What Should You Eat on a 1200 and 1500 Calorie Diet?

Use These Servings for a Balanced Reduced Calorie Weight Loss Diet

Making a Smoothie
Making a Smoothie. SelectStock/Vetta/Getty Images

The Pyramid Diet

This is the diet developed by the USDA to satisfy the nutritional requirements of most Americans.

  • 0-3 servings (use sparingly) fats, oils, sweets
  • 2-3 servings (6 - 9 ounces) meat/protein
  • 2-3 servings dairy
  • 2-4 servings fruit
  • 3-5 servings vegetables
  • 6-11 servings bread/starch

In order to lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than you burn off each day. According to the USDA pamphlet, a sedentary woman and older people may only expend 1600 calories per day, while active men and very active women may burn 2800 calories per day - twice as much.

If your goal is to lose weight and you do not see changes just with increased physical activity, then reducing portions and servings may help, while still using the pyramid as a guide.

1200 Calorie Diet

  • 6 oz. lean meat/protein
  • 5 servings bread/starch
  • 3 servings fruit
  • 4 or more servings vegetables
  • 2 servings dairy (low fat preferred)
  • 3 servings fat

1500 Calorie Diet

  • 6 oz. lean meat/protein
  • 6 servings bread/starch
  • 4 servings fruit
  • 5 or more servings vegetables
  • 2 servings dairy (low fat preferred)
  • 3 servings fat

Daily Serving Logs

Print these and mark off servings as you eat throughout each day. A great tool to keep you on course.
1200 Calorie | 1500 Calorie

Walking and Food Diary: in .pdf printable format.

Note:These diets are weight management tools for normally healthy adults. Consult with your medical provider to see if a reduced calorie diet is appropriate for your health before you change your diet.

People with diabetes, pregnant women, children under 16, and those with an eating disorder are strongly cautioned to seek medical advice before modifying their diet. A registered dietitian is your best resource to counsel you on how to modify your diet for the best individual results. In the US, you can find a dietitian through the American Dietetics Association

What is a Serving?

How much is a serving? Follow these guidelines.

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta

  • 1 slice of bread or tortilla (1 ounce)
  • 1/2 bagel or 1/2 English muffin or 1/2 pita (1 ounce)
  • 1 ounce of ready to-eat cereal
  • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta


  • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
  • 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable juice
  • (Some diets put raw leafy vegetables into a "free use" category - eat as much as you want of leaf lettuce, celery, radishes)


    • 1 medium apple, banana, orange
    • 1 cup berries, cubed melon
    • 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
    • 1/2 cup of fruit juice

    Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese

    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 cup yogurt (artificially sweetened)
    • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
    • 1/4 cup cottage cheese or ricotta
    • 1 ounce cheese

    Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts

    • 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish (3 oz. is about the size of a deck of cards)
    • 1 - 1 1/2 cup of cooked beans.
    • 4-6 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1 cup of nuts.
    • 2-3 eggs


    • 1 teaspoon oil, butter, margarine, mayonnaise
    • 1 tablespoon salad dressing, cream cheese

    Based on National Institutes of Health (1998) and American Diabetic Association Exchange List.