Diana Warrings shares an easy way to change your eating habits for the better – and for good – with The 80/20 Rule

Eating healthy is counted as one of the top five New Year’s resolutions. However, far too often life gets in the way and navigates us back into old habits soon after embarking on the quest. With this in mind, we can probably all agree that healthy eating should not just be an annual ‘one hit wonder’ during the month of January but rather be seen as a long term endeavour.

The 80/20 rule may well be a way to help you get started on the road to eating healthier. According to the rule, you follow a wholesome, healthy diet for 80% of the the time and the remaining 20% you can eat whatever you like. There are different variations as to how this rule can be applied. Some people like to practise their 80% Mon.-Fri. and leave the weekend for the remaining ‘20%’, others like to apply it daily. Most of my clients have found applying the rule daily has worked best for them. They felt it was far easier to handle birthdays, work lunches, dinners with friends, dates, etc. Practising daily may also help with changing eating habits more effectively.

Now, you might ask yourself, how do I calculate the 80/20? There are no set rules to this. You might choose to count a mid-morning latte and an afternoon treat, as your 20% or prefer to have a pizza for dinner. An entire meal counts for more than 20%, but this can be balanced out by adding a healthy component. With a pizza treat, this could be a fresh salad, sautéed greens or vegetables as a starter or side. Having some plain seeds or nuts with your coffee, cake or dark chocolate also adds a healthy twist. As with the salad and vegetable ‘add-ons’, they provide extra fibre, minerals and vitamins and may help you get used to making healthier meal choices.

This leaves the question of what the 80% should look like. Keeping it as simple as the 80/20 rule itself, healthy food choices include plant protein-rich foods such as beans and pulses, as well as fresh seasonal fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and herbs. These should come in their most natural and ideally unprocessed form. Where possible, try to get locally grown: the origin of your food can be found on its label. When shopping at your local farmers market, you can ask the vendor directly. During the winter months, they often have to buy part of their goods from abroad as well. For those of you who eat meat, fish and dairy, try and choose local and organic where possible. Moderation is key, so have your meat or fish as a side dish and their plant-based counterparts as a main.

Buying unprocessed whole foods inevitably leads to cooking from scratch. This may mean more time spent preparing your meals, but it will give you back control over what goes into them too. Takeaways and processed foods, such as ready meals, salad cream, dressings and spreads, can be high in fat, salt, and sugar. More often than not, they are also loaded with preservatives, flavourings, and colourings, as well as being made with low-quality ingredients that lack nutrients. As for the 20%, a lot of my clients like to keep those at a high quality level too and love making their own treats. You may feel the same because, don’t forget, your body is a temple, so only the best is just about good enough.

To get you started, have a look at this month’s recipe and make some delicious lemon slices with poppy seed & coconut yogurt.