged kids, my once reluctant husband, and the worst offender, myself.
My blog is designed to help people change to eating a nutrient dense diet slowly because I know how difficult it is to change. By making gradual additions or deletions that make sense to your unique diet, you will find that the changes are easier to adopt. Whether you are the busy parent feeding picky kids, the healthy individual feeding a reluctant partner or the general busy bee who works 50+ hours a week, these tips may help you choose what to grab in a pinch, what to throw in the lunchbox or how to put dinner on the table with less stress and more nutrition.
This one pot chicken may easily become your go to meal when you need an easy healthy meal on the table quick. Save the bones from those drumsticks and make an easy bone broth. Wondering why everyone is making bone broth and what the buzz is all about? Check out my easy tips on how a bone broth in the fridge or even the freezer can become an instant meal like this creamy tomato soup that kids love. My kids love it because they claim "it doesn't have vegetables in it." "Ha ha", I smile, "the vegetables are in the broth so sip away my lovelies."
The trick with the 80/20 rule is not that we eat good food most of the time and then 20% junk. The focus is on the healthiest most nutrient dense food I can find 80% of the time and the 20% is my one treat because I'm only human. This is how it plays out in my day. I will choose my poison for the day, whether it be gluten in a piece of properly fermented sourdough bread slathered in butter, a glass of really nice wine with dinner, or a homemade chocolate chip cookie for dessert. All of these choices are treats that I have a hard time saying no to. So, instead of depriving myself entirely, I decide which one I will enjoy that day and then focus on eating healthy proteins, healthy fats, and lots of beautifully colored vegetables the rest of the time.
My kids are more "in the moment" and have to see the 80/20 rule reinforced at every meal. For breakfast, if they want toast, I make it french toast. Plain bread is just an empty carb, but with the added proteins and healthy fats of eggs, butter and whole milk, the bread becomes more nutrient dense. I don't buy sugary jams, but I will give them a nut butter and drizzle raw honey over the top. When I do make french toast or gluten free waffles on the weekend, I make a double batch and freeze a few in individual bags to pop easily into the toaster. My go to topping for pancakes, french toast or waffles is home made whipped cream. No, I am not Martha Stewart and I don't have time to whip cream before school. I have one of these cool canisters that has made life with kids 100 times easier, more fun, and more nutrient dense!
I believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is important to break your nightly fast and jumpstart your metabolism. Focus on loading up on proteins and healthy fats to fuel your entire day instead of sugary carbs that will make you feel great for a few hours, irritable before lunch, and finally crash in the afternoon. Go for a vegetable omelet, eggs over salad or good old eggs and bacon. No time? Hard boil some eggs the night before and grab an apple. If you have a little more time and just crave a carb, try my gluten free muffins. Don't eat eggs?, opt for real oatmeal, or sweet apple hash and add enough healthy butter, milk, yoghurt or nuts to slow down the sugar rush.
The sooner you can get off the sweet breakfast and onto something savory and nutrient dense the better for your figure. The fat will provide long lasting energy and rev up your metabolism to actually burn more fat. If you are only going to have one treat, I promise you the later you wait in the day, the easier it gets. If you eat a sweet breakfast, you are likely to crave sweets all day.
If your work has a cafeteria look for the protein and start there. Next load up on healthy carbs which should be in the form of vegetables. We often forget that fruits and vegetables are carbs. Try to load up on vegetables which have less sugar and do not forget a healthy fat like butter, or olive oil, whole fat cheese, avocado, or raw nuts. The fat is the most important aspect to make sure the food tastes good and you eat enough to satiate your hunger. It also helps slow down the processing of the sugars and allows the nutrients in the food more time to be absorbed.
Make sure you are not depriving yourself, and enjoy a little treat. Decide what it is you most want. Garlic bread with that soup, a piece of chocolate after the meal, or a custard for dessert? Eat it with your meal so the sugar load is accompanied by all of the healthy fats in your meal. Plus, you may realize you are not actually hungry enough for a giant coffee ice cream smoothie when your finish a proper meal.
For kids ages 4-64, you can't beat one of those fancy bento style lunch boxes that has different compartments. For my kids, as well as my father, these compartments are important to keep the food from touching. Note the different zones and decide on a protein, a carb, and a fat. Yes, I said fat, and I do not mean desserts. I am talking about healthy fats that fuel the brain like putting a log on the fire. Think of the carbs as the paper, the body will burn them quick and still be hungry. Crackers, cookies, chips, veggie crisps or whatever other form empty carbs come in do not satiate the body so you may as well make the carb a fruit or vegetable with real vitamins, fiber and color.
Proteins are like kindling added to the fire, they will provide more energy. Try lunch meats rolled with cream cheese, pieces of leftover steak or chicken from dinner, cheese cubes, raw nuts, celery and almond butter or sunflower butter, hummus, salami, hard boiled eggs, or my daughter's favorite smoked salmon and cream cheese rolled up in nori wraps.
