1200-Calorie Diet Plan: What To Eat, Exercises, And Benefits

A precise diet plan to help you control your calories without sacrificing nutrients.

Medically reviewed by Kristen Arnold, RDN, CSSD Kristen Arnold Kristen ArnoldRDN, CSSD facebook_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist linkedin_icon Experience: 6 years
Edited by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health linkedin_icon Experience: 8 years
Fact-checked by , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach Payal Karnik MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 2.5 years
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The 1200-calorie diet plan is not a fad but a good way to balance your food intake by including all the essential micro and macronutrients. This weight loss plan essentially contains 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 20% protein (1).

However, you cannot solely depend on this diet for effective fat loss. You need to complement it with physical activity and some healthy lifestyle changes.

Anyone can follow this diet plan, but the extent of weight loss depends on several factors – age, current weight, genes, and medical history. However, it is best to see a dietitian or your doctor to figure out which diet suits you the best. In this article, we discuss what this diet plan is all about, its benefits, potential side effects, and more. Read on!

protip_icon At A Glance: 1200-Calorie Diet
  • Principle: A balance of 50% carbohydrates, 20% proteins, and 30% fats within the restricted calorie allowance
  • Purpose: To create a calorie deficit and promote weight loss by restricting one’s daily calorie intake to 1200 calories
  • Who It Is For: Individuals trying to lose weight, individuals leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Duration: Short-term
  • Who Should Avoid: Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, infants/children, and individuals with irregular menstrual cycles, a history of eating disorders, or nutritional deficiencies
  • Cons: May lead to persistent hunger, nutritional deficiencies, and fatigue

The 1200-Calorie Diet Plan

Studies show that this type of conventional hypocalorici  A diet that is low in calories, helping people to lose weight in a short term, also helps to manage type 2 diabetes. diet plan aims to reduce energy intake by 500-600 kcal from your basic calorie intake. This approach reduces approximately 0.5 kg per week, which is based on age, physical activity, and medical conditions (1).

This weight loss is observed in the first few months and will slow down due to hormonal adaptations. Hence, it is important to develop personalized diet plans based on individual preferences and weight loss goals as these diets are followed for a long period to achieve the desired weight loss.

Generalized 1200-Calorie Diet Chart

Early Morning
  • Overnight soaked and peeled almonds
  • A glass of warm water, honey, and half a    lime (1 glass)


  • 1 cup vegetable quinoa + ½ glass of low-fat milk


  • 1 slice of multigrain bread + 1 whole boiled egg + 1 oz. of low-fat cheese


  • 1 vegetable sandwich
  • 1 small cup broccoli and lentil soup


  • 1 tuna avocado sandwich
  • 1 cup spinach egg white drop soup




  • 1 medium apple


  • 1 cup grapefruit


Evening SnackGreen/black tea with a small bowl of popcorn (without butter)32
  • Baked capsicum and potato
  • 1 serving low-fat vegetable lasagne


  • 1 serving of baked salmon with grilled vegetables
  • 1 cup chicken mushroom soup




Calories: This diet plan offers 1200-1243 calories, depending on whether you are vegetarian or non-vegetarian.

Anyone can follow the 1200-calorie meal plan, whether they are on the keto meal plan, a diabetes diet, or a strictly vegetarian meal plan. But always speak to your nutritionist before planning any meal within this calorie budget.

What To Eat When On The 1200-Calorie Diet

Foods to be included on the 1200-calorie diet
Image: Shutterstock

The 1200-calorie diet plan requires careful consideration of the amount and nature of foods to be consumed to fulfill the nutritional requirements. If you want to follow the 1200-calorie plan for a month or 7 days, you need to alter the basic diet plan with the following general considerations.

  • Consume more fruits and vegetables as they help in calorie restriction and carbohydrates and are high in fiber and vitamins when compared to other foods (2). Vegetables, such as cucumber, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, beets, asparagus, peppers, and leafy greens, and fruits, such as bananas, plums, cherries, grapes, apples, and peaches are some of the healthy options.
  • Choose complex carbohydrates over simple ones. Consume whole-grain bread and pasta, bran, etc., that will keep you full for a longer time as they are digested slowly and have a low glycemic indexi  A system indicating blood glucose level by consuming carbohydrates. A normal glycemic index should be 56 to 69 for a healthy body. (3).
  • Consuming a good amount of protein is extremely vital for maintaining lean tissue and burning fat. It increases satiety and induces thermogenesis that promotes more energy expenditure (4). Consume lentils, beans, soy, mushrooms, tofu, fish, turkey, chicken breast, and lean cuts of beef.
  • Choose snacking option such as high-protein snacks like yogurt granola bowl, roasted peanuts, and baked beans to increase satiety and control hunger pangs (5).
  • Having a healthy protein-rich breakfast within 1200 calories is an effective way to improve satiety, decrease binging on unhealthy snacks, and improve metabolic rate diet (6).
protip_icon Quick Tip
Keep your metabolism from plateauing and satisfy your taste buds once a week with a cheat day. However, make sure you limit yourself to 1700 calories on that day.

What Not To Eat When On The 1200-Calorie Diet

Foods to be avoided on the 1200-calorie diet
Image: Shutterstock

Here is the list of foods that you should avoid when you are on the 1200-calorie diet.

  • Avoid or restrict the consumption of simple carbohydrates as they provide little nutritional value and are digested quickly, which will make you hungry after a short while. Candy, soda, sugar, white rice, white pasta, white bread, sweet syrup, breakfast cereal, desserts, and pastries contain simple carbohydrates.
  • Avoid eating fried foods, such as fried chicken, deep-fried foods, and potato fries and practice healthy eating habits.
  • Avoid aeratedi  A packaged food or beverage that has been carbonated to make it fizzy, such as soft drinks and soda. and artificially sweetened drinks. Packaged fruit juices contain additives and artificial sweeteners, which will make you gain weight.
  • Avoid alcohol while you are on the 1200-calorie diet plan. Alcohol gets broken down into sugar, which gets readily absorbed into the blood and raises the blood sugar levels.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Black coffee, green tea, oolong tea, and coconut water are healthier alternatives to aerated and sugary beverages.

The 1200-Calorie Diet Recipe

Broccoli And Lentil Soup

Broccoli and lentil soup for 1200-calorie diet
Image: Shutterstock
What You Need
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup yellow lentils
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1/2 tomato
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 small green chili
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon rice bran oil
  • Salt
How To Prepare
  1. Wash the yellow lentils and keep them aside.
  2. Chop the onion, garlic, tomato, and chili.
  3. Dice the broccoli florets.
  4. In a soup pot, heat the oil and fry the cumin seeds for about 30 seconds.
  5. Fry the garlic until golden brown.
  6. Add the onions and fry until they are translucent.
  7. Add the broccoli florets and tomato. Fry for about a minute.
  8. Add the chopped green chili and fry for about 15 seconds.
  9. Add the washed lentils, a pinch of salt, and a cup of water.
  10. Let it cook until the lentils and broccoli florets are properly cooked.
  11. Add orange juice and use an immersion blender and blend all the ingredients to make a thick soup.

Role Of Exercise

Exercising woman
Image: Shutterstock

No specific exercise is recommended when you follow this diet. However, dieters should be aware that exercising regularly is vital for maintaining weight loss and for overall good health. Working out at the gym, brisk walking, or practicing yoga for an hour on a daily basis is recommended.

You also need to make lifestyle changes to stay fit and healthy. Keep in mind the following things if you are on the 1200-calorie diet.

Changes In Lifestyle

  • Control your portion. Fill your plate with 50% non-starchy vegetables and fruits, 25% lean protein, and 25% whole grains.
  • Sleeping for at least 7 hours per day helps in controlling weight (7).
  • Try to manage your stress by practicing meditation and deep breathing exercises.

Managing hunger while sticking to the 1200-calorie limit can be challenging. Here are a few tips that can help you with it.

Tips To Curb Your Hunger On A 1200-Calorie Diet Plan

  • Eat small, frequent meals to curb your hunger.
  • Take your time to savor your meals and chew thoroughly, as it reduces hunger by altering the gut hormone responses (8).
  • Serve your meals on smaller, colored plates. This tricks your brain into feeling satisfied (9).
  • Engage in activities and hobbies you enjoy. This prevents unnecessary snacking due to boredom (10).
  • Chew sugar-free gum between meals to keep your mouth busy and prevent cravings (11).
  • Drink plenty of fluids to curb hunger. The brain often gets confused between thirst and hunger and gives mixed signals. Therefore, staying hydrated helps.
  • Keep snacks handy. Go for healthy and filling options like avocado, nuts, berries, smoothies, and unflavored Greek yogurt.

The 1200-calorie diet is proven to be beneficial for numerous reasons, the most important being weight loss. Listed below are a few benefits.

Benefits Of The 1200-Calorie Diet

  • It is simple and easy to follow as the dietary guidelines don’t have any restrictions on the types of food you can consume. It can be easily adapted to suit specific dietary concerns.
  • It does yield results when it comes to losing weight as it focuses on consuming fewer calories than you expend. The reduction in calories provides the body with less fuel than what it requires, thus resulting in a net loss of weight.
  • This diet provides a variety of choices with numerous menus and eating plans that suit different eating habits, nutrition needs, and cooking styles.
  • It is cost-effective. All you need is a calorie counting tool, which can be found online for free.
  • It generally provides adequate nutritional intake while reducing calories to the level that most dieters require for losing weight.
  • This diet plan has provided a basis for nutritionists and health professionals to develop other diet plans for weight loss.

Bonnie Pfiester, a fitness blogger, shared how the 1200-calorie diet along with cardio and strength training helped her lose body fat. She wrote, “I started at 18% body fat and I’m now down to 14%. I’ve consistently lost about 2lbs a week, while maintaining muscle mass. I actually even gained a pound of muscle during the process (i).”

All forms of diets have certain drawbacks, and the 1200-calorie diet is no exception. While many people might find it effective, it does not mean that this diet is suitable for everyone.

Drawbacks Of The 1200-Calorie Diet

1200 calorie diet may cause fatigue
Image: Shutterstock
  • The reduction in calories may also lead to the reduction of certain vital nutrients, resulting in lack of balanced nutrition. Therefore, careful meal planning of the diet with adequate nutrition-dense foods is required to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
  • Calorie counting and food measurement and portion control are extremely crucial in this diet. This can be done by using a menu or assistive diet plan, which is an additional requirement.
  • Hunger and fatigue are the most prominent side effects of this diet.
  • Due to the reduced calorie intake, this diet is not recommended for physically active individuals as they require more calories to sustain themselves.

Does The 1200-Calorie Diet Plan Work? What Eleana Kaidanian, RD, Says

Eleana Kaidanian, RD, CDN, CPT-WFS, says, “In my practice, I have seen firsthand how similar diets as the 1200 calorie diet encourage disordered eating and restrictive eating followed by binging in many clients who have to now unlearn these negative eating behaviors. The key takeaway from this diet is that you cannot depend on calorie restriction as your main method of fat loss and that it needs to be paired with acquiring healthy habits, such as exercise. It is appealing that this diet breaks down macronutrient percentages rather than be based solely on 1200 calories as the name suggests. However, even the macronutrient percentages may not be ideal for each person’s individual requirements. By working with a registered dietitian for individualized guidance, one can be successful with weight loss and fat loss feeling satisfied and nourished without restricting calories to an arbitrary number as this diet suggests.”

Dos And Don’ts

Have a heavy breakfast.Do not exceed the calorie limit when you are on this diet.
Have at least 6 balanced meals per day.Do not have a long gap between two meals.
Eat a whole fruit rather than juicing it.Do not drink packaged drinks, aerated drinks, and alcohol.
Mild exercises will keep your muscles and bones active.Avoid doing rigorous exercises.
Get a good night’s sleep.Don’t stress yourself too much. Stress may make you gain weight.
Consult your physician or dietitian to know whether you need to go on such a low-calorie diet to lose weight.Do not follow it at a stretch for many weeks. You can follow this diet plan every alternate week.

Infographic: Who Should Avoid The 1200-Calorie Diet

While you might be keen on trying the 1200-Calorie Diet, you should be aware of any health conditions that may interfere with it. In addition, there are certain circumstances wherein it may do you more harm than good. Have a look at the infographic below to learn when you should refrain from trying this low-calorie diet.

who should avoid the 1200 calorie diet (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

The 1200-calorie diet plan helps you shed weight when accompanied by regular exercise and lifestyle changes. It involves consuming foods rich in fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates, which take time to digest and keep you feeling fuller for longer, thus will help in healthy weight management. Consume vegetables and fruits as they are low in calories, and avoid fried foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol. As with any diet, this plan may also lead to nutritional deficiencies and other side effects, so following it under the supervision of a dietitian is recommended. Moreover, you should get at least seven hours of sleep and practice meditation to reduce stress for effective weight loss.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are 1200 calories a day important when dieting?

Most women need 2200 calories per day. The need for sustainable weight loss arises when you eat more than what you burn. To lose weight, you should either work out rigorously or balance it with lesser calorie intake and mild workout. The 1200-calorie diet plan does exactly that. It restricts your calorie intake, without being too low on calories, and includes a mild exercise routine that will help to keep the muscles and bones in your body active.

If I consume 1200 calories a day, how much exercise do I need per day?

Do not opt for rigorous exercises. Yoga, mild stretching, freehand exercising, and intermittenti  Taking a brief break and restarting several times (intermittent fasting is helpful to maintain a low calorie diet and lose weight). running and walking should be enough. However, if you are already an active woman, you can opt for strength training exercises as well, but for a lesser duration. Consult your trainer for expert advice.

Why is the 1200-calorie meal plan ideal for women who want to lose weight?

The 1200-calorie diet plan is not ideal for all women. Depending on your current weight, age, height, medical condition, and genes, your doctor or dietitian will be able to tell you whether this is the ideal diet plan for you or not. If this is the ideal diet plan for you, it will help you lose 20 pounds over a period of 90 days. The slow weight loss process will keep you healthy and help you avoid post-weight loss problems like loose skin.

How much weight will I lose if I eat 1200 calories a day?

A healthy way to lose weight is to have a 500-600 calorie deficit per day. This approach will help you to lose 500 g per week or 4 kg in a month, depending on your health conditions and activity levels.

Is it healthy to eat 1200 calories a day?

The calorie requirement is dependent on your BMR, activity level, and age. Talk to your nutritionist or dietitian who will determine the right meal plan for you.

Are 1200 calories too low?

The 1200-calorie diet plan is not a very low diet plan. This is the minimum calorie range that a person should follow to maintain the minimum BMR level. Choosing the correct foods and nutrients is key to stay fit and healthy.

How much fat should I eat per day on a 1200-calorie diet?

You should eat at least 30-36 g of fat (30% of total calorie intake) in which 20 g would be visible fat (fat from cooking oil) and the rest from invisible sources (fat from foods). Choose monounsaturated fatty acidsi  A healthy unsaturated dietary fat that is effective for bad cholesterol levels in the blood which increase the risk of a stroke. and polyunsaturated fatty acidsi  A type of healthy dietary fat found in both plant and animal foods, such as salmon, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. over saturated and trans fatty acids.

How many calories is considered starvation?

Consuming somewhere between 400-800 calories per day is considered starvation and may not be healthy or sustainable in the long run.

How many calories are burned if you walk 10000 steps?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that if you are walking at the pace of 6 km/hour, you can burn around 153 calories (12). If you increase your walking pace, you may burn more calories.

Key Takeaways

  • The 1200 calorie diet helps you lose weight, but ensure to combine it with physical activities and some healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Make sure to get enough sleep and engage in some mild exercises to lower your stress for successful weight loss.
  • There are certain side effects of this diet such as hunger and weariness, thus it’s best that you follow a professional’s instructions.
  • Consume lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber and protein rich foods. Avoid fried foods, sugary drinks, alcohol, etc.

1200 calorie diet

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

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  2. Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables, Advances in Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  3. Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrate Dietary Patterns and the Global Overweight and Obesity Pandemic, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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  6. Breakfast Consumption Augments Appetite, Eating Behavior, and Exploratory Markers of Sleep Quality Compared with Skipping Breakfast in Healthy Young Adults, Current Development In Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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  11. Short-term effects of chewing gum on satiety and afternoon snack intake in healthy weight and obese women, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  12. Energy expended when walking 10,000 steps at different speeds, Taylor and Francis Online
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Kristen Arnold
Kristen ArnoldMS, RDN, CSSD
Kristen is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a board-certified specialist in Sports Dietetics with 9 years of experience. She also has a Master’s in Human Nutrition from The Ohio State University. She owns a private practice nutrition counseling business focusing on performance nutrition for athletes.

Read full bio of Kristen Arnold
Charushila Biswas
Charushila BiswasHealth & Wellness Writer
Charushila is an ISSA certified Fitness Nutritionist and a Physical Exercise Therapist. Over a span of 6 years, she has authored more than 400 articles on diet, lifestyle, exercises, healthy food, and fitness equipment. She strives to inform, educate, and motivate her readers via authentic, straightforward, and fact-checked information.

Read full bio of Charushila Biswas
Ravi Teja Tadimalla
Ravi Teja TadimallaSenior Editor
Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a senior editor and a published author. He has been in the digital media field for over eight years. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has a Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition & Research from Wageningen University.

Read full bio of Ravi Teja Tadimalla
Payal Karnik
Payal KarnikSenior Health & Wellness Writer
Payal Karnik is a senior health and wellness writer and a Certified Health and Nutrition Life Coach. She is a biotechnology graduate from the University of Mumbai with a keen interest in writing and a natural curiosity for science.

Read full bio of Payal Karnik
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