A carefully planned 1,200-calorie diet can provide a woman with all the nutrients needed for good health, while prompting weight loss. Eating so few calories per day does not allow any room for junk foods, especially those with added sugars and fats. Your meal plan should include generous amounts of fresh vegetables and moderate amounts of lean proteins, fruits, nonfat dairy and whole grains. As with any diet, you should check with your doctor before beginning a 1,200-calorie diet.
A 1,200-calorie diet should include at least three meals and one snack. As a woman, you may be tempted to skip meals as you juggle family, household and work duties. Skipping meals can cause you to become extremely hungry and inadvertently overeat or make poor choices at your next sitting. Look for foods that have few calories but a lot of nutrition per serving. Staples for a 1,200-calorie plan might include skinless chicken breast, shrimp, egg whites, canned beans, dark leafy greens, cut-up raw vegetables, melon, berries, apples, brown rice, oatmeal and whole-grain bread.
While following a 1,200-calorie diet, it can be challenging to get adequate amounts of iron and calcium, especially for menstruating women. Dark leafy greens, extra lean beef, fortified cereal and beans are good sources of iron that are also low in calories. For calcium, opt for skim milk, low-fat yogurt or 1 percent cottage cheese. You can also get calcium from canned salmon with the bones, fortified soy milk and tofu. You also need vegetables, fruits and whole grains to provide you with a minimum of 25 g of fiber daily to keep digestion regular.
Each meal should contain between 300 and 350 calories. For breakfast, try 3/4 cup of whole-grain cereal, a banana and 1 cup of skim milk; a smoothie made with 1 cup of frozen berries, half of a banana and 8 oz. of soy milk with half a whole-wheat English muffin topped with 1 tsp. of light butter; or 6 oz. of low-fat yogurt topped with 1 tbsp. of almonds alongside half of a whole-wheat English muffin topped with 1/2 cup of apple slices and 1 oz. of shredded, low-fat cheddar cheese. Lunches might include 1/2 cup of roasted, skinless chicken breast with 1/2 cup of brown rice and a 1 1/2 cups of steamed broccoli or 3 oz. of roast beef or deli turkey on a mini whole-wheat pita with mustard, tomatoes and lettuce along with 1 cup of tomato soup and cut-up vegetables. For dinner, broil 3 oz. of cod and serve with a baked sweet potato and a large spinach salad topped with 1 tbsp. of light dressing; or have 1 cup of whole-wheat pasta with 3 oz. of steamed shrimp, 1/2 cup of marinara sauce and chopped bell pepper. A stick of string cheese, baseball-sized piece of fresh fruit, 3 cups of air-popped popcorn or a glass of skim milk make good, 100-calorie snacks.
For some women, 1,200 calories will not support energy needs. If you are an avid exerciser, you might need 200 to 500 more calories daily. You might benefit from taking a vitamin and mineral supplement while eating just 1,200 calories. Talk to your health provider about what works best for your needs.
- Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics: Healthy Eating for Womenrel="nofollow"
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Traditional American Cuisine; 1,200 Caloriesrel="nofollow"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weightrel="nofollow"
- Illinois Department of Public Health: Facts About Women's Wellness--Nutritionrel="nofollow"
- Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.