Women who eat just 1,200 calories daily will likely lose weight. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests that many women seeking weight loss need 1,000 to 1,600 calories daily.
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But Harvard Health Publications recommends that women eat at least 1,200 calories per day during weight loss, unless supervised by a health care professional. Meal plans help women stick within 1,200-calorie daily allotments.
1,200-Calorie Meal Plan
Using the 1,200-calorie meal plan that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 provides helps women plan daily 1,200-calorie weight-loss menus that are well-balanced and help meet their daily nutritional needs.
This meal plan includes 1 cup of fruit, 1.5 cups of veggies, 4 ounces of grains, 3 ounces from the protein foods group, 2.5 cups of dairy foods, 4 teaspoons of oils and 121 extra calories daily.
One ounce from the protein group equals one egg, 1 ounce of seafood, poultry or lean meat, 1/4 cup of legumes or 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds. A 1-cup equivalent from the dairy group equals 1 cup of low-fat milk or yogurt, 1.5 ounce of cheese, 1/3 cup shredded cheese or 2 cups of low-fat cottage cheese.
A 1-teaspoon portion from the oils group is 1/3 ounce of nuts or seeds, 1/6 of an avocado, 1 tablespoon of Italian salad dressing or 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. A 1-ounce equivalent from the grains group is 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of cooked pasta or rice or 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal.
Sample Menu 1
For breakfast, try 1 cup of whole-grain breakfast cereal, 1 cup of low-fat milk,1/2 cup of strawberries and 2/3 ounces of sliced almonds. A morning snack might include 1 cup of low-fat yogurt and 1/2 cup of cantaloupe.
For lunch, try a veggie burger with 1 slice of reduced-fat cheese on a whole-grain hamburger bun, and a salad with 2 cups of leafy greens and 1 tablespoon of Italian salad dressing. An afternoon snack may include 1/3 ounce of mixed nuts. For dinner, try 2 ounces of grilled salmon, 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli and 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa.
Sample Menu 2
A healthy breakfast might include 2 slices of whole-grain toast with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 2 egg whites, 1 cup of low-fat yogurt and 1/2 cup of honeydew melon. For a morning snack, try a cup of low-fat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup of blueberries.
A healthy lunch might include 2 ounces of grilled chicken breast, 1 cup of zucchini cooked in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and 1/2 cup of brown rice. For an afternoon snack, have 1.5 ounces of reduced-fat cheese. A healthy dinner might include 4 ounces of tofu cooked in 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 cup of green beans and 1/2 cup of whole-grain couscous.