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How should you structure your 1200 calorie meal plan?
As you may already know, a 1200 calorie diet is very popular (for men it’s a 1500-1700 calorie diet), partly because it is what is usually recommended by nutritionists and doctors, as the level of calorie intake that will still allow you to consume the necessary amount of nutrition, while enabling you to lose weight.
In reality, going on a 1200 calorie diet is a little more complex and requires some thinking and planning. It is easy to make bad food choices while being on a 1200 calorie diet, and as a result some people may not be able to maintain the diet for long.
When you are on a 1200 calorie diet, you need to make sure of 2 things:
1. You are not starving in between meals
2. You get enough nutrition
If you are always starving, most likely you will not continue the diet.
If you do not get enough nutrition, most likely you will get sick one way or the other.
The great thing about the 1200 calorie diet is that you can indulge in your favorite foods, as long as the daily calorie intake is within 1200 calories. This is partly what enables people to stick to this diet. However, it can also be a trap since most people’s favorites foods either contain lots of sugar, are very starchy, and/or are highly processed. Most of the time, these foods have high calories AND make us feel hungry quickly afterwards.
So, when you are on a 1200 calorie meal plan, make sure to not make sugar, starch, or highly processed foods your main source of meals. This is to ensure that you are not always hungry, but also because sugar, starch and highly processed foods are bad for your health.
Keep in mind that pre-packaged foods tend to be highly processed and may contain a lot of sugar and chemicals. Foods that spoil within 1 week are usually ones that you should be eating, whether those be vegetables, fruits, bread, or even cookies.
Many experts recommend frequent meals (usually breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 snacks), but some experts claim that eating frequency does not affect your weight loss efficiency and that what and how much you eat are more important (check out post on fasting diet).
Some people like the idea of being able to eat every 3 hours or so, although each meal size will be small, while others like to eat bigger meals although less frequently. Try out and see which one works best for you and your lifestyle.
When you structure your 1200 calorie meal plan, you need to choose foods that will keep you satiated to prevent hunger and provide enough nutrition.
Eating protein, fiber, good fats, and low-starch vegetables regularly is a good way to keep you feeling full for longer and they are great sources of nutrition.
If you like to eat bread, make sure to limit white bread and any other bread that is highly processed. Bread that is made from organic whole wheat is a lot better. White rice and potatoes should be limited as well.
Enjoy your favorite treats, but watch the calories!
Here is a recommended list of foods you can combine and mix for your 1200 calorie meal plan.
Sparkling water – 0 calories per cup
Almond milk – 30-40 calories per cup
Green tea (non sugar added) – 0 calories per cup
Other teas (non sugar added) – 0-2 calories per cup
Black coffee (non sugar added) – 0-2 calories per cup
Stevia powder – 0 calories
Yellow mustard – 3 calories per teaspoon
Fat-free mayo – 10-15 calories per teaspoon
Apple cider vinegar – 0-2 calories per tablespoon
Paprika powder – 6 calories per teaspoon
Curry powder - 7 calories per teaspoon
Black olives – 67 calories per 10 olives
Salt - 0 calories
Pepper - 0 calories
Butter/Oils – easy to over-consume, watch out!
Organic butter – 110 calories per tablespoon
Extra virgin olive oil – 120 calories per tablespoon
Organic extra virgin coconut oil – 120 calories per tablespoon
Organic raw almond butter – 90 calories per tablespoon
Nuts – easy to over-consume, watch out!
Raw almonds – 60 calories for 10 almonds
Raw cashew nuts – 90 calories for 10 cashew nuts
Most other nuts have high calories.
Cheese – easy to over-consume, watch out!
Laughing Cow LIGHT wedge cheese – 35 calories per wedge
Blue cheese – 50 calories per tablespoon
Cheddar cheese – 58 calories per tablespoon
Organic whole wheat bread – 100-120 calories per slice
Organic whole wheat tortilla – 130 calories per tortilla
Steel cut oats – 280 calories per 1/2 cup
Medium grain brown rice (not short or long) – 109 calories per 1/2 cup
Chicken breast – 231 calories per cup
Turkey breast – 238 calories per cup
Egg – 80 calories for whole egg, 16 calories for egg white
Smoked salmon – 23 calories per piece
Any fresh fish – Up to about 130 calories per medium sized fillet
You can use 2 parts egg whites and 1 part whole egg to get more volume (112 calories)
Vegetables (all fresh)
Spinach – 7 calories per cup
Broccoli – 31 calories per cup
Kale – 34 calories per cup
Tomatoes – 22 calories per medium sized tomato
Carrots – 25 calories per medium sized carrot
Cucumber – 45 calories per medium sized cucumber
Asparagus – 6 calories per medium spear
Onions – 29 calories per small onion
Garlic – 4 calories per clove
Parsley – 1 calorie per tablespoon
Celery – 10 calories per large stalk
Blueberries – 83 calories per cup
Strawberries – 6 calories per strawberry
Blackberries – 62 calories per cup
Apples – Up to 95 calories per medium sized apple
Your favorite foods, in moderation!
As you can see, since vegetables have the lowest calories, an effective meal combination is 2-3 parts vegetables, 1 part protein, and 1 part starch (or no starch). You can enjoy butter, oil, nuts, and cheese, but should be careful not to over-consume them, as they are calorie-rich.
If you are planning to enjoy a sugary treat such as cake or cookies, you may wish to avoid eating fruits that day, since fruits contain sugar, and you could end up over-consuming sugar.