Weight loss stems from decreasing your calories and increasing your exercise, but some people like to jump-start the burn by cutting back on carbohydrates too. A 1,200-calorie low-carb meal plan may help you with weight loss, but be sure not to cut back too much on your calorie consumption.
An older but significant study known as POUNDS LOST (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) published in 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine pitted low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets, both with varying amounts of protein, against each other and found that each of them worked equally well in the long run.
However, a more recent study published in 2018 in the BMJ concluded that a low-carb diet plan for weight loss could successfully treat obesity.
Read more: Negative Side Effects of a Low-Carb Diet
1,200-Calorie Low-Carb Meal Plan
A 1,200-calorie low-carb meal plan isn't going to be right for everyone. After all, there's no magical number for calories when it comes to losing weight because every person needs a different amount to stay healthy, fueled and energized.
You can determine your personal caloric needs by using the Mifflin-St Jeor Equation to work out your resting metabolic rate, or the number of calories your body needs, according to the American Council on Exercise. The formula differs for men and women:
- Men: 9.99 x weight (in kilograms) + 6.25 x height (in centimeters) - 4.92 x age (in years) + 5
- Women: 9.99 x weight (in kilograms) + 6.25 x height (in centimeters) - 4.92 x age (in years) - 161
When it comes to cutting calories and carbs, less is not always better. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that cutting down your calories too much can slow your metabolism, cause you to not meet your nutrient needs and wreak havoc on your mental function.
Read more: Healthy Low-Carb Eating Plan
High-Protein, Low-Carb Foods
Vegetables might not have a lot of protein, but they're still a staple of low-carbohydrate diets. Options for vegetables that have less than 5 grams of carbohydrates — but plenty of fiber, vitamins and minerals — per half-cup cooked or one cup raw, according to NorthShore University Health System, include asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, leafy greens, squash and tomatoes.
Simply including a salad for one meal each day will go far in meeting your requirements for vitamins and minerals without adding too many carbohydrates or calories to your daily plan.
You can meet your protein requirements with animal-based products, which are usually low in carbohydrates. Lean protein options include white-meat chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish and eggs, while higher-fat options include beef, cheese and peanut butter, according to NorthShore. It's a good idea to include some fat in your low-carb diet plan for weight loss, so opt for unsaturated options such as olives, avocados, nuts, olive and canola oil, and seeds.
Read more: The "Do Not Eat" List for Low-Carb Diets
1,200-Calorie Sample Menu
There are plenty of low-calorie, low-carb options for your meal plan; all you need to do is mix-and-match.
For example, you could enjoy our Avocado Hollandaise Eggs Benedict (253 calories, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of protein) in the morning and then have Pesto Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Avocado and Soft-Boiled Eggs, which has 474 calories, 8 grams of carbohydrates and 16 grams of protein, for lunch.
For dinner, try our Keto Chicken Enchiladas that use zucchini strips instead of tortillas. Four enchiladas contains 398 calories, 14 grams of carbs and 23 grams of protein.
If you're struggling with ideas for a 1,200-calorie low-carb meal plan, try out this day-long menu plan that supplies 1,242 calories and 42 grams of carbohydrates:
- Breakfast: Kale Scramble Breakfast Bowl (310 calories, 6 grams carbs)
- Snack: Three Cottage Cheese Celery Crunch (165 calories, 9 grams carbs)
- Lunch: Low-Carb Rainbow Nachos (211 calories, 8 grams carbs)
- Snack: Two Caprese Snacks (160 calories, 4 grams carbs)
- Dinner: Two Spicy Flank Steak Lettuce Cups (154 calories, 3 grams carbs), Broccoli Salad (242 calories, 12 grams carbs)
- NorthShore University Health System: "Low-Carbohydrate Food List"
- American Council on Exercise: Resting Metabolic Rate: "Best Ways to Measure It — And Raise It, Too"
- New England Journal of Medicine: "Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets With Different Compositions of Fat, Protein and Carbohydrates"
- BMJ: "Effects of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Energy Expenditure During Weight Loss Maintenance: Randomized Trial"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "4 Ways Low-Calorie Diets Can Sabotage Your Health"