A 1, 200-calorie diet is the lowest you should aim to go when dieting says MedlinePlus. When following such a low-calorie plan, you have little to no room for discretionary calories like added sugars, alcohol, soda and saturated fats. Instead, focus on achieving a balanced diet from eating the minimum number of servings recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from the major food groups.
Divide 5.5 ounces of protein up over the course of two or three of your meals, which amounts to about 250 calories of your diet. Choose low-calorie, lean versions like shrimp, water-packed tuna, skinless chicken or tilapia. One-quarter cup of beans or 2 tablespoons of hummus are other protein choices. One-half ounce of nuts or a tablespoon of nut butter also provides an “ounce” serving of protein, according to the USDA.
Grains and Cereals
Eat 3 ounces of grains daily to total about 300 calories. A slice of bread, half of an English muffin or a 4 ½ inch pancake equal an ounce. One ounce of dry pasta or rice or ½ cup cooked also constitutes an ounce. Go for whole grains whenever possible as they offer more fiber and vitamins than refined flours.
Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy when on a 1, 200-calorie diet to save calories. Go for three, 8-ounce servings for about 80 calories each to total 240 calories of your day. Options include cottage cheese, skim milk, plain yogurt and low-fat ricotta.
Eat 1 ½ cups of fruit daily. Choose whole fruit about the size of a baseball or a cup of cut-up fruit. Eight ounces of fruit juice also counts, but may not fill you up like whole fruits. This will use up about 150 calories of your daily allotment. Expose yourself to multiple antioxidants by including berries, pineapple, citrus, mangoes and grapes along with the more conventional apples and bananas.
Choose watery types of vegetables with deep orange and dark green colors to maximize nutrition. Eat about 2 ½ cups daily, which amounts to approximately 125 calories. Avoid extra sauces, butter and dressings and flavor them with fresh citrus, herbs and vinegar.
Be sure to include some fats in your 1, 200-calorie diet to support bodily functions and vitamin absorption. The Institute of Medicine recommends a minimum of 20 percent of daily calories to come from fats. Emphasize unsaturated types which are found in nuts, olive oil and avocados. You will naturally obtain fats from eating some of the other foods like proteins and grains, but if you find yourself falling short, spread a thin layer of peanut butter on your whole-grain toast, dress some of your vegetables in a teaspoon or two of safflower oil or sprinkle low-fat cheese over broccoli.