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Blog Nutrition Diets 1200-Calorie Deficit: Is It A Safe Way To Lose Weight?

1200-Calorie Deficit: Is It A Safe Way To Lose Weight?

1200-calorie deficit

In order to lose weight, many people try a 1200-calorie deficit diet. They might also cut out soda or alcohol, eat more vegetables and/or drink lots of water. While this can help some people drop pounds quickly in the short term, it may not be healthy in the long run.

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Some health care professionals claim that significant levels of reduced caloric intake could initiate more health risks than benefits for people who are looking forward to shedding excess weight. In this article,  we will discuss some risks associated with a 1200-calorie diet. We’ll also look at how moderate calorie reduction can help people lose weight effectively.

Risks Of A 1200-Calorie Diet For Weight Loss

The following health risks may be associated with a 1200-calorie diet:

Muscle Loss

A reduced caloric intake could mean that your body doesn’t get enough nutrients to maintain your muscle mass. In this situation, your muscles will begin to deteriorate.

For example, a lower intake of protein could lead to the loss of some lean body mass (muscle and bone). This might mean that you’ll be at risk for developing osteoporosis or other conditions that are associated with deterioration of muscles and bones (3).

Dehydration & Electrolyte Imbalance

When people cut out certain food groups altogether without considering calorie count, they may also miss getting the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. These foods contain electrolytes like potassium which help control nerve signals for digesting food, which means not getting enough can cause dehydration.

Cardiovascular Problems

The risk for cardiovascular problems may increase when people start a 1200-calorie diet. This is because lower caloric intake can lead to electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes help control heart rate and blood pressure, so not having enough may cause cardiovascular problems (5).

Fatigue & Weakness

When people don’t eat enough calories or if they skip meals entirely, they might feel exhausted and physically drained most of the time. Inadequate levels of nutrients in the body might also mean that your cells aren’t able to function properly which results in fatigue and weakness (6). 

Osteoporosis

Low calcium intake could result in osteoporosis, particularly in women who are at risk for this bone-weakening condition (10). 

Weakened Immune System

Lacking variety in the diet may make it harder for your immune system to fight off germs, infections, and other diseases.

Read More: How Much Fat Should I Eat Per Day On A 1200-Calorie Diet

over 1200 calorie deficit
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Difference Between A 1200-Calorie Diet & Moderate Calorie Reduction

As mentioned above, an effective solution for weight loss is sometimes to reduce caloric intake moderately. A moderate reduction in calories could involve 500-1000 fewer calories per day which is considered safe according to health care professionals. The main benefits of this approach are: 

Sustainable Weight Loss

When people reduce calories moderately, their bodies will be able to function properly and they’ll still have enough energy to go about with their daily routines. In this situation, individuals are most likely to lose weight safely and keep it off for good. 

Nutrient Intake

A moderate calorie reduction can help ensure that your body gets the nutrients it needs from food. This means that you’re more likely to avoid nutrient deficiencies which can cause a variety of health problems. 

Maintain Muscle Mass & Strength

When you cut back on calories moderately, your body is less likely to burn through muscle mass as its primary source of fuel because there is a better balance between power output and energy intake. This also means that moderate calorie reduction may help preserve muscle strength (4). 

Regulated Sugar Intake

A lower intake of sugars can help regulate blood sugar levels. In this situation, you’re less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, especially if you make smart food choices (4).

Mental Clarity & Less Stress

When you reduce calories moderately, your body will have enough energy to function properly. This could mean that a moderate reduction in calories would also lead to better mental clarity and less physical strain on your body which could result in less stress (4). 

Better Sleep Habits

When your body is getting enough calories and nutrients, you’ll be more likely to get better sleep as a result. Moderate reduction in calories can lead to better quality of rest which can improve physical and mental health over time (4). 

Improve Heart Health

A moderate calorie reduction can help promote heart health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels (4).

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calorie deficit calculator that goes below 1200
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Foods To Avoid On The 1200-Calorie Diet

If you decide to follow a 1200-calorie diet, it’s important that you choose smart food choices. Here are some foods that should be avoided when someone is following this plan:

Bakery Products & Sugar-Rich Snacks

These foods usually contain refined carbohydrates which could disrupt insulin production. It might also trigger cravings for sweets which could increase caloric intake in the long run (1). Instead of these foods, try to incorporate vegetables, lean proteins, and fruits into your meal plan.

Hot Dogs, Sausages & Other Processed Meats

Processed meats usually contain preservatives that could have a negative impact on health over time. In addition, these products are high in saturated fats so they can raise bad cholesterol levels which increases the risk of heart disease (9). Instead of processed meat products, try to eat fresh meats or fish for an improved level of nutrition. 

Fried Foods

You should avoid foods that have been deep fried as often as possible. When food is deep fried, it’s cooked at very high temperatures which can cause oxidative stress on the body. The excessive consumption of fried food products has also been linked to various chronic illnesses including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes (2). Instead of deep fried foods, try to incorporate steamed vegetables into your meal plan as often as possible.

High-Sodium Foods

These products have been processed so they contain a significant amount of sodium. In this situation, the excessive consumption of excessive salt content can raise blood pressure levels which increases the risk for heart disease (11). For a healthier option, instead of eating high sodium food products, try to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fruit Juices & Soda

These sugary drinks contribute a significant number of calories every day but only provide minimal nutritional value. In addition, it takes time for these products to be digested by the body which means you’re more likely to gain weight from them. Instead of these products, try to incorporate healthy alternatives like water, tea, coffee or skim milk.

