A low-calorie diet (1000-1200 calories) is a safe way to lose weight. Getting rid of excess fat is associated with better health, well-being, and increased longevity (1). You’d also be in good physical shape and become fit. This post lists low-calorie foods, a sample low-calorie diet plan, health benefits, and side effects. Scroll down to read!
Table Of Contents
What Is A Low-Calorie Diet? How Does It Work?
A low-calorie diet is a 1000-1200 calorie diet. It is a four-meals-a-day balanced diet plan consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, dietary fiber, and sources of lean protein.
A low-calorie diet works on the simple principle of creating a calorie deficiency. You consume fewer calories and burn more calories, which leads to the utilization of stored fat.
Following a low-calorie diet for 2-3 weeks will definitely help you shed fat, get slim, and have lesser craving for unhealthy, high-calorie foods. Let’s take a look at the list of low-calorie foods to consume.
Low-Calorie Foods List
Oats are high in fiber and loaded with nutrients like protein, calcium, folate, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. A 100 grams of oats contains 389 calories (2). Consuming oats with berries and milk/soy milk increases satiety. This, in turn, prevents you from feeling hungry frequently (3).
2. Greek Yogurt
A cup of plain Greek yogurt contains 190 calories. It is also a rich source of calcium, protein, sodium, and vitamins C, A, and D (6). It is loaded with good gut bacteria that help improve digestion and prevent gastrointestinal diseases (7).
A study concluded that consuming yogurt as a snack regularly could help reduce waist circumference, lower BMI, and prevent weight gain (8). Researchers have also found that consuming Greek yogurt post-workout is good for muscle strength and improves body composition (9). Yogurt consumption also leads to better glycemic control (lower blood sugar levels) and reduced hunger (10).
A bowl of hot, clear soup with five types of veggies and a source of lean protein (lentils, chicken breast, fish, or soy chunks) is a low-calorie meal. It is filling, nutritious, and if prepared right, it is delicious!
A study on US adults confirms that consuming soup helps reduce waist circumference, body weight, hunger, and intake of fat and carbs. Consuming soup also increases protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and mineral consumption (11). Another study found that consuming soup reduces calorie intake by 20%. (12).
Berries like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, goji berries, acai berries, and cranberries are great sources of phytonutrients (plant nutrients) like anthocyanins that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (13).
They are also loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients help reduce the risk of heart disease, oxidative stress, metabolic diseases, cancers, and neurodegenerative diseases (14), (15).
However, berries may also contain fructose or fruit sugar, which may make them high glycemic index foods. Hence, you must practice portion control. Avoid high GI berries if you have diabetes.
One large egg contains 71.5 calories and 6.28 g protein. It is also a good source of sodium, potassium, magnesium, selenium, choline, folate, vitamins A, D, and E, lutein, and zeaxanthin (16).
An 8-week study confirms that consuming eggs for breakfast, along with a low-calorie diet aids weight loss (17). A similar study also shows that an egg breakfast increases satiety and helps control hunger for the next 36 hours (18).
If you have high cholesterol, avoid consuming the egg yolk. You may safely consume 3-5 egg whites per week. Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts may consume more number of egg whites, depending on their body’s requirements.
A serving of popcorn contains 31 calories, 1 g fiber, 1g protein, and 6 g carbohydrates (19). It is a light and filling snack, which is also a good source of vitamins A, B6, E, and K. The hull of the popcorn also contains beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein.
A study compared the effect of consuming popcorn and potato chips as a snack and found that people who consumed one cup of popcorn had higher short-term satiety and low food cravings (20).
7. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are loaded with dietary fiber, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, folate, niacin, vitamin A, and polyunsaturated fats. An ounce of chia seeds contain 138 calories (21).
The high dietary fiber content of chia seeds help increase satiety and reduce hunger. A study confirmed that consuming chia seeds for 12 weeks helped reduce waist circumference and enhanced lipid profiles (22).
Another study shows that adding chia seeds to the diet helps reduce blood sugar levels, improves insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and blood lipid profiles, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases (23).
This gluten-free source of protein also helps reduce inflammation, depression, and hypertension and control diabetes (24).
Fish are low-calorie, nutrient-dense sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Studies show that consuming fish on a regular basis leads to weight loss, reduced blood pressure, and lower risk of cardiovascular diseases (25), (26).
Chronic low-grade inflammation leads to weight gain. A study confirms that consuming omega-3-rich fishes like salmon helps reduce inflammation and leads to weight loss (27).
Another study shows that consuming fish and fish oil leads to greater weight loss and helps lower triglyceride levels (28). A low-calorie diet consisting of fish also leads to better glucose-insulin metabolism in people who are overweight and have hypertension (29).
Consume fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, king mackerel, sardine, hilsa, silver carp, anchovy, Atlantic herring, trout, and albacore.
9. Leafy Vegetables
Lettuce, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, spinach, arugula, red lettuce, Swiss chard, radish greens, carrot greens, kale, and locally grown green leafy vegetables are low in calories and highly nutritious. These leafy greens are loaded with dietary fiber, alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene, lutein, and vitamin K and help increase satiety and reduce hunger pangs. They also help reduce insulin resistance and prevent cognitive decline (30), (31).
Consume at least a type of leafy green every day for two meals, along with whole grains, protein, and healthy fats, to lose weight quickly.
