How Many Carbs, Fats & Proteins You Need on a 1,200-Calorie Diet

A healthy diet is all about balance. Getting the right amount of each macronutrient -- carbohydrates, fats and proteins -- ensures your body is able to run efficiently. Your calorie needs dictate the amount of each macronutrient you need. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides general guidelines that make it simple to determine how many grams of carbohydrates, fats and proteins you should eat each day on a 1,200-calorie diet.


Carbohydrates, which are your body’s main source of energy, should provide the bulk of your calories. The USDA recommends that 45 to 65 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates. If you are on a 1,200-calorie diet, this means you should consume 135 to 195 grams of carbohydrates, which provides 540 to 780 calories. Meet your carbohydrate needs by choosing fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit refined grains, sugary foods and sweetened beverages.


Dietary fat is vital to proper body functioning. The nutrient helps regulate body temperature, provides insulation and gives you energy in the absence of carbohydrates. Between 25 and 35 percent of your calories should come from fat. On a 1,200-calorie diet, you should take in 300 to 420 calories from fat or about 33 to 47 grams of fat. Almost none of these calories should not come from foods that are high in saturated fats and trans fat, such as pastries, desserts, fatty meat and processed foods. Instead, focus on increasing your intake of unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados and fatty fish.


Protein is essential for cell growth and repair, reproduction and proper immune function. The general recommendation for protein is 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories. If you are on a 1,200-calorie diet, this means that 120 to 420 of your calories should come from protein. This equates to 30 to 105 grams per day. Dietary sources of protein include meats, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, tofu, legumes, milk, milk products and grains. Some fruits and vegetables also provide protein, but the amount is small compared to other sources, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The recommendations for carbohydrates, fats and proteins are a general guideline. Your exact needs may differ based on your age, sex and activity level. Special dietary needs or nutritional status may also affect the amount of each macronutrient you need. If you have specific concerns about your diet, work with a dietitian to develop a customized meal plan that is right for you.

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