How to Follow a Low-Calorie Diet

Eat low calorie fruits to be happy on your low calorie diet.
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Following a low-calorie diet may seem difficult, but you can make it easier by being prepared with a plan  (and plenty of low-calorie foods). Here's how to get started so you can be on your way to a healthy weight.

See Your Doctor

It's always a good idea to get a physical examination before you start any diet or fitness program, especially if you have any health conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Measure your body composition and decide on your goals. For example, you can measure your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, which are two measures other than weight that can show your progress.

Determine Your Daily Calorie Need

This step is going to be different for everybody and will even change for you over time. Determine how many calories you need each day to maintain your current weight, then reduce that number by 100 to 500 calories. It's okay to start slowly with just a small reduction in calories. After all, this is a lifestyle modification, not a crash diet. If you're too exuberant in the beginning, you might find the calorie restriction too difficult later on.

Get the Right Kitchen Tools

In order to count calories, you'll need to know how much food you're eating at each meal. Start with a kitchen scale and some measuring cups and measure out all your servings, at least until you feel comfortable estimating your portions visually. Remember that your beverages may contain calories too, so you need to measure what you drink.

Keep a Food Diary

You'll increase your chances of success if you keep track of all the foods you eat. You can keep your food diary in a notebook or with an app such as MyFitnessPal or the one included with a fitness monitor such as Fitbit, or an online diet site. Apps and online programs keep track of your calories and grade your daily diet for nutritional value.

A food diary also allows you to see habits that may interfere with weight loss, such as using food for comfort or as a reward.

Choose Nutritious Foods

Since you're reducing your calorie intake, you need to be sure that every calorie counts. You must choose foods that are nutrient dense and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Choose lean protein sources to eliminate extra calories from fat.

Leave a Little Wiggle Room

Although there isn't much room for junk food, you may want to allow yourself 100 to 150 fun calories each day for a piece of candy, a few chips, or another favorite treat. Just be sure to watch your portions so you don't inadvertently eat too much. You can also choose healthier treats instead of junk food, such as dark chocolate or a small glass of red wine— both contain antioxidants that may be good for you.

Low-Calorie Diet Menus

Now, if you're ready, see examples of low-calorie menus to get you going:

Tips to Get Started

  1. Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. You can make meal plans for a few days or a week and use those plans to prepare your grocery shopping list.
  2. Eat slowly and chew your foods thoroughly. There's no need to rush through your meals. Enjoy every mouthful.
  3. Drink plenty of water. Your body needs fluids, and water contains no calories. Add lemon or lime slices for a bit of flavor.
  4. It's okay to use artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners to reduce your calorie intake; however, you need to focus on good foods and not sugar-free junk foods.
  5. Choose low-calorie versions of your favorite recipes. Don't worry, they'll still be delicious.

Don't Forget About Exercise

Increasing your physical activity is important for good health. If you don't exercise already, think about joining a gym, or setting up a home workout center. You can also walk, jog or run outside when the weather is good.

Re-evaluate Your Diet

When your weight goes down, your calorie requirement will decrease, and you'll need to adjust your calorie intake until you reach a healthy weight. Remember the goal of a low-calorie diet is good health; don't let your weight get too low (below a BMI of less than 18.5). If your BMI gets too low, you need to increase your caloric intake a bit.

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