Read More: 1200-Calorie Diet Weight Loss Calculator: From Creating A Caloric Deficit To Tracking Your Results

1200 calorie deficit per day
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Foods To Eat On The 1200-Calorie Diet

When you’re considering a 1200-calorie diet, it’s important that you eat enough healthy food products to keep yourself balanced. Here are some foods that should be included every day when someone is following this plan: 

Whole Grains & Starchy Vegetables

These food products are high in complex carbohydrates which can boost energy levels . They also improve the overall quality of your diet by providing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Whole grains are also low in fat, sodium, and sugar so they won’t increase your bad cholesterol or blood pressure (8).

Lean Proteins

These food products can help improve muscle tone while also improving heart health (12). Lean proteins like chicken breasts and tuna contain very little saturated fats so you don’t have to worry about the impact on your cholesterol levels.

Fruits, Vegetables & Dairy Products

These food products are packed with vitamins and minerals which keep you balanced. They also provide a significant amount of antioxidants which can protect your cells from free radical damage. In addition, these products help improve bone health while also improving heart health (7).

Fresh Herbs & Spices

Spicing up your meal plan with fresh herbs or spices is an easy way to boost flavor without adding additional calories. These foods have been used for thousands of years so they’re sure to be effective in this diet plan.

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1200-calorie deficit
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Sample 1200-Calorie Deficit Meal Plan

Here are some meal options if you’re thinking of going on a 1200-calorie deficit:

Breakfast On A 1200-Calorie Meal Plan 

For breakfast, choose something between 250 and 300 calories. Some good breakfast ideas are: 

  • Overnight oats topped with berries and nuts 
  • 2 scrambled eggs with 2 pieces of whole wheat toast & 1/4 cup sliced avocado 
  • 1 slice Canadian bacon, 2 poached eggs with a side of roasted asparagus 
  • Whole grain cereal with skim milk and berries

Lunch On A 1200-Calorie Meal Plan 

Mid-day meal ideas should be between 200 and 300 calories. Here are some great lunch ideas to consider: 

  • Baked salmon fillet served over baby spinach salad drizzled with olive oil vinaigrette
  • 1 grilled chicken breast over couscous salad topped with bell peppers & pineapples
  • Smoked turkey sandwich served on rye bread with lettuce & tomato slices 
  • Jasmine rice topped with sauteed vegetables & baked tilapia

Dinner On A 1200-Calorie Meal Plan

At night, you should aim for between 300 and 400 calories. Here are some great dinner ideas to try: 

  • Chicken breast served with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans 
  • Whole grain pasta topped with sweet tomato sauce and a side salad of mixed greens drizzled with Italian dressing 
  • Grilled salmon fillet served over brown rice pilaf & roasted asparagus spears 
  • Shrimp fajitas made with whole wheat tortillas, grilled chicken breast strips, bell peppers, onions, refried black beans and salsa verde sauce. 

Snacks On A 1200-Calorie Meal Plan

In addition to the three healthy meals above, you should also eat between two and four snacks a day. If you’re trying to lose weight, aim for around 100 – 200 calories per snack (or about 25% of your usual calorie intake). Some good ideas are: 

  • 1/2 cup hummus with whole grain crackers 
  • 3 oz. low fat cottage cheese served over mixed berries 
  • Mandarin orange slices topped with unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3 cups air popped popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon and vanilla extract

Additions To The 1200-Calorie Meal Plan

There are many ways to expand on this list to suit your individual needs and tastes. Here is a list of foods that can be added:

  • Drinks. Water is always the best option for a beverage. Water is free and calorie-free so it’s a great choice. Tea, green coffee beans, black coffee (in moderation) and unsweetened almond milk are also good options because they’re low in sugar and calories.
  • Occasional Treats. Dark chocolate, dark chocolate pudding, cinnamon roasted almonds, vanilla ice cream (in moderation), frozen yogurt (in moderation).
  • Fiberful Foods. Low carb vegetables like kale, broccoli and spinach. These foods are high in fiber which means they’ll help you stay full for longer which can help you stick to your diet plan (13). Because they contain very few calories, they won’t throw off your caloric deficit goals. 

The Bottom Line

Is a 1,200 calorie deficit healthy? Not for everyone. However, If you’re careful about monitoring your calorie intake , it’s possible to lose weight while still eating healthy foods that will keep your energy levels up all day long. Just make sure that if you’re following a 1,200 calorie deficit diet, you’re doing it with the help of an expert. Also, keep in mind that not everyone loses weight at the same rate so don’t compare yourself to others if your progress starts to slow down.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. A review of recent evidence relating to sugars, insulin resistance and diabetes (2016, nih.gov)
  2. Association of fried food consumption with all cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality: prospective cohort study (2019, nih.gov)
  3. Bone Metabolism in Obesity and Weight Loss (2014, nih.gov)
  4. Caloric Restrictions in Humans: Impact on Physiological, Psychological and Behavioral Outcomes (2011, nih.gov)
  5. Crash diets can cause transient deterioration in heart function (2018, sciencedaily.com)
  6. Dietary Treatment of Obesity (2015, nih.gov)
  7. Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables (2012, nih.gov)
  8. Health benefits of whole grain: effects on dietary carbohydrate quality, the gut microbiome, and consