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How I Practice the 90/10 ‘Diet’

by Marissa on May 3, 2018

Health Coach 90 10 diet rose outside

Having been a Health Coach for eight years, one of the most common misconceptions is that people assume my diet is perfect. Not true! Sure, my diet is very clean and I stay on track with it fairly easily, but I don’t believe in restriction so there are indulgences here and there. The difference for me now as a Health Coach is that I easily get back on track when I fall off and the food noise that I used to have is much quieter – almost non-existent. It’s taken a lot of work to get here and plenty of trial and error. One of the first concepts I learned at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition is the 90/10 Diet. Created by IIN founder, Joshua Rosenthal, the 90/10 diet promotes eating healthy foods most of the time (80-90%) and leaves room for less healthy foods occasionally (10-20% of the time).

This isn’t a diet so there’s no plan or menu, but in general, there’s a strong focus on vegetables and fruit, whole grains and lots of water. One of the overarching concepts is bio-individuality – the idea that no one diet or way of eating works for everyone. Both cooking at home and experimentation with different foods are key. Another important element that I used early on is food journaling, which can assist with knowing which foods create certain emotions or even physical symptoms. It’s a tool that can be invaluable for helping determine which foods are your own personal fuel and which aren’t. 

Foods that support the 90/10 rule: 

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Dairy
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy oils

Foods to limit or avoid with 90/10 diet:

  • Sugar
  • Processed foods
  • Refined grains
  • Trans fats
  • Caffeine
  • Tobacco

The best thing about this practice is that it can easily become a lifestyle and there are few restrictions because nothing is ever 100 percent off-limits. It makes room for a wide range of foods and their corresponding nutrients and flavors. While this can still work for those with food allergies, there may be more restriction of certain foods or food groups necessary.

How I Practice 90/10

Everyone’s interpretation of the 90/10 concept is different, but these are some ways I put it into practice in my daily life. 

I drink alcohol, but mostly limit it to weekends and typically only one drink per sitting. 

I don’t deny myself foods I love, like French fries, but I eat them in moderation paired with lots of vegetables or salad and protein so I’m not tempted to eat the entire portion. 

I try to satisfy cravings with healthier versions of the foods I crave. For example, cauliflower crust pizza with lots of veggies and homemade pesto or “ice cream” made from frozen fruit or bananas.  

When we go out to dinner, I like to share an entree or order appetizers and salad – and a side of fries (obviously!) since the portions tend to be large at most restaurants. 

Every day – even the healthiest ones – include a square (or two) of 85% dark chocolate. 

I love Van Leuven’s dairy-free coconut milk ice cream on a hot, humid summer day. There’s nothing quite like it. I live near the ice cream shop in New York City’s East Village and when I feel the craving come on a sweltering day (if you live in the city, you know what I mean), I’ll go there, get a small scoop, sit down and savor it slowly and guilt-free. It does the trick every time and I’m set until next year!

If you’re curious about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, you can download a sample class here

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