Sample Menus for a 1,200 Calorie Diet

Are you in a hurry to lose some extra pounds? It's possible to lose weight quickly by following a low-calorie diet, like this 1,200 calorie-per-day diet, but you have to do it right to be sure you're getting all of the essential nutrients you need.

Following a low-calorie diet isn't difficult if you include lots of nutrient-dense foods. In fact, doing so is a necessity because with only 1,200 calories, there's no room for foods that aren't totally nutritious. 

The key: Choose plenty of low-calorie, high-fiber fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein sources. Here are two 1,200 calorie-per-day menus to get you started.

1,215 Calorie Menu With No Non-Nutritive Sweeteners

If you do want to use a sweetener, choosing one with no calories keeps the menu to about 1,200 calories. One teaspoon of sugar has about 16 calories, while honey has 21 calories per teaspoon.

Breakfast

  • One cup oatmeal
  • One-half cup non-fat milk
  • One tablespoon honey
  • One-half cup blueberries
  • One cup plain coffee or tea

Lunch

  • Two slices 100% whole grain bread, deli sliced turkey breast, tomato slice, lettuce and one tablespoon mustard
  • One-half cup sliced carrots
  • Water

Dinner

  • Three ounces baked salmon
  • One cup green beans
  • Salad with one cup raw spinach, five cherry tomatoes and one-half cup broccoli florets with lemon juice as a dressing
  • Water with a slice of lemon

Snacks

  • One apple with 12 almonds
  • Several glasses of water
  • One cup non-fat milk
  • One-half cup plain yogurt with one tablespoon honey
  • One cup strawberries

Nutrition Information

  • Total calories: 1,215
  • Total protein: 72 grams (23% of calories)
  • Total carbohydrates: 185 grams (59.3% )
  • Total fat: 25 grams (17.7%)
  • Saturated fat: 5 grams
  • Sodium: 1,402 milligrams
  • Sugar: 107 grams
  • Cholesterol: 94 milligrams
  • Fiber: 28 grams

1,218 Calorie Menu With Non-Nutritive Sweeteners

Again, if you wish to omit the non-nutritive sweetener or use a different one, the calorie count will remain the same. Choosing sugar or honey adds a small number of calories.

Breakfast

  • One cup whole-grain corn cereal
  • One packet Sucralose
  • One-half cup non-fat milk
  • One cup 100-percent orange juice as a beverage

Lunch

  • Salad made with two cups field greens, two ounces albacore tuna (packed in water), one-half cup cherry tomatoes with two tablespoons balsamic vinegar as a dressing
  • Diet soda

Dinner

  • One three-ounce pork chop
  • One baked sweet potato
  • One cup steamed asparagus
  • One tablespoon olive oil
  • One small glass of white wine

Snacks

  • One small pita bread with two tablespoons hummus
  • One pear
  • One serving low-fat, sugar-free fruit-flavored yogurt
  • One cup blueberries
  • Two-thirds cup baby carrots with one ounce fat-free vegetable dip
  • Several glasses of water with slices of lemon or lime

Nutrition Information

  • Total calories: 1,218
  • Total protein: 70 grams (22.6%)
  • Total carbohydrates: 176 grams (56.8%)
  • Total fat: 20 grams (14.6%)
  • Saturated fat: 5 grams
  • Sodium: 1,615 milligrams
  • Sugar: 86 grams
  • Cholesterol: 116 milligrams
  • Fiber: 24 grams

Starting a Low-Calorie Diet

See your doctor before you start a low-calorie diet to ensure it is the right choice given your health and any underlying conditions. A 1,200-calorie diet is not appropriate for every person. If these meal plans don't fit your calorie needs, consider daily menus for 1,500 calories and 1,700 calories.

Portion and serving sizes are key to dieting success, so you'll need a good set of measuring cups and measuring spoons, plus a kitchen scale, until you get used to estimating your serving sizes.

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