Reducing your calorie intake is the key to weight loss. The number of calories you need for weight loss depends on your size, gender, activity level and current calorie intake. Tracking your calories and following a meal plan can help you eat in moderation for successful weight loss.
Diets containing 1,000 to 1,600 calories per day are effective weight-loss diets, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In general, 1,200-calorie diets are often effective for weight loss in women, and 1,600-calorie meal plans usually help men successfully lose weight. Very low-calorie diets containing 800 calories or less should only be used under medical supervision.
Using the U.S. Department of Agriculture sample meal plans, a 1,200-calorie plan includes 4 ounces of grains, 3 ounces of protein foods, 1.5 cups of vegetables, 1 cup of fruits, 2.5 cups of dairy foods, 4 teaspoons of oils and 121 extra calories each day, while the 1,600-calorie plan contains 5 ounces of grains, 5 ounces of protein foods, 2 cups of vegetables, 1.5 cups of fruits, 3 cups of dairy foods, 5 teaspoons of oils and 121 extra calories per day.
Consuming four to five small meals or snacks throughout the day can help you eat in moderation. Keep portions small by placing your meals on small plates. Control your calorie intake at mealtime by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, as recommended by the USDA. A review published in a 2008 edition of “Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity” reports that diets slightly higher in protein and restricted in carbohydrates can help decrease body weight and improve body composition.
A 1,200-calorie diet might include: breakfast -- 1 cup of whole-grain cereal, 1 cup of fat-free milk, one-half of a medium orange and 1 ounce of dry-roasted almonds; morning snack -- 1 ounce of reduced-fat cheddar cheese and one-half of a medium apple; lunch -- 2 ounces of grilled chicken breast, 3/4 cup of brown rice prepared with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 3/4 cup of cooked carrots; afternoon snack -- one 6-ounce container of plain, low-fat yogurt; and dinner -- 2 ounces of baked salmon, 3/4 cup of couscous prepared with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 3/4 cup of steamed broccoli. According to the USDA Food Tracker, this menu contains 1,179 calories; 26 percent of those calories are from protein, 47 percent come from carbohydrates and 30 percent are from fat.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Aim for a Healthy Weight
- U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity: Benefits of High-Protein Weight Loss Diets: Enough Evidence for Practice?
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: What Foods Are in the Vegetable Group?
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.