If you're trying to lose weight to keep a New Year's Resolution, fit into your favorite swimsuit for summer, or just want to feel healthier, you may have heard about the 1200 Calorie Diet. In a nutshell, this diet allows you to eat whatever foods you like, as long as your calorie count is 1200 or under. This meal plan has had its share of detractors, but no one can argue with the result. Browse progress pictures of the 1200 Calorie Diet followers, or their older cousin, Calories In, Calories Out, and you might be a believer. But is 1200 really enough?

What is a Calorie?

A calorie is a unit of measurement of how much energy is in the food we consume. Your body uses food for energy, and calories are the currency it's measured in. Eat too many calories, and your body stores the excess energy as fat. Eat too few calories, and your body uses the stored fat to meet its energy requirements. Calories are found in every food. Some, like a donut, have a lot for their size, while others, like broccoli, have fewer. Choosing low-calorie foods instead of high-calorie foods is a long-understood necessity for weight loss.



How Many Calories Do You Eat?

Do you know how many calories you consume? Many packaged food items and restaurant meals have the number of calories on them. Let's say you choose a burger combo meal that may be 700 calories. If you eat one serving of whole grain cereal, you might consume 150 calories. If you track the food you eat, you can determine how many calories you're consuming. Many apps and websites can help you determine what you eat in a day. Many experts recommend logging everything that you eat, including sauces, condiments, and beverages, to really determine how much energy you're putting into your body.



What About Low-Carb and Calories?

Choosing a low carb diet works for many people who have to weight loss or other health goals. Low carb simply means that your diet doesn't contain high amounts of carbohydrate foods. This can include bread and baked goods, but also foods like fruits that are high in natural sugars. Low carb eaters count how many grams of carbohydrates they consume each day. Low carb diet and a low-calorie diet can go hand in hand. Essentially, limiting how many carbohydrates you eat may help some people with strong sugar cravings, or may help them replace high-calorie bread with lower calorie choices.



Keto Diets and Calories

The Keto Diet is one in which carbohydrates are very restricted, and most of the meals consist of healthy dietary fats, such as avocados, coconut oils, and legumes. Keto diets are similar to low carb diets in that they help those on the meal plan avoid sugar and carbohydrate cravings and spikes in blood sugar levels, that can lead to over-consumption. Another component of the Keto diet is the satiety of fats - high-fat foods tend to keep you fuller, longer, and thus eat less. If you follow a Keto diet to lose weight, you will still be consuming fewer calories than your body needs for energy. You simply use different foods to help you remain at a calorie deficit.



Are 1200 Calories Enough?

Are 1200 calories enough for most people to eat? The answer may be complicated. Your size, age, and gender determine your Total Energy Expenditure - how many calories your body uses in a typical day. For those who are older, smaller, and female, a TEE might be around 1600 calories, so reducing to 1200 calories to lose weight is fairly sustainable. However, a larger, obese man whose TEE nears 3000 calories probably wouldn't be able to sustain such a large caloric deficit long-term. If you have a bit of weight to lose, or if you're a fairly sedentary woman, then 1200 calories may be enough. However, if you're larger, then consider reducing your daily caloric intake by 500-700 of what you're currently consuming.



Tracking Your Calories

You may be able to treat weight loss as a mathematical equation. Determine your Total Daily Energy Expenditure - several online calculators can give you a ballpark range. Then, track how much food you're eating and the calories it contains. To accurately count your calories, you will need to weigh or measure all your food, including beverages and condiments. A food scale and measuring cup set will be able to help you. Once you've established your portion sizes, you can accurately log your calories. Eating less than you burn will result in weight loss.



1200 Calories and Excercise

If you're eating a 1200 calorie diet for weight loss, where does exercise fit in? Many people over-estimate how many calories they burn through exercise. If you're eating 1200 calories for weight loss, you may want to opt for less intense exercise - choose walking over running, or a half hour group class instead of an hour-long one. For those who practice an active lifestyle, having enough energy to fuel their workouts or sport is a must. Very active people probably won't feel that 1200 calories are enough.



Breakfast on a 1200 Calorie Diet

Eating a hearty breakfast is possible with a 1200 calorie diet, with simple substitutions of high-calorie foods for lower ones. Choosing Greek Yoghurt, instead of a sweetened yogurt will give you satiating protein, without the extra calories from sugared fruit. Turkey bacon, instead of pork bacon, may save you 50 calories per slice. There is lower calorie bread, as well - choosing a slightly smaller, 45 calorie slice instead of a 100 calorie one will still allow you to eat toast. Topping your toast with fresh fruit instead of jelly, and leaving off the butter, or using less, are other simple swaps.



Lunch and Dinner on a 1200 Calorie Diet

Eating lunch and dinner on a 1200 calorie diet doesn't always mean dry salads or baked chicken. As long as you measure your food accurately, and plugging it into your calorie tracker, you can eat whatever you wish. If you'd like a slice of pizza, plan on around 300 calories. Add some vegetables, like broccoli or cauliflower, to the meal for just 25 calories per cup, and you'll have a filling meal, as well as your pizza treat. Using less salad dressing, choosing lean cuts of meat over fatty ones, and baking your food or grilling instead of frying are all ways you can reduce your calories.



Snacks on a 1200 Calorie Diet

A 1200 calorie diet allows you to have snacks, too - as long as you're counting them. Some healthy snack foods, like almonds or peanuts, are good for you, but calorie dense. Just one-quarter cup of nuts clocks in at around 100 calories. So while you may eat healthy foods, eating too much of them may stall your weight loss. Filling foods like vegetables or starchy fruits can keep your hunger pangs away. If you're craving chips, however, you may eat them. Make sure to measure out portion size, and log it on your calorie tracker. Even chocolate can fit - bite-size bars are ideal for the 1200 calorie diet.



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