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Losing more than 2 pounds weekly may cause side effects.
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Most people won't starve eating 1,200 calories a day, but they will likely lose weight using this type of low-calorie diet. However, if you're losing more than 2 pounds weekly it may be time to slightly boost your calorie intake. Eating a well-balanced, reduced-calorie meal plan will help ensure you meet your nutrition needs during weight loss.
Eating too few calories, even during weight loss, causes your body to go into starvation mode. You may experience hair loss, fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, nausea, dizziness, constipation and even gallstones by starving yourself. Starvation also causes your body's metabolism to decrease, which is detrimental when trying to shed pounds. However, many people can reap weight-loss benefits - and avoid unpleasant side effects of starvation and rapid weight loss - eating 1,200 calories a day.
Weight Loss Calories
Eating 1,000 to 1,600 calories a day helps most women safely lose weight, while consuming 1,200 to 1,600 calories daily is effective for weight loss in many men, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. However, men and active women may require more than 1,200 calories daily to lose weight at a safe pace of 1 to 2 pounds weekly, which is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.
Sample Meal Plan
Using a 1,200-calorie healthy meal plan is beneficial when planning 1,200-calorie, weight-loss menus. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggests a 1,200-calorie meal plan include 2.5 cups of dairy foods, 3 ounces of protein-rich foods, 4 ounces of grains, 1 cup of fruits, 1.5 cups of vegetables, 4 teaspoons of oils and 121 extra calories daily. Foods in the protein group include eggs, soy products, poultry, lean meats and seafood. One ounce from the grains group is equivalent to one-half cup of cooked oatmeal or rice, 1 cup of cold cereal, one small tortilla, 3 cups of popcorn or one slice of bread, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Planning 1,200-calorie menus is easy using the USDA 1,200-calorie meal plan. A breakfast might include one slice of whole-grain bread, 1.5 teaspoons of peanut butter, two egg whites and 1 cup of low-sodium vegetable juice. A mid-morning snack may consist of 1 cup of low-fat yogurt and one-half cup of blueberries. For lunch, try 1 cup of leafy greens topped with 2 ounces of grilled chicken, tomato slices, 1 tablespoon of Italian dressing, one-half ounce of reduced-fat cheese and a small, whole-grain bread stick. An afternoon snack might consist of one-half cup of melons with 0.5 ounce of mixed nuts. For dinner, try 2 ounces of grilled tilapia, one-half cup of brown rice, one-half cup of cooked vegetables and 1 cup of low-fat milk. An evening snack might include 3 cups of light popcorn.