The 80/20 Rule
We went to a local carnival on a recent night and the boys and I each had a snow-cone. Sam’s and mine were both bright blue and George’s was half red, half blue. They were nothing but sugar and nasty dyes, but it was part of the fun of being there. We stood under the fireworks and happily ate them. We broke a lot of rules that night. We stayed up past 10 o’clock, we paid to play games we knew were unwinnable and we ate carnival food. It was all part of the experience of being there and we had a blast.
This confuses some people. Most notably, my husband. Yesterday he brought home conventionally grown strawberries which I promptly returned to the store. “How can you let the boys have snow-cones and not let them eat conventional strawberries?” he asked. I understand the question, and see that it looks like hypocrisy, but this is how I make sense of our lives. This is my 80/20 rule.
It’s All About Balance
I do not strive for nutrition perfection. That wouldn’t be any fun. I mean, what is life without french fries? Instead I strive for 80% good and 20% of whatever comes our way. Life is to be enjoyed. The negative impact of the stress of trying to eat perfectly all of the time far outweighs that of eating something that really makes us happy.
So, how do I balance this? How do I keep track? My way is to treat my home as a sacred food zone. We eat 100% clean food. No dyes, no chemicals, no pesticides (hence the no conventional strawberries rule), no refined sugars or refined flours and no GMOs. The 20% of the time that we are out in the world then all bets are off. We eat what comes our way. That said, of course we eat the best option of what we are offered. Like if we are given a choice between a not-so-good food and a just-plain-awful one, we will choose the former, and if there is a healthy option we will always go for that. But, even then sometimes, we take a time-out.
When we go to birthday parties, we eat cake. We go to the movies and eat movie-theater popcorn. Today, after a haircut, we went into town and had a double scoop of ice cream before dinner. I believe that the key to teaching children to eat healthily is for them to recognize those not-so-good-for-you foods and accept them as being something that is consumed occasionally.
The 80-20 rules works well for us. The kids know it’s all right for them to break the rule on occasion because they understand what the rule is – and why.