1200 Calorie Diet Plan: Complete Guide for Fast and Effective Weight Loss

The whole concept of weight loss is based on calories versus calories. It’s simple: eat fewer calories than you burn, either through exercise or general lifestyle habits. The quantity of food you eat every day will vary depending on your weight, height, and level of activity. Although this will be different for everyone, many people choose the 1200-calorie diet plan to lose weight because this is the lowest you can go in terms of calorie intake without compromising on the essential nutrients that your body needs.

Why the 1200 Calorie Diet Plan

The 1200-calorie plan is usually recommended because it accelerates weight loss for the regular person, who needs 1700 to 2400 calories every day to maintain her weight. A 1200 calorie intake is perfect as it ensures that no muscle mass is lost and retains a healthy nutritional status.

One restaurant meal can easily add up to more than 1200 calories, which means that you will have to be extra careful when choosing quality foods that will be satisfying and can be spread throughout the day’s course. Choosing foods that are high in protein, fiber and water will not make you feel skimpy and hungry.

Deciding the Eating Pattern

Even though you are planning to save calories, know that skipping meals is not the way to do it-this can result in extreme hunger that will ultimately cause you to go way beyond your 1200- calorie goal. The trick is to spread your 1200 calories over the course of 12 hours. You can try calorie division patters like three 400-calorie meals, three 350-calorie meals with one 150-calorie snack or three 300-calorie meals with two snacks of 150 calories. Whichever eating pattern you use, make sure it fits your every day’s schedule and satisfies your daily energy and hunger needs.

At every full meal, you need to incorporate in it 1 to 3 ounces of protein, 1 to 4 ounces of whole grains, and a cup of veggies. Sufficient protein intake is important as it helps you feel satiated, therefore prevents spells of overeating, and sugar cravings. Protein also assists in maintaining lean muscle mass, something that reduces your metabolic rate rapidly. Grains and vegetables consist of lots of fiber, that take longer to completely digest and thus help you feel fuller for long periods after meals.

Every day, you should also aim to add a minimum of 3 cups of dairy with low fat- also a good source of protein- one and a half cups of fruit, and small quantities of good, unsaturated fats in order to help with nutrient absorption and satiety. Sticking to a 1200-calories diet plan also means that you cannot afford to have alcohol, soft drinks or sugary treats.

So, What Does A 1200-Calorie Diet Plan Look Like?

Low-Calorie Breakfast

Breakfast is perhaps the most important meal of the day as it provides you with the daily dose of energy and prevents you from sneaking a doughnut or brownie. What you want during this meal is fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein from lean sources such as chicken and fish.

Sample Ideas

  • One scrambled egg containing only egg whites with cherry tomatoes spread on a whole-grain slice toast and an orange (300 calories)
  • A smoothie containing a small banana, a cup of skimmed milk, and a spoon of whey protein.
  • A slice of whole-grain bread with ¼ medium avocado, one Clementine and one big egg, cooked in ¼ of olive oil topped with a hint of salt and pepper.
  • 1 cup of low-fat yogurt with a cup of fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup of raspberries added in a ¾ small bowl of raisin bran and one cup of skimmed milk
  • ½ of Greek Yogurt, ½ banana and 6 small strawberries

If you are going for 400-calorie breakfast, try adding a tbsp. of nut butter, a toasted whole-grain slice, a portion of fruit or ½ ounce of cut nuts to any of the above mentioned options.


Lunch should be all about filling foods that contain lots of water and fiber such as cucumbers, lettuce, bell peppers, radishes, baby spinach, sprouts, and shredded carrots.

Sample Ideas

  • A salad is a great way to stock up on the necessary vegetables as well as protein, like grilled tuna or chicken in water, and approximately five wheat crackers. Season the salad with lemon juice and olive oil.
  • If you are not a salad person, another appetizing option includes a small whole-grain pita, an ounce of feta cheese, one cup of uncooked spinach, two tbsp of hummus, a few cherry tomatoes, three olives, and one tsp. of olive oil.
  • 5 ounces of brown rice with ½ a cup of stir-fried lean meat, 2 ounces of Greek yogurt and half a cup of broccoli.
  • 4 ounces of lean chicken or fish, skinless and grilled, along with 4 ounces of steamed mixed vegetables and a cup of small carrots.

If you are going for a 400-calorie lunch meal, you may want to add a tbsp. of hummus, a portion of fruit or 8 ounces of skimmed milk to your diet.


If you are watching your weight, it is best to avoid eating out at restaurants. However, if you must eat out, remember to opt for a leafy green salad with a little dressing coupled with a side of grilled or baked protein. Don’t give into eating fried foods, croutons, excess cheese and heavily sauced entrees.

When home, utilize low-calorie cooking methods such as roasting, stir frying, boiling, broiling, baking, and grilling.

