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Life in Balance: The 80-20 Rule

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN

I was talking with a colleague who was lamenting about how many people feel guilty about their food choices, and she asked me what could be done to help people feel better about their choices.

For me, the best way to approach this guilt about food and beverage choices is to teach people about the importance of balancing their calories with their activity, not obsessively restricting or taxing their choices through government regulations.  

The more I thought about her question, I thought about the 80-20 rule I follow. Make 80 percent of your food and beverage choices healthful ones. Allow the other 20 percent to provide enjoyment. This approach frees people from perfectionism and deprivation, and allows some liberty and flexibility.

A recently published study showed that women who feel guilty about their food choices report less control over their eating and are less able to maintain their weight. Worry, concern, and guilt are not helpful when it comes to managing your eating and your weight, but having a strategy is helpful.

When I grocery shop I focus on filling the cart with healthy essentials—lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, cheese, yogurt, nuts, whole grain breads, tortillas, and pastas, and some meat, poultry and seafood. I may also throw in some chocolate milk, potato chips, gelato, or a new flavor of diet soda for my husband and me to try. And if I’m planning a vacation road trip, I'll buy a bag of Crunchy Cheese Puffs, my all-time favorite snack food that's a wonderful source of vitamins F and P (F for fun, P for pleasure!).

So next time you are in the grocery store or at a restaurant, know that you have the options and information you need to make the choices that are right for you and your family – most importantly allow yourself to choose some foods and beverages because you want and enjoy them. 

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, is an award-winning dietitian/nutritionist (RDN), farmer’s daughter, and published author who is inspired by farmers, flavor, and fun! Having had Type I diabetes since age 7, Amy is living proof of the power of mindful choices when it comes to health and well-being.

Tags: Health National CA Blog
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