Make sure that their is a healthy fat in your child's lunch. If your protein was smoked salmon, cheese cubes or yoghurt with raw nuts, good news, your fats and proteins have been met by the same food. Some quick snacks that meet both requirements are whole milk cheeses, hard boiled eggs, nitrate free salami, or raw trail mixes.
The most important part is that there is a "treat" so the child does not feel like you are forcing health food on them. Greek yoghurt can be bought with the honey on the side for a sweet healthy treat. Coco-roon cookies with healthy fats and no sugar, and Jovial Einkorn flour cookies are a decent choice for a real cookie made with heritage non GMO wheat.
I do not ask my kids what they want for lunch; I am not a short order cook. Instead I ask them what they want for their treat. I ask, "do you want crackers or cookies", not both. "Do you want a mini bagel and cream cheese or cheese crackers", not both? The rest is non negotiable, there will be a healthy protein and fat to fill them up and some fresh fruit and veggies. If I cannot draw attention away from the veggies like cucumber in the sushi roll or 1 slice of lettuce in the sandwich, then I make it very small and fun. For example a "build a face", 2 cucumber slices, 1 blueberry nose and 1 bell pepper slice mouth. I change it up so they can make different faces on different days and only rarely does the one detested veggie smile come home.
This is the meal I have the most control over and often the most stress. I work long hours, but it is important for me to sit down and enjoy a home cooked meal with my family. This is why I spend most of my time coming up with shortcuts to good food. I find that serving food family style takes a lot of pressure off of everyone. My kids need to clean their plate, but they get to load it up themselves. I always offer several vegetable choices along with the main and ask that the kids choose 3 items. With at least one vegetable that they recognize and one new, I allow them to just taste the new veg. But do know that I load up that new veg with butter and salt, maybe lemon and parmesan until it is damn near irresistible. Remember butter helps slow down the absorption of the sugars in veggies and it means your digestive tract will have more time to absorb those vitamins and minerals. Don't be shy when adding butter to veggies especially when introducing new things like mashed kohlrabi.
My kids adore the taco salad bar. If you don't think your kids like salad, try a salad bar. My 5 year old once told us he was allergic to salad, but when faced with a choice to make his own, he piled his plate so high, my husband and I were in shock. "What is the treat?", he asked and his older sister replied, "the chips of course." He then added a big handful of chips to the top, super pleased at his own creation. My kids love sour cream so I simply thinned it down with olive oil, lime and sea salt for a delicious healthy fat dressing there in the glass measuring cup.
In a restaurant my kids are allowed one treat. I ask them if they want a fancy juice or dessert, not both because they are both full of sugar. They like to make the choice and they love even more to reinforce the choice with my husband and I. We are forced to abide by the same principle; I always go for the wine, and the kids always stop me from tasting my husband's dessert.
Dessert at home has gradually diffused into part of the meal as my kids are often full from the healthy fats I incorporate in their dinner. If they did not have room to finish their dinner than obviously they have no room for dessert, not negotiable. Instead of making it an issue, my daughter and I like to prepare a plate of sweet fruits and nice cheeses. We add dried fruits and raw nuts and sometimes nut butters, shredded coconut or yogurt and honey to dip into, maybe even a few chocolate chips. Again this is served family style and more of an excuse to sit around the table and talk about food and maybe find out how their day at school went. Nobody is encouraged or discouraged from eating dessert, it simply exists in case you are not full from dinner.
At the Market
Shopping at the market can be a time of great confusion and stress. Try not to go on an empty stomach and if you have to bring the kids, make the guidelines clear. I explain that I will be spending my hard earned money on the food that fuels the family and that they can each choose one treat. Whether that treat is bagels, cheese crackers, macaroni noodles, cookies or ice cream, it does not matter to me. Anything other than proteins and produce are treats. This way the kids choose their treats for their week and I do not buy all of them at once.
I do not hold arguments about how many bagels, crackers and cookies my children can eat in one day because they are simply not all in the house together. If they choose chips, I make guacamole; if they choose crackers I buy really nice cheeses and salami for the week. And if they choose macaroni I make homemade mac and cheese, as a SIDE DISH, spaghetti or pesto pasta. When they whine and ask for the empty carbs that are not in the house, I remind them that they can choose that treat next week and I offer some real fuel. A whining kid is often just a hungry kid. I find the 20% treats to be very important, but they should never replace real food.
It is very important as adults not to follow a diet that deprives you and makes you feel like a bad person for cheating. If you have not yet mastered how to successfully diet and feel like a better person, then I encourage you to try my spring detox in March. Until then, enjoy your food, eat the butter that makes your vegetables more nutritious, choose the custard instead of the jello for the healthy fat and just remember to eat healthy most of the time.