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85-15 Rule

We believe in an 85:15 approach to eating a clean, healthy Paleo Diet. This means consuming 85 percent of your calories from clean Paleo foods and allowing 15 percent from non-Paleo foods that you enjoy. For most people, taking this approach will still provide the health benefits of adopting a modern Paleo diet.

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If we categorize contemporary foods as either Paleo or non-Paleo, a typical Western diet contains as few as 15 percent Paleo calories—meaning unprocessed, nutrient-dense natural foods. Considering the benefits of eating Paleo foods, switching from 15 percent Paleo to the opposite—85 percent Paleo and 15 percent non-Paleo—has tremendous health benefits despite not being “purely” Paleo.

While some people may try to eat 100 percent Paleo, unless you have a health concern that warrants it, we would not recommend trying to be too strict when first starting the Paleo Diet. It can be discouraging, and more often leads to people quitting and going back to their old habits.

There can also be a significant amount of variability with respect to adopting a Paleo Diet. Some people can attain their health goals with a 70:30 approach, while others need a 90:10 approach. So, if you are not seeing the results you expected by adopting The Paleo Diet, you may need to be stricter and increase your ratio of Paleo foods to non-Paleo foods.

Autoimmune patients, for example, have demonstrated that 100 percent compliance is often required to stay in remission from their disease. All of us can consider following a strict Paleo diet plan for seven to 14 days, a few times per year to maintain optimal health.

Even eating 85:15 may sound restrictive. After all, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for the foods we truly enjoy. But eating 85:15 often leads to a change in our palates over time that not only makes it easier, but in many cases leads to increases in the quantity of Paleo foods we consume, simply by preference.

For most of us, following this 85:15 template is sufficient for improved health while also allowing the body to deal with the negative effects of the 15 percent non-Paleo foods without consequence. In fact, eating a small quantity of non-Paleo foods may help the body maintain the physiological mechanisms needed to handle less healthy anti-nutrient containing foods.

To eat an 85:15 Paleo Diet, don’t be afraid to request menu changes when eating out. Often, a healthy protein is offered with non-Paleo side dishes, such as potatoes or legumes. Requesting to replace those items with healthy Paleo vegetables is a great way to maintain 85 percent. Making these small adjustments to meals add up over time. So, even for people who eat out a lot, their diet can be improved considerably following the Paleo Diet template.

The Paleo Diet is commonly criticized for being unrealistic or too difficult to follow. But the 85:15 template for the diet not only makes it doable at home or when eating out, we believe it’s a big part of what has made the diet so popular.

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