Between all the different diet trends and conflicting research findings nowadays, most of us are more confused than ever about what and how much to eat, particularly when it comes to protein, carbohydrates and fat. While there’s no single magic combination or one size fits all approach, a healthy diet is pretty simple: it’s all about balance, which is why I’m into the “60/20/20” approach when it comes to every day eating. The 60/20/20 ratio diet plan provides a well-balanced approach by properly portioning out your carbohydrates, proteins and fats throughout the day. The idea behind this meal plan is to maximize your energy levels, muscle tone, promote cardiovascular functioning, and improve overall health.
The 60/20/20 diet was derived from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends eating within the following ranges:
Carbohydrates: 50–65% of calories
Fat: 15–30% of calories
Protein: 15–30% of calories
By focusing on digesting approximately 60% of your total calories from carbohydrates, 20% from healthy fats, and 20% from lean protein, you can achieve long-term sustainable weight loss, increase energy levels, and build lean muscle.
Let’s break it down.
Carbohydrates are an important source of fuel for our muscles during exercise and are the only source of energy for our brain and red blood cells. Fat is equally important, playing major roles in everything from brain function to cell structure, but if you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to trade some percentage of your carbohydrates and/or fat calories for a boost in protein. Studies show that calorie for calorie, protein has the most metabolic benefits for weight loss, specifically — it increases satiety (keeps you fuller for longer), energy levels, and preserves muscle.
Feel free to experiment with the percentage ranges a bit to find what works best for you, but remember: the quality of the protein, fat and carbs you eat are just as important as the quantity.
If you’re thinking about trying the 60/20/20 diet, here are a few key things to keep in mind:
Types of carbs make all the difference.
Carbs get a bad rap, but according to Harvard Health:
What’s most important are the types of carbohydrates you choose to eat, because some sources are much healthier than others. The amount of carbohydrates in your diet – high or low – is far less important than the type.
Healthy sources of carbohydrates, such as whole fruits, non-starchy vegetables (e.g., artichoke, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, eggplant, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cucumber, and legumes (e.g., chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans), promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important nutrients to our blood and central nervous systems. Whole grain products such as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, steel cut oats, muesli, barley, or wheat bran are other good choices.
Unhealthier sources contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, decrease energy levels, and promote diabetes and heart disease. These include foods like white bread, cornflakes, rice crackers, white rice, and fruit juice.
Use protein to power up your body and build lean muscle.
Getting enough protein on a daily basis is important to keep your body functioning properly and in sync. Protein is used to build and repair tissues (like skeletal muscle, bone, hair, fingernails, cartilage, skin and blood), as well as make enzymes and hormones that help regulate metabolism and growth.
Check out the Essential Guide to Protein for information on plant-based protein sources as well as lean cuts of meat, poultry, and fish options for healthy eating.
Load up on omega-3 fats.
Fats have many benefits ranging from satiety to brain health – especially those rich in omega-3s. Read over the Essential Guide to Fat if you’re looking for some heart-healthy options. Remember: fat is crucial — don’t be afraid of fat!
If you’re looking for some inspo on how to get started on the 60/20/20 diet, we’ve got you covered. Scroll on for a few of our favorite recipes that include healthy carbs, fats, and lean sources of protein that will keep your body and brain balanced, healthy, and happy from sunrise to sunset.