The 500-Calorie Diet For Weight Loss – A Sample Meal Plan, Benefits, and Health Risks

Reviewed by Merlin Annie Raj, Registered Dietitian
by Priyanka Sadhukhan , Nutritionist, CDE, Reviewer & Writer

The 500-calorie diet is a very low-calorie diet (VLCD) that can help you lose weight. Doctors prescribe it to obese patients who have a high BMI (over 30) and whose life is at risk due to the excess flab.

Remember, this diet is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women. Here’s all you need to know about the 500-calorie diet. Swipe up.

What Is The 500 Calorie Diet Plan?

The 500-calorie diet is an extreme form of a very low-calorie diet, i.e., it is extremely low in calories. It replaces the normal food routine with liquid supplements, meal replacement shakes, and bars for a specific period (1).

This restricted calorie consumption will help your body use the stored fuel source, i.e., fat. This, in turn, will help you shed pounds.

This is a type of 5:2 intermittent fasting plan that involves severe energy restriction for two non-consecutive days of a week and consuming 2000 calories on the other five days. This type of modified diet can fulfill 20-25% of energy needs on fasting days (2).

Studies showed that hypocaloric intermittent fasting could help overweight and obese individuals lose weight. However, these studies are inconclusive, and more research is needed to confirm these findings (3).

What should your 500-calorie diet plan look like? Scroll down to find out.

Note: Follow this very low-calorie diet (VLCD) only under the supervision of a doctor or a nutritionist.

A 500-Calorie Sample Meal Plan For Weight Loss

As part of the 5:2 diet plan, you need to be on a low-carb diet for two days. But what exactly should you eat?

1. Breakfast

Breakfast Options
Amount
Decaffeinated tea or skimmed milk or black coffee without sugar
8 ounces
Small banana + ricotta cheese
1 banana + 1 medium bowl
Hard boiled egg + Wheat bread toast
1 each
Decaffeinated tea or skimmed milk or black coffee without sugar
1 cup + 4 tablespoons + 1 date

Tip: If you feel hungry before lunch, you can drink a cup of green tea without sugar.

2. Lunch

Lunch Options
Amount
Salad with a light dressing
1 medium bowl
Blueberries and Greek yogurt
1 cup
Vegetable soup made with cabbage, spinach, broccoli, or any leafy vegetable
1 cup
Grilled chicken or fish + Grilled broccoli and carrot
3 oz fish or chicken and ¼ cup veggies
Lettuce wraps with fish/mushroom/chicken/tofu
1 wrap with 2 oz fish/chicken/mushroom/tofu

Tip: Drink a glass of lukewarm water 20 minutes before lunch to avoid overeating.

3. Dinner

Dinner Options
Amount
Chicken or mushroom clear soup
1 medium bowl
Broccoli and grilled turkey/tofu tossed in a little chili garlic oil
1 medium bowl
Egg white omelet with mushroom and spinach
2 eggs, 6 mushrooms, ½ cup spinach
Stir-fried veggies with red bell pepper, carrots, broccoli, tofu, and beans
1 cup + 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar + chili flakes

Tip: Drink water, and if you feel hungry, have a glass of coconut water or unstrained vegetable juice.

You can choose from these options and create an ideal, customized diet plan suitable for you. Make sure you consult your doctor and dietitian before starting this diet.

What are the benefits of the 500-calorie diet? Find out in the next section.

Benefits

The main benefit of the 500-calorie diet is that it aids rapid weight loss. Following a VLCD can help revamp your metabolism. It accelerates fat oxidation, helping you shed weight (4). It is great for those who need to lose weight to prevent any health risks.

But what if you are on this diet even if you don’t need to? Or what if you are on a 500-calorie diet for three weeks or more without being supervised by a doctor? Here’s what may happen.

Health Risks

1. Nutritional Deficiencies

Following a 500-calorie diet plan for long leads to nutritional deficiencies. A study published in the Nutrition Journal showed that a very low-calorie diet formula could lead to micronutrient deficiencies (5).

There was a significant reduction in the serum concentration of vitamin D, vitamin C, and zinc among obese people on a low-calorie diet for over 12 weeks (5).

Low-calorie diets can cause nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, intolerance to cold, menstrual irregularities, and hair loss. Lack of fiber in the diet can also cause constipation. This decreases the efficiency of the immune system and makes your body vulnerable to various ailments.

2. Muscle Loss

Do you want to lose weight? Then, lose fat, not muscle. If you are on a VLCD for a prolonged period, you will start losing muscle mass instead of fat mass.

A very low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, low-protein diet can cause skeletal muscle loss (6). This can give you a “slim-fat” look and make your skin loose and droopy.

3. Metabolic Changes

Following a very low-calorie diet for a long period slows down metabolism. This ultimately leads to weight gain when you return to the original eating pattern.

