foods low on calories
A 1,200-calorie diet is a low calorie meal plan that limits your daily calorie intake to no more than 1,200.

The recommended calorie intake for a sedentary person is around 1,600 to 1,800 per day. For those who are physically active, it may be around 2,200 to 2,400 per day depending on the extent of physical activity. According to this requirement, consistent consumption of fewer than 1,200 should result in weight loss.

A 1,200-calorie diet is a low calorie diet, which means you should only start it under a nutritionist's supervision. If your target is 1,200 calories, you should include at least four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruits each day to ensure that you meet your daily nutritional requirements. Additionally, make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day.

Calorie restriction does not mean that you need to restrict your diet to a small variety of foods. It emphasizes portion control so that you do not exceed eating 1,200 calories in a day. 

Here is a sample diet plan and recipes you may follow if your target calorie intake is 1,200.

  • Breakfast (approximate calories: 389, fat content 10 percent)
    • One slice of whole-wheat bread with two teaspoons of jelly.
    • Half a cup of shredded wheat or whole-grain cereal in a cup of one percent milk.
    • This is followed by one cup of black coffee and one cup of orange juice.
    • You may include half a cup of fruit in your breakfast, such as grapefruit.
  • Lunch (total calories: 305, fat content: 16 percent)
    • Whole-wheat bread slices (two) with two slices of lean protein (fish, chicken or unseasoned roasted beef).
    • You may make a salad with lettuce or spinach, one tomato, low calorie mayo (one teaspoon) and seasonings, such as garlic powder, onion powder and celery.
    • You can have an apple or watermelon along with these foods.
    • Alternatively, you can have a tossed salad made with two cups of romaine lettuce or spinach, one-fourth cup of mushrooms, one-fourth cup onions, one-fourth cup celery or zucchini, a hard-boiled egg, half a cup of low-fat shredded cheddar cheese or any low-fat cheese of your choice and one medium tomato.
    • You may add some berries for dessert to get your antioxidants, such as strawberries.
  • Dinner (calories: 454, fat: 20 percent)
    • Two slices of salmon grilled in 1.5 teaspoons of oil, a baked potato with one whole wheat bread, green beans or zucchini seasoned in margarine, carrots and unsweetened iced tea.
  • Snacks:
    • Have nuts, yogurt, whole-wheat crackers, watermelon, free foods, vegetable soups or broths or popcorn if you get hungry during the day.
      • Free foods contain less than five grams total carbs or less than 20 calories per serving.

Note that your nutritional requirements may vary. Thus, it is prudent to take your doctor’s or nutritionist’s advice before following any new meal plan or low calorie recipes.

Will I lose weight if I eat 1,200 calories a day?

Nutrition does not mean only calorie counting. It is more important to eat foods that nourish your body and keep you in good spirits all day long. Various factors, such as genetics, hormones, lifestyle and age, play a role in weight loss. Metabolic studies conclude that most adults will lose weight when fed less than 1,000 calories a day though the effect may be short-lived. Even the so-called “metabolically resistant" to weight loss volunteers lost weight when they stuck to an 800 to 1,200 calorie diet.

A diet below 1,200 calories may not cause weight loss because your metabolic rate slows down, and your body interprets this situation as starvation. It undergoes hormonal adaptations to this perceived starvation, making you hungry and making it difficult to stick to a very low-calorie diet in the long term. These diets are indicated in certain conditions when rapid weight loss is needed, such as in cases of morbid obesity, a surgical procedure and so on.

A reasonable diet coupled with 150 minutes a week of regular physical activity, especially with two-day sessions of weight training remains the best way to lose weight in the long run. Try cutting down 400 calories per day from your diet instead of making drastic diet cut-offs at once, which you can help achieve by snacking on free foods throughout the day.

How many pounds a week will I lose eating 1,200 calories?

You should lose about one to two pounds per week depending on your daily calorie needs. Studies suggest that consuming 3,500 calories below your requirements causes one pound of weight loss.

To derive the maximum benefit out of this diet program, make sure you consistently follow these tips:

  • Supplementation: Make sure you take vitamins D and B complex, as well as iron and calcium as prescribed by your nutritionist.
  • Hydration: Take sips of water throughout the day to ensure you have about two to three liters of water every day. Ask your doctor if you have been advised of fluid restriction due to any health conditions, such as kidney diseases.
  • Protein: Ensure you have enough protein each day by having half a scoop of protein powder with water or milk with breakfast or post-workout if you are planning to hit the gym or have a workout schedule. However, consuming protein powder is not essential if you are meeting your protein requirements through your diet.
  • Avoid salt: Salt can make you bloat, crave food or contribute to “water weight” gain. Avoid salt as much as you can by replacing it with other seasonings, such as onion, garlic and chili powder.
  • Free foods: Include free foods in your diet, especially as snacks, to avoid bingeing or feeling irritable all day long. These include iced tea, green tea, condiments, spices, celery, pepper strips, broccoli florets and cucumber slices.
  • Stress management: Stress results in hormonal imbalances, metabolic upheaval and binge eating behaviors. Learn to manage your stress with meditation, yoga or indulging in your hobbies, as well as getting adequate rest and sleep.


Weight loss occurs in the belly before anywhere else. See Answer

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 9/2/2021
National Institute of Health. Traditional American Cuisine: 1,200 Calories.

Perreault L, Delahanty LM. Obesity in Adults: Dietary Therapy. UpToDate.