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1,800-Calorie Diet to Lose Weight

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
1,800-Calorie Diet to Lose Weight
A woman selects fresh fruits and vegetables for her 1,800-calorie diet. Photo Credit ViktorCap/iStock/Getty Images

The number of calories needed to lose weight depends on your size, age, gender and activity level. An 1,800-calorie diet is an appropriate weight-loss amount for those who are moderately active or who burn more than 2,000 calories per day. Eighteen-hundred calories allows for enough food to prevent feelings of deprivation and to provide adequate nutrition.

Weight-Loss Basics

Weight loss comes about as a result of a calorie deficit, meaning you must expend more calories than you consume. One pound of weight is equivalent to 3,500 calories. To lose 1 pound per week, this deficit must equal about 500 calories per day. If you eat 1,800 calories a day, you must burn at least 2,300 calories per day to lose 1 pound per week. If you burn fewer calories but still more than 1,800, weight loss will occur more slowly. Burning more calories a day while eating 1,800 calories results in a quicker weight loss.

Meal Frequency

An 1,800-calorie diet may be split up over the course of three meals containing 500 calories and two 150-calorie snacks. Alternatively, the 1,800 calories may be split up over the course of five or six smaller meals, each containing 300 to 360 calories. The strategy depends on your preference, but sticking to a consistent, regular meal pattern was associated with an overall lower calorie intake, higher post-meal metabolism and lower cholesterol levels in a study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in January 2005. Women who ate three to nine times at irregular intervals did not experience these positive results.

Types of Food

An 1,800-calorie diet for weight loss should feature high-quality foods that come from whole sources, rather than processed or fast foods. Shrimp, tuna, skinless white-meat poultry, extra-lean beef and egg whites make good lean protein sources. Fresh or flash-frozen vegetables that have a high fiber and water content offer few calories and plenty of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. Whole grains also offer fiber, which can help a dieter feel full for longer than quick-digesting, nutrient-poor refined carbohydrates like white bread and sugary cereal. Low-fat dairy provides calcium and can assist with weight loss, as suggested by a study from Curtin University in Australia released in October 2009, where dieters who ate five servings of low-fat dairy daily lost more weight than those eating just three after 12 weeks.


Fats are an important macronutrient and should make up about 20 to 35 percent, or 360 to 630 calories, of an 1,800-calorie diet plan. Fat takes longer to digest, notes registered dietitian Joanne Larsen on Ask the Dietitian, helping you feel more satisfied and less hungry between meals. Fat also plays a role in many important bodily functions such as vitamin absorption and hormone production. Seek out healthy fats found in nuts, plant oils, avocados and fatty fish, rather than the saturated or trans fat found in meat, full-fat dairy and commercially prepared foods.


Each meal should contain a source of protein, a healthy carbohydrate and a bit of unsaturated fat. An example of a 500-calorie breakfast is 1/3 cup of dry oatmeal cooked with 1 cup of low-fat milk, ½ cup of fresh blueberries and ½ ounce of toasted almonds, with four scrambled egg whites sprinkled with 1/8 cup of low-fat mozzarella on the side. A hearty sandwich composed of 3 ounces of deli turkey with a slice of avocado on a whole-wheat English muffin, with 2 tablespoons of hummus, red pepper strips and baby carrots, and a whole apple with a ½ cup of yogurt makes a 500-calorie lunch. For dinner, have 4 ounces of grilled salmon, a medium-sized baked sweet potato and a cup of steamed broccoli. At snacks, round out your nutrient profile by enjoying cottage cheese, low-fat milk or kefir, along with extra fresh vegetables and fruit.

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