A 1,300-calorie-per-day diet is considered low in calories, but sufficient to provide you with adequate nutrients when you're trying to lose weight. However, for some women, especially those who are young and active, or those with a significant amount of weight to lose, this diet may prove a little too low in energy and leave them feeling a weak and deprived. The right amount of calories depends on your age, activity level, hormones and genetics. How much weight you'll lose per week using a 1,300-calorie plan depends on how many calories you burn each day, but for many women it will create the 500- to 1,000-calorie deficit required for a loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week.
When you restrict yourself to 1,300 calories daily, pay close attention to the calories you do eat. You don't have much space in your meals for empty calories from sugar, refined grains, or saturated or trans fats.This means sweets, ice cream, fatty meats and even add-ons, such as coffee creamer and butter, are off the menu.
Instead, focus on fresh vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein, whole grains and moderate portions of fruit. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture SuperTracker, which bases its nutrient recommendations on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should get about 2 cups of vegetables, 1 1/2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of dairy, 5 ounces of protein and 5 ounces of whole grains daily. The foods you choose within these categories should be low-calorie, but high in nutrients. With a 1,300-calorie-per-day limit, you'll avoid creamy salad dressings, sour cream and fatty sauces with these meals.
Sample Breakfasts for Women on 1,300 Calories
Don't skip meals, especially breakfast, to save calories. Skipping can leave you hungry so you eat too much at the next sitting. Breakfasts include between 300 and 400 calories, depending on how much you plan on snacking later.
Ideas for breakfast include one poached egg, a slice of whole-wheat toast, an apple and a cup of skim milk; a cup of cooked oatmeal with a teaspoon of brown sugar, 1 cup blueberries and 1 cup skim milk; or a cup of raisin bran with a cup of skim milk and half a banana. These breakfasts have minimal "empty" calories and offer a serving of dairy, fruits and about a quarter of your whole-grain needs.
Lunches and Dinners on 1,300 Calories a Day
Each meal should contain just 2 to 3 ounces of protein, which could be 2 ounces of chicken or lean meat, 2 ounces of fish, a tablespoon of nut butter or 1/4 cup of cooked beans, such as black or pinto. Keep your grain servings, such as brown rice, whole-grain pasta or barley, to 1/2 cup. One slice of whole-grain bread counts as a 1-ounce serving of grains too. Stick to leafy, watery vegetables -- 1 cup of steamed broccoli or asparagus or 2 cups of raw, leafy salad greens count as a cup serving.
Meals that meet your 300- to 400-calorie restriction include: 2 ounces of deli turkey on two slices of whole-grain bread with 1 ounce of low-fat cheddar cheese,1/2 cup of sliced raw carrots and 1 cup of low-fat plain yogurt; a salad with 2 cups of romaine lettuce, one chopped bell pepper, 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup of cooked black beans and salsa as dressing with a cup of vegetable soup on the side; or 3 ounces of broiled salmon with 1/2 cup wild rice and 1 cup of steamed snow peas.
Snacks to Round Out a 1,300-Calorie Meal Plan
Use snacks to fill in any nutritional gaps left by your meals. Have a whole piece of fruit to benefit from the fiber; enjoy a scant handful of nuts -- about 1/2 ounce -- for a serving of protein; or have an ounce of low-fat cheese with a few wheat crackers to help you meet your dairy and whole-grain requirements. How many calories you can eat in snacks depends on what you've had at other times during the day. If each of your meals contained 300 calories, you can enjoy two 200-calorie snacks. If you were closer to 400 calories at each meal, permit yourself just one 100-calorie snack.To keep track of your daily calories, use an online calorie-recording site.
FInding the Right Balance for You
If you trim your diet to 1,300 calories but aren't losing weight, don't automatically assume you need to reduce your calorie intake even more. Dipping below 1,200 calories consistently may decrease your metabolism and leave you feeling exceptionally deprived so you can't maintain it for any period of time. Your first step should be to determine if you really are consuming 1,300 calories per day. Measure your food using a food scale and measuring cups so that you aren't unknowingly eating more than you record.
If your numbers are on target, increase the amount of physical activity you do, to burn more calories. Add a 30-minute walk at lunchtime most days of the week; increase the intensity of your current routine; extend the time you spend jogging or cycling by 10 to 15 minutes -- or start an exercise program if you've been relying on diet alone to trim you down.
If you find that you're too weak to exercise while trying to maintain such a low number of calories, consider increasing your calorie intake slightly. A calorie deficit, especially without exercise, can lead to loss of valuable muscle mass, and muscles are essential to revving your metabolism and keeping you healthy.