Sample Ideas

  • Grill two ounces of salmon and present with a cup of boiled broccoli, a sweet potato, and one cup of skimmed milk.
  • Make ¾ cup of whole-grain pasta and top it with marinara sauce and two ounces of ground beef that is lean. Serve the dish with a big salad made from two cups of leafy greens, a tsp. of olive oil coupled with balsamic vinegar for added taste.
  • A small whole-grain roll stuffed with 2 ounces of grilled chicken meat and one cup of fresh mixed vegetables. For desert, you fix for yourself one cup of diced pears and a cup of fat free cottage cheese.
  • 4 ounces of lean and plain pork (barbecued), ½ cup of brown rice and 8 grilled asparagus stalks

You can also finish off your meals with half a cup of blueberries or raspberries for dessert.

Snacks (100 – 150 Calories)

Instead of munching on processed snacks, even though in small quantities, choose whole foods. The protein, healthy fats and fiber content present in these snacks will do a much better job at fulfilling your cravings than chips or chocolate ever will.

Sample Ideas

  • Carrot sticks dipped in low fat cottage cheese
  • An apple with ½ a tablespoon of nut butter
  • 1 plum and ½ ounce of nuts
  • A cup of butter less, air-popped popcorn topped with a dash of parmesan or feta cheese
  • Half a cup of freshly cut strawberries with string cheese
  • Half a cup of blueberries
  • ¼ cup of plain low-fat Greek Yogurt
  • A cup of sliced cucumbers
  • A cut of chickpeas coated with cocoa, cinnamon and sugar.
  • Two pieces of frozen banana pops with chocolate chips
  • An avocado smeared with non-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 banana
  • 1 peach
  • 10 unsalted almonds
  • 3 tablespoons of hummus

A cup of non-fat yogurt or skimmed milk coupled with a fistful size of fruit or a boiled egg. A couple of baby carrots are also another great option.

Creating a 1200-Calorie Meal Plan

For a 1200-caloire diet plan to be successful, planning is the key. So before you implement this new diet plan, here are a few things you need to consider.

At What Time Are You Most Hungry

Take into account the times when your hunger reaches its peak. Don’t save all your calories for the end of the day just because a diet plan that you found online says so. If having breakfast makes you sick, note that and factor it into your plan.


Although fluids don’t satiate hunger on their own, they sure forestall it. They are a key component of a healthy daily diet regime. More often than not, people mistake their thirst for hunger and stock up on food. Therefore, a good tip is to drink first, wait it out for about 15 minutes, and then eat if you are still feeling hungry. Be honest with yourself here.

Keep Your Behavior in Check

Remember that you end goal should be to watch your weight, not starve yourself. Avoid over-exercising or under-hydrating yourself. Extreme behaviors could put you at a risk of an eating disorder. If you notice rash patterns when it comes to your relationship with food, consult your doctor immediately.

Important Considerations to Keep In Mind

Although 1200 calories may be sufficient to meet your body’s daily nutritional needs, factors like activity level and hunger play an important role in your weight loss potential. If you are left feeling hungry even after the 1200-calorie diet plan, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests increasing your daily calorie intake by around 100-200 calories. The important thing to remember here is to take in less calories than your desired weight maintenance. As long as you do that, you will keep losing weight.

The Effects of Exercise

In order to shed 300 calories every day, 60 minute of moderate exercise or 45 minutes of intense exercise will do the job. When you become more active, your energy levels also increase, and you may find that more calories are required to satiate hunger. However, it is important that you respect what your body tries to tell and make the necessary adjustments instead of just forcing down a strict diet plan and exercise regimen on it. The latter will only result in you losing motivation and prematurely abandoning your weight loss goals.

Consult Your Doctor before Starting the 1200-Calorie Diet Plan

Before starting any diet plan, it is recommended that you check with your physician, especially if you have a history of orthopedic or heart problems. Once you receive the green light, the next step is to compare your weight-loss plan with your energy needs. Preferably, your everyday calorie intake should be no greater than 1000 calories, after taking into account exercise. For instance, a woman weighing 150 pounds needs around 1950 calories per day to maintain her weight, which means that a 1200-calorie plan will result in a 750-caloire deficit. In order to not exceed the 1000 calories, the woman’s exercise routine should not burn any more than 250 calories daily. Your present weight, thus, is the fundamental factor on whether it is harmless to eat 1200 calories every day while also burning 300 calories through exercising. Do the math with the help of your own weight to decide what exactly your daily caloric needs are.

The Dangerous Of Going Too Low

When following a 1200-calorie diet plan, it is common for some people to be carried especially when they realize that they are doing well. Know that any diet that limits your calorie intake to 800 or less calories a day is considered ‘too low’, and has consequences. Relying only on one type of food, such as in diets like Grapefruit diet and cabbage soup diet only prevents your body from getting the nutrition it needs and can therefore cause the following side effects.

  • Nausea, diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Fatigue and weakness leading to mad mood and even depression
  • Heart problems
  • Gallstones
  • Gout
  • Loss of lean muscle mass
  • Anemia
  • Electrolyte imbalances

So make sure you don’t accidentally or intentionally go below 1000 calories in one day. Another important tip to keep in mind is to take a single multi-vitamin throughout the length of the 1200-calorie diet program. This will help you make sure you are getting enough of the nutrients to enable your body to work efficiently as a fat-burning machine. Good luck!