Although diets that restrict certain types of foods or nutrients are popular choices for weight loss, successful dieting depends on whether you can expend more calories than you consume on a daily basis. To ensure that your calorie balance is negative, you can exercise more, eat less, or do both. Eating a 1,200-calorie diet can be helpful, as it should not take much exercise to burn off that many calories. Consult a doctor before starting any diet plan.
A 1,200-calorie-a-day meal plan can help you lose weight because it is unlikely that your body will maintain weight at this calorie level. The suggested daily intake for most active adults is 2,000 to 2,500 calories, so a 1,200-calorie-a-day meal plan is a significant reduction. Additionally, the low calorie intake makes it easier to create an energy deficit through exercise; an hour of running at 8 mph burns 986 calories, while an hour of jumping rope burns 730. Finally, using a meal plan with snacks can help keep your hunger at bay by keeping your blood sugar levels stable and reducing insulin levels.
Although consuming a 1,200-calorie-a-day meal plan can help you lose weight, such plans are not without flaws. According to PubMed Health, 1,200 calories is the minimum amount of calories adult women should consume in a day, and the amount is too low for adult men. You may also feel fatigued on such a low-calorie diet, especially if you participate in sports or other physically demanding activities. You may also find it difficult to obtain enough vitamins and minerals on such a low-calorie meal plan.
Foods to Consume
When consuming a 1,200 calorie-a-day meal plan with snacks, you should focus on eating foods that are large in volume, but low in calories. Such foods include green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, fiber-rich fruits such as raspberries and pears, and lean meats and seafood including tuna, tilapia and grilled chicken. For your snacks, focus on non-starchy vegetables like celery, fruits such as apples, or lean proteins such as beef jerky.
Foods To Avoid
You should avoid calorie-dense foods on 1,200 calorie-a-day meal plans, as one high-calorie meal or snack can throw off your entire day and leave you with only a few calories to satisfy you for the remainder of your day. For example, eating a 410-calorie protein bar as a snack would eliminate more than one-third of your daily calories in one snack, and you would have to divide your remaining 790 calories between the rest of your meals and snacks. Other nutrient-dense foods to avoid include nuts and nut butters, vegetable oils, full-fat salad dressings and dairy products, sugary baked goods and full-calorie soft drinks.
Sample Meal Plan
If you consume low-calorie foods, you can eat a reasonable amount of food on a 1,200-calorie-a-day meal plan. For breakfast, you can consume two eggs, 1/2 cup of oatmeal and a cup of orange juice for a total of 400 calories. For a snack, 2 tbsp. of hummus and 3 oz. of baby carrots provides 85 calories. For lunch, a 6-in. turkey sandwich would provide 280 calories. An afternoon snack could be a medium banana, which provides 105 calories. For dinner, you can have 1/2 cup of pinto beans, a 4 oz. pork chop and a cup of skim milk for 290 calories. This meal plan provides a total of 1,160 calories.
- MayoClinic.com; Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour; December 2009
- "Diabetes Care"; Effect of Meal Frequency on Blood Glucose, Insulin, and Free Fatty Acids in NIDDM Subjects; J. Bertelsen et al.; January 1993
- PubMed Health; Tips For Losing Weight; October 2009
- MayoClinic.com; High-Fiber Foods; November 2009
- LIVESTRONG.COM MyPlate: Calories in Protein Bar - Rocky Road Brownie (Supreme Protein)
- LIVESTRONG.COM MyPlate: Calories in Egg