If you're cutting calories, it's crucial to get essential nutrients. Weight loss is no victory if the price is diminished health. A low-calorie diet should provide your body with the necessary proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals to keep your body functioning properly. By following a few healthy guidelines, you can maintain optimal health while on a low-cal diet.
Skipping meals can cause diet sabotage. If you let yourself get too hungry, you're tempted not only to eat the wrong foods, but also to overeat. Eat a balanced, low-cal snack or meal consisting of whole grains, protein and carbohydrates every 3 to 4 hours. This helps maintain a stable blood sugar level, which provides your body with consistent energy without dips in blood glucose that can leave you grabbing for a sugar fix.
Protein and Dairy
Choose lower-calorie versions of protein and dairy products. Eating lean cuts of meat, fresh fish and low-fat dairy products helps maintain a lower daily calorie count while providing adequate protein. Skim or low-fat milk and yogurt contain fewer calories and less fat than their whole-milk counterparts. Choose skinless poultry and omega-3-rich fish instead of beef, pork or lamb, which are high in saturated fat and calories. While a 3-ounce serving of untrimmed top sirloin, for example, contains 3 grams of saturated fat, 13 total grams of fat and 219 calories, a 3.5-ounce portion of cod contains no saturated fat, 0.3 grams of total fat and only 78 calories.
Fruits and Vegetables
Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods are low in calories, high in fiber and packed with healthy nutrients. The fiber in fruits and vegetables helps fill you up and aids in moving food waste materials through your body. Eat low-calorie vegetables like spinach and limit your intake of higher-calorie vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and peas. Spinach, for example, has only 30 calories per 4-cup serving, and contains 4 grams of fiber, while a 1/2-cup serving of corn has 2 grams of fiber and 75 calories.
Drink plenty of water each day to keep your body hydrated. According to Amherst University, 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated and the thirst mechanism in many Americans is so weak that it's often misinterpreted as hunger. This can result in you grabbing for food when your body is asking for water. A mildly dehydrated body also causes metabolism to slow by as much as 3 percent. Clemson University states that a healthy adult needs an average of 8 to 12 cups of water each day to replace fluids lost through breathing, urination, perspiration and bowel movements and to keep the body running normally.
- Kansas State University: K-State Research and Extension: Tips To Stay Healthy Over The Holidays
- Amherst University: Athletic Department: 4 Main Nutrition Principles
- UCLA: Department of Family Medicine: Fruits and Vegetables with Calories and Fiber
- Harvard University: Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publications: Listing of Vitamins
- University of Massachusetts Medical School: Hooves, Feathers & Fins
- University of Washington: Sea Grant Institute: Calorie, Fat, and Protein Content of Fish and Seafoods
- Harvard University: Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publications: Why Eating Slowly May Help You Feel Full Faster
- Clemson University: Cooperative Extension: Fluid Needs
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images