Seeing a registered dietitian for an individualized weight loss plan is always your best option. However, it is good to know that, for most people, eating 1,200 calories per day results in weight loss while providing adequate nutrition. Eating around 1,200 calories per day can actually benefit your metabolism while eating less than 1,200 calories per day can result in a slower metabolism.
Planning Your Meals and Snacks
Planning your meals is essential when it comes to a reduced-calorie diet. Keeping a food diary or an online journal, such as MyFitnessPal, can help. Try to eat three meals and one or two snacks per day to stave off hunger. Aim for around 300 calories at breakfast, lunch and dinner. That will give you the option of having two snacks that contain 150 calories or one snack that contains 300 calories.
For breakfast, an 8-ounce blended shake or a breakfast sandwich will satisfy you until lunch. For a shake, use ½ cup of light or unsweetened almond or soy milk, which are heart healthy. Add ½ cup of nonfat Greek yogurt for protein. Use 2 cups of spinach or kale. Add 2 tablespoons of Chia seeds for a healthy dose of fiber, protein and healthful fat. To add a bit of sweetness -- as well as up your vitamin and mineral intake -- add one fruit serving. Options include half a large banana or 1 ¼ cup of strawberries. In total, this smoothie has only 280 calories.
If shakes are not for you, try a breakfast sandwich. Here's a good example: four cooked egg whites or ½ cup egg substitute, two slices of turkey bacon, ½ cup of spinach and one slice of tomato on a toasted whole wheat English muffin. This sandwich has 275 calories.
When lunch comes around, think salads and lean protein. For fiber and nutrients, have 1 ½ cup lettuce, ½ cup of cherry tomatoes and one small cucumber. For filling protein and fiber, have ½ cup cooked quinoa or black beans and 3 ounces of lean chicken breast. For added flavor, use low-calorie dressing or 2 teaspoons olive oil with 2 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar. In total, this lunch option has 205 calories.
Four ounces of lean chicken, fish or beef for dinner will provide you with 150 to 200 calories. Your starch, which should provide around 70 calories, can be either one small potato or one whole-wheat dinner roll, or one-third cup of cooked brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. Eat non-starchy vegetables on the side, for example, ½ cup cooked asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower, which provide 20 to 40 calories. Use 1 teaspoon olive oil or cooking spray, which provides approximately 40 calories, to cook the entire meal.
Snacks should include fruit or vegetables with a serving of protein. For a 150-calorie snack, have a small apple paired with two wedges of light brie or string cheese. If you want a 300-calorie snack, pair a small banana and one large celery stalk with 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter.