What You Can Eat on a 1200 and 1500 Calorie Diet

Servings for a Balanced Reduced Calorie Weight Loss Diet

Eating Healthy on a Diet
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If you use a calorie level for a weight loss diet, it is common to set it at 1200 or 1500 calories. However, you want to ensure you are getting enough nutrition. One way to address that is to use a diet plan that suggests the number of servings per day from each food group. The United States Department of Agriculture recommended the food pyramid diet for many years. The pyramid was replaced with the My Plate recommendations but it may still be useful to ensure you are not straying too far away from a nutritious diet.

Calorie Goals for Weight Loss

In order to lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than you burn off each day. Sedentary women and older people may only expend 1600 calories per day, while active men and very active women may burn 2800 calories per day twice. You can use a daily calorie expenditure calculator to find what number may be right for your weight loss goal. 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.

The Pyramid Diet

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

  • 0 to 3 servings (use sparingly) fats, oils, sweets
  • 2 to 3 servings (6 to 9 ounces) of meat or other protein foods (legumes, etc.)
  • 2 to 3 servings dairy
  • 2 to 4 servings fruit
  • 3 to 5 servings vegetables
  • 6 to 11 servings bread or starches such as rice or potatoes

For weight loss, you choose the lower numbers for each food group.

Diet Precautions

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 diabetespregnant 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 U.S., you can find a dietitian through the American Dietetics Association

1200 Calorie Diet

  • 6 ounces lean meat or protein foods
  • 5 servings bread or starch
  • 3 servings fruit
  • 4 or more servings vegetables
  • 2 servings dairy
  • 3 servings fat

1500 Calorie Diet

  • 6 ounces lean meat or protein foods
  • 6 servings bread or starch
  • 4 servings fruit
  • 5 or more servings vegetables
  • 2 servings dairy
  • 3 servings fat

Keeping Track

Keeping a food diary on paper or using an app can help you understand how much you are eating and whether you are getting the nutrition you need for health. For example, entering what you eat into MyFitnessPal or Fitbit's diet tracker will analyze whether you are getting enough nutrients in each category as well as whether you are eating too many calories.

What Is a Serving?

It may not be intuitive as to how much is intended as a serving. As the portions have been distorted at restaurants and with frozen foods you will probably have to learn how much is the right amount. For example, the bagels listed on the original pyramid were probably half the size of the typical bagel seen in today's coffee shops.

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta

Whole grains are preferred as they provide needed fiber.

  • 1 slice of bread or tortilla (1 ounce)
  • 1/2 small 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

Vegetables

A variety of colorful vegetables is best for nutrition and health.

  • 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 and say to eat as much as you want of leaf lettuce, celery, radishes

Fruit

Whole fruits or 100 percent juice can add sweetness to your diet as you reduce added sugars.

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

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese

Both the traditional and My Plate USDA guidelines say to move to low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup plain or artificially-sweetened flavored yogurt
  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese or ricotta
  • 1 ounce cheese

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

Note that the pyramid lists ounces of protein foods rather than servings. For the 1200-calorie and 1500-calorie diets, the 6 ounces would translate into two servings.

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

Fats

  • 1 teaspoon oil, butter, margarine, mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon salad dressing, cream cheese
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View Article Sources
  • Past Food Pyramid Materials. United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/past-food-pyramid-materials.
  • What Is a Serving? American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Support/What-is-a-Serving_UCM_301838_Article.jsp#.Wt4pB5ch3x8.