Fruits, like veggies, are loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The nutrients in fruits have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The World Health Organisation and Food and Agriculture of the United Nations recommend consuming at least five servings of fruits per day (32).
A study found that consuming fruits that are high in dietary fiber but low in glycemic load helps aid weight loss (33). Add fruits like orange, apple, grapefruit, lime, lemon, watermelon, muskmelon, berries, and seasonal fruits to your diet for faster weight loss.
A serving of cooked broccoli contains only 21.2 calories. This cruciferous vegetable is also a great source of dietary fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamins C, A, and K, folate, choline, and protein (34).
Broccoli is loaded with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce chronic inflammation and toxin buildup (35). A study found that consuming cruciferous veggies helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 15.8% (36). For faster weight loss and better health, consume a cup of blanched broccoli every alternate day with other veggies.
12. Lean Meat
Lean meat like skinless chicken breast, ground turkey, and lean beef and pork is a great source of protein, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, iron, and zinc (37). Scientists and studies confirm that consuming lean meat or lean red meat, which has lower amounts of saturated fats, is good for weight loss and does not increase inflammation and cardiovascular risks (38). The consumption of lean meat keeps hunger pangs at bay and helps maintain and improve muscle mass. Fat-trimmed lean meat is a viable addition to a balanced diet (39).
Legumes like lentils and nuts are great sources of plant-based protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Consuming legumes as a source of protein in low-calorie diets helps reduce waist circumference and total body weight (40). A study confirms that consuming legumes along with arginine (an amino acid) helps in a greater reduction in belly fat (41).
Consume all types of beans and lentils to add plant-based protein to your diet. You need to consume legumes regularly, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan.
These are the 13 low-calorie foods you can add to your diet to lose weight. However, these are not the only foods you must eat. Below is a table showing foods to eat and avoid. Check it out.
|Foods To Eat||Foods To Avoid|
|Veggies, dark leafy greens, crucifers||Processed meat – Sausage, salami|
|Low GI fruits like orange and grapefruit||Fatty red meat|
|Lean sourced of animal protein||Trans fats – chips, fries, fried chicken, biscuits|
|Plant-based protein (legumes, soy)||Cake, pastry, candies|
|Healthy fats (olive oil, fatty fish)||Soda, bottled juices|
|Whole grains (red rice, buckwheat)||Refined carbs like sugar and flour|
|Herbs and spices||Animal fat|
|Beverages – Tea, freshly pressed fruit juice, black coffee, detox drinks||Beverages with cream and added sugar|
Sample Low-Calorie Diet Plan
|Meals||What To Eat|
|Breakfast (8:00 a.m.)||Oatmeal with banana, berries, and nuts|
Egg white omelet + 1 cup black coffee + 4 almonds
|Lunch (12:30 p.m.)||Lettuce, arugula, tomato, cucumber, and pomegranate salad + 2 oz grilled tofu|
Zoodles with shrimp
|Snack (4:00 p.m.)||1 cup black coffee or green tea + 1 multigrain digestive biscuit/ 2 saltine crackers|
A cup of fruit juice
|Dinner (7:00 p.m.)||Lentil soup with veggies|
3 oz grilled fatty fish with veggies
How Much Time Will It Take To Lose Weight?
If you adhere to a low-calorie diet and workout 5 hours per week, you will see a visible difference in your weight in the mid-second week. In about three days, you will start to lose the water weight. Your metabolism will kick-start only if you work out regularly. Cardio and strength training on alternate days is ideal. By the 10th day, you will start to look leaner, feel more energetic, and be more proactive.
Why Should You Try A Low-Calorie Diet?
Here are a few reasons you may try the low-calorie diet:
- To lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
- To prep your body for surgery.
- To reduce the risk of metabolic diseases.
- To reset the metabolic switch.
- To improve the blood lipid profile.
- To improve hearth health.
What Are the Side Effects Of A Very Low-Calorie Diet?
Very low-calorie diets (VLCDs) are mainly supervised by a licensed professional. The 800 calorie diet is an example of a VLCD that helps lower blood pressure and is beneficial for people with diabetes. However, abusing a very low-calorie diet may cause serious health issues like:
- Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia
- Weakness and compromised immunity
- Dull and lifeless skin
- Prone to infections
- Brittle nails
- Poor, declining vision
- Confusion and declined cognition
- Weak bones
Is A Low-Calorie Diet Right For You?
A low-calorie diet is for you if your BMI is over 30. You MUST take your doctor’s approval before you go on a low-calorie diet.
Who Should Not Go On A Low-Calorie Diet?
Do not try the low-calorie diet if:
- You are pregnant or lactating.
- Your BMI is 26-29.
- You are an active person.
- Your doctor advises against it.
A low-calorie diet is a great way to lose weight fast. But it must be approved and supervised by a licensed physician. Do it safely to shed the fat fast and become healthy over time. Talk to your doctor today and kick away the extra flab to discover a new, fit you.
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
How many calories should you eat in a day to lose 5 pounds a week?
You cannot lose 5 pounds in just a week. You may lose 0.5-1 pound per week by consuming fewer calories and working out 5 days a week. It will take about 4-5 weeks to lose 5 pounds safely. Do not over-strain yourself. Give yourself time to shed the pounds. Otherwise, you will regain the pounds quicker than you shed them.
How many calories is considered starving?
Below 500 calories is considered starving.
What is the most filling low-calorie food?
Soup is the most filling low-calorie food. It is nutritious as well.
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