Low-carb diets can help you lose weight, especially in the first weeks. The amount of carbohydrates you will eat depends on the plan you choose to follow, with the average for these diets ranging from 30 to 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. On 1,200 calories a day, most women will lose weight, but that number is at the very low end of the recommended calorie range for weight loss in men and for women over 165 pounds. Talk to your doctor about the best diet for you and a safe number of daily calories and carbs to help you lose weight.
1,200-Calorie Low-Carb Diet Meal Plan Basics
Start your meal plan by dividing your calories evenly among three meals and allowing yourself room for a snack. Shoot for 350 calories per meal and a 150-calorie snack in the midmorning or midafternoon, when your energy stalls.
On a diet that includes 50 to 100 grams of carbs a day, you are likely to lose weight easily, according to Authority Nutrition; lower carb intake can have side effects, like dizziness, headaches, constipation and nutrient deficiencies. Your goal is to remove the unhealthiest carbs from your diet -- things like added sugars found in processed foods and sodas -- and to stick with nutrient-dense, whole-food carbs like vegetables, dairy, fruit, beans and nuts.
Low-Carb Breakfast Ideas
A breakfast of 350 calories can be quite filling if you choose wisely and avoid highly processed pastries and bagels. Have a two-egg omelet made with 1/2 cup each of broccoli and mushrooms, and 1 ounce of cheddar cheese for a satisfying meal that comes in at 344 calories and under 10 grams of carbs. Or try a container of low-fat Greek yogurt with 50 blueberries and an ounce of chopped walnuts for 370 calories and 22 grams of carbs.
Low-Carb Lunch Ideas
Green salad is your best bet for a low-carb lunch menu, but be sure you add protein from lean meat or beans and fiber from nonstarchy vegetables -- these nutrients help keep you feeling full. Start with a base of 3 cups of spinach leaves, then top with 3 ounces of grilled chicken breast, 1/4 cup of cottage cheese, 1/2 cup of sliced bell pepper and a serving of avocado -- about one-quarter of a fruit -- and a tablespoon of vinegar and oil dressing for a lunch of 328 calories and 11 grams of carbs. Or try 6 ounces of tuna salad in a large leaf of romaine with a cup of cherry tomatoes for 350 calories and 23 grams of carbs.
Low-Carb Dinner Ideas
Go for lean protein and fiber again at dinner. Start with half a fillet of grilled salmon, then complement it with two nonstarchy vegetables, like a cup of brussels sprouts and eight asparagus spears, for a meal that totals 329 calories and 16 grams of carbohydrate. Follow this basic pattern each day, but experiment with different protein and vegetable combinations. At another dinner, for example, try a turkey burger with a cup of cauliflower and a small sweet potato with a pat of butter for 334 calories and 28 grams of carbs.
Fitting in a Low-Carb Snack
Nuts are a filling snack that also provides satisfying crunch. An ounce of pistachios weighs in at 159 calories and 2 grams of carbs, while the same serving of almonds comes in at 170 calories and 6 grams of carbs. Celery sticks have only 1 calorie each and virtually no carbs; pair six or more sticks with a tablespoon of cashew butter for a snack that totals about 100 calories and 4 grams of carbs. If you didn’t add cottage cheese to your salad at lunch, try a half-cup for your snack, for just 82 calories and 3 grams of carbs; pair it with a cup of strawberry halves for an additional 49 calories and 12 grams of carbs.
- National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability: Exploring the Low Carb Diet
- NIH: How Are Overweight and Obesity Treated?
- European Food Information Council: What Makes Us Feel Full?
- USDA: Nutrient Database: Foods List
- Authority Nutrition: How Many Carbs Should You Eat per Day to Lose Weight?
- Columbia Health Go Ask Alice: Are Low-Carb Diets Safe?