A study published in Nutrition & Metabolism showed that a sudden reduction in body weight due to a low-calorie diet plan reduced the resting metabolic rate (RMR), but it was not as expected (7).

4. Decrease In Bone Mass

Weight loss due to following a calorie-restricted diet for a long time decreases bone mineral density and weakens bone strength (8).

A study showed that low-calorie diet-induced weight loss is accompanied by a loss of bone mass (9). Another study on 48 adults showed that calorie restriction (CR) reduced bone mineral density and bone mass (10).

5. Development Of Gallstones

Following a very low-calorie diet (500 calories) can increase the risk of developing gallstones.

A study published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that following VLCD for over one year resulted in cholelithiasis (the formation of stones in the gall bladder). Many of the adults had to undergo cholecystectomy (removal of the gall bladder) (11).

6. Deficiency Of Healthy Fat

A low-calorie diet is devoid of healthy fats to restrict unnecessary calorie intake. Consuming healthy fats in controlled portions provides satiety and helps you stay healthy (12).

Following a very low-calorie diet with restricted healthy fat intake reduces the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, leading to deficiency (13).

You may be wondering who can follow this diet and who should avoid it. Find the answers below.

Who Can Follow The 500-Calorie Diet?

People with a BMI of more than 30 (from obesity grade I to grade III) should follow a very low-calorie diet under the proper supervision of a doctor or a nutritionist.

Who Should Avoid A Very Low-Calorie Diet?

Generally, doctors do not allow people with medical conditions to follow a VLCD. It is advisable not to follow any calorie-restricted diet under the following clinical conditions:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney diseases
  • Gout (accumulation of uric acid in joints)
  • Gallstones

There are a lot of foods that are low in calories or marketed as low or zero-calorie drinks or foods but are harmful to the body. Hence, you should have a clear idea of what to eat and avoid if you are on the 500-calorie diet.

Foods To Eat On The 500-Calorie Diet

  • Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, carrot, beetroot, scallion, cabbage, lettuce, and parsnip. These are low in calories and loaded with nutrition. They will make you lose weight without putting your health in danger.
  • Salads, sautéed, stir-fried, and blanched food. These minimize the disruption of valuable enzymes and phytonutrients.
  • Full-fat milk and yogurt. Full-fat versions are more nutritious and will help keep hunger at bay.
  • Fruits and freshly pressed fruit juices. Make sure you don’t consume high GI foods like mangoes, pineapple, and grapes.
  • Low-calorie salad dressing like olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Pre-cooked chicken and shrimps.
  • Pre-washed veggies.

Here’s the list of foods you must avoid while on the 500-calorie diet.

Foods To Avoid On The 500-Calorie Diet

  • Processed foods like sausages and salami.
  • Canned veggies, fruits, etc.
  • Energy drinks, soda, and bottled fruit juices.
  • Dried fruits.
  • Sugary foods like cake, pastry, pancake, and candies.

Conclusion

The 500-calorie diet is not for everyone. You should follow it only under the supervision of a doctor and a dietitian. While following a VLCD can help reduce weight temporarily (if followed for a short time), it can lead to health risks in the long run. Hence, practice portion control and lead a healthy lifestyle to lose weight gradually.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How many pounds will I lose if I eat 500 calories a day?

Following a VLCD (500 calories per day) can help you reduce 15-20 pounds in a month.

How much weight can you lose per week on the 5:2 diet?

The 5:2 diet plan can help you lose 5-7 pounds in a week, depending on your body type.

What recipes can I include in a 500-calorie diet?

Foods that are loaded with low-calorie vegetables and fruits can be included in a 500-calorie diet. You can make vegetable soup, vegetable salad, fruit salad with low-fat yogurt, or a portion of grilled chicken or fish with grilled veggies for lunch or dinner to satisfy your hunger pangs.

Can I follow a 500-calorie diet for 3-4 weeks?

Following a very low-calorie diet (500 calories) for more than a week makes your body weak and lowers your immunity and productivity. Hence, it is important to consult your doctor and dietitian before following a VLCD for a long time.

13 sources

Stylecraze has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

Recommended Articles:

Was this article helpful?
The following two tabs change content below.

Priyanka Sadhukhan

Priyanka is a nutritionist and a Certified Diabetes Educator. She has over 8 years of experience in nutrition and dietetics with a strong research background. She is passionate about science and how it can be applied to one’s daily lifestyle. According to her, food is the best medicine, and proper nutrition is key to achieving good health. She has also written a book on PCOS and its management for doctors and patients. When she is not working, she loves spending quality time with family and friends. She loves creating innovative, healthy recipes and endorses healthier alternatives to junk foods to promote good health.
scorecardresearch