Follow the 80–20 Rule

If you’re well, you want your diet to be mostly whole, natural foods, and mostly plants, 80 percent of the time. I’m talking vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes—preferably organic. Animal food should be a condiment. And when you do eat it, animal protein should come in the form of grass-fed dairy, free-range chickens, grass-fed beef, naturally raised pork, and wild game. Most people need a little animal protein to feel their best. Some don’t do well with dairy products or eggs. Almost everyone would do well to limit grains.

The other 20 percent of the time, let yourself off the hook. Join the party and enjoy. Don’t stress about what you’re eating. Like when you step off a plane that didn’t serve a thing, you’re starving, and you can’t pass up the first bite of something you can find. Even a Cinnabon. Don’t beat yourself up for being human. You have thousands of years of evolution running through your veins, and the main thrust of that force is for you to survive—by eating the sweetest, fattiest food you can possibly find. The kind that will get you through a long winter or long period of starvation. Just don’t do it all the time. You’ll probably find, though, that as time goes on, you’re not going to be tempted even a little by junk food. It will simply leave your experience.

Luckily, it’s getting easier and easier to eat organic food because of farmers’ markets, farm-to-table restaurants, and companies like Thrive market, which delivers deeply discounted organic packaged food right to your door—in record time. Since organic produce can be expensive, a good alternative is to check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists, which were created to give people insight on which vegetables are grown with the most and least pesticides and harmful chemicals. If you can’t buy all organic produce, shop smart and opt to spend a bit more on organics for the items on the Dirty Dozen list. You can find the full list at

When trying to eat healthy, planning is key. Stock your cupboards and fridge with good produce. Spend Sunday—or your day of choice—prepping food so it’s easy to grab and go. You need to have good food easily available at all times, otherwise it becomes easier to get a takeout pizza, which breaks down into sugar very quickly (believe it or not) and is just not a good dietary staple. There are dozens of books that can help you do this. I recommend everything and anything by Kris Carr or by Mark Hyman. Both Anthony William’s Medical Medium and David Ludwig’s Always Hungry? have some great information. Also David Perlmutter’s The Grain Brain Cookbook and William Davis’s Wheat Belly. Joan Borysenko’s The PlantPlus Diet Solution is a favorite of mine because it addresses the wide range of individual differences when it comes to diet. All of these books contain delicious recipes. Yes, there is conflicting material in them, but there is also a huge amount of overlap! They’re great resources to get you started.

For additional articles from Dr. Northrup visit our page or find out additional information regarding her new book: Making Life Easy.

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