When you're trying to eat better and lose weight, knowing what you're going to eat is half the battle. Having a list of low-calorie meal ideas can help you get started. Limiting each meal to 400 calories not only helps you keep a lid on your overall calorie intake, but it also helps you maintain energy levels, while aiding in hunger control. Talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet. A 1,200-calorie diet for women and a 1,600-calorie diet for men is considered a low-calorie diet, which should be monitored by a physician.
When following a low-calorie diet, it's important that you make every calorie count. That means filling your diet with low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, lean sources of protein and nonfat dairy foods. These foods not only help you meet your vitamin and mineral needs, but they also tend to be more filling. While your calorie needs and daily food intake may vary, a balanced 1,200-calorie diet might include six servings of grains, four servings of lean protein, one serving of dairy, three servings of fruit, three servings of vegetables and two servings of healthy fats. Use measuring cups, spoons and food scales to keep your portions and calories in check.
Make breakfast a priority when counting calories. Eating breakfast not only gives you the boost you need to get your day started, but it also might prevent you from over indulging at your next meal. A 400-calorie breakfast might include 1 1/2 cups of whole-grain, unsweetened cold cereal topped with 1 cup of nonfat milk and a small banana sliced and served with a container of nonfat yogurt. Another choice is a two-egg veggie omelet stuffed with one-half cup of cooked spinach and 1 ounce of low-fat Swiss cheese, served with one slice of whole-grain toast and 1 cup of nonfat milk.
Taking time to enjoy your midday meal, rather than eating on the run, will leave you feeling more satisfied. A nutrient-rich 400-calorie lunch meal might include 2 cups of mixed greens topped with 3 ounces of white turkey meat, 2 tablespoons of raisins, six almonds and 2 tablespoons of low-fat dressing with 1 cup of chicken noodle soup. A shrimp stir fry, with 3 ounces of cooked shrimp sauteed with 2 cups of stir fry vegetables -- carrots, broccoli and cabbage -- prepared with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and low-sodium soy sauce served on one-half cup of cooked brown rice also makes a healthy low-cal lunch meal.
For dinner, you might enjoy a tasty hamburger made with 3 ounces of extra lean ground meat served on a whole wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, onions and ketchup with 1 cup of mixed greens topped with 1 tablespoon of salad dressing. Another 400-calorie dinner meal idea might include 4 ounces of grilled salmon with one-half cup of roasted red potatoes drizzled with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and one-half cup of grilled asparagus. Use herbs, spices, lemon or vinegar to add flavor without a lot of calories.
- FamilyDoctor.org: What It Takes to Lose Weight
- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture: The Exchange List System for Diabetic Meal Planning
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Eat More, Weigh Less?
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders: Very Low-Calorie Diets
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Back to Basics for Healthy Weight Loss
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Traditional American Cuisine: 1,200 Calories