Boston Medical Center estimates that 45 million people in the U.S. diet every year—and spend $33 billion doing so. The good news is you don’t have to spend extra money to lose weight and stay healthy. And, just because you cut your calorie intake doesn’t mean you have to suffer through each day deprived of energy. A well-balanced, reduced-calorie diet will provide you with optimum nutrition and help you meet your weight loss goals.
Calories for Weight Loss
In general, women shouldn’t consume fewer than 1,000 calories per day, even during weight loss. Very low-calorie diets containing 800 calories or less are only recommended under medical supervision, since they put you at risk for malnutrition and negative side effects—such as nausea and dizziness. While 1,000- to 1,200-calorie diets often work for most women, diets containing 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day are appropriate for active women and women over 164 pounds, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
To reduce midday fatigue during weight loss, aim to consume the recommended amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat every day. The institute of Medicine encourages you to get 45 to 65 percent of your calories from carbs, 10 to 35 percent from protein and 20 to 35 percent of your calories from fats. Based on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s sample reduced-calorie menu, a healthy macronutrient composition for 1,200-calorie diets is 50 percent carbs, 20 percent protein and about 30 percent of your total calories from fats. Therefore, if you’re following a 1,200-calorie weight loss plan, aim for 150 grams of carbs, 60 grams of protein and about 40 grams of dietary fat.
When you cut calories to shed pounds, choosing nutrient-dense foods is essential to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Choose healthy carbs, such as whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds; nutritious protein foods like grilled chicken, seafood, legumes, low-fat dairy foods, soy-based foods, seitan, nuts and seeds; and heart-healthy fats, such as vegetable oils, hummus, avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, soybean oil, flaxseed oil and purified fish oils. During your quest to peel away pounds, ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin supplement to make sure you get your daily dose of each essential nutrient.
Foods to Avoid
To look and feel your best during your weight loss journey, cut ‘bad’ fats, refined grains and sugars as much as possible. The American Heart Association recommends women limit sugar consumption to 100 calories or less per day; such sugars are found in sodas, other sugary drinks, canned fruits packed in syrup, sweets, candy and honey. Avoid refined grains, such as white bread, white rice and pastries; instead choose whole grains. Finally, limit foods high in saturated fat, such as high-fat meats, whole milk, cream, ice cream, butter and full-fat cheeses.
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.