1,200 Calories a Day Meal Plan With Snacks

Woman preparing takeaway meal for her child. School lunch box with salad, fried chicken and nuts on rustic wooden background. Healthy eating habits concept.
Meal prep can help keep your eating on track. (Image: p_ponomareva/iStock/GettyImages)

Successful dieting depends on whether you can expend more calories than you consume of a daily basis. To ensure that your calorie balance is negative, exercise more, eat less or do both.

Eating a 1,200-calorie diet can be helpful, as it represents a low-calorie diet for most people. It's appropriate for sedentary women trying to lose weight, but doesn't offer enough nutrients for more active women or for men.

Benefits

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.

Since a pound of fat is equal to approximately 3,500 calories, the creation of an 800 to 1,300 calorie deficit daily can lead to a 1.6 to 2.6 pound loss per week. That's provided you need 2,000 to 2,500 calories to indeed maintain your weight.

Drawbacks

Although consuming a 1,200-calorie-a-day meal plan can help you lose weight, it may represent too low of a calorie intake for your body. It's the minimum calories adult women should consume in a day, and the amount is too low for adult men. Even with 1,200 calories per day, it's difficult for a woman to get all the nutrients she needs, particularly iron and calcium.

You may also feel fatigued on such a low-calorie diet, especially if you participate in sports or other physically demanding activities. A 1,200-calorie diet is also likely to make you feel hungry so you experience extreme cravings and have trouble sticking to your plan, so you actually undermine your goal of weight loss.

Foods to Consume

When consuming a 1,200 calorie-a-day meal plan with snacks, focus on eating foods that have a lot of volume, but are 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, emphasize non-starchy vegetables like celery, fruits such as apples, or lean proteins such as sliced turkey.

Foods To Avoid

Avoid calorie-dense foods, such as sugary treats and beverages and fried foods, on 1,200 calorie-a-day meal plan, as one high-calorie meal or snack can throw off your entire plan 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.

While healthy fat, found in nuts, avocado and olive oil, support good health, you don't have a lot of room in your calorie plan for these foods. Stick to just a teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 ounce of nuts or a quarter of an avocado at each meal.

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 might consume two eggs, 1/2 cup of oatmeal and a cup of orange juice for a total of 400 calories. For a snack, 2 tablespoons of hummus and 3 ounces of baby carrots provides around 85 calories.

For lunch, a 6-inch turkey sandwich provides 280 calories, as long as you don't add olive oil, cheese or mayonnaise. An afternoon snack could be a medium banana, which provides 105 calories. For dinner, have 1/2 cup of pinto beans, a 4-ounce pork chop and a cup of skim milk for 290 calories. This meal plan provides a total of 1,160 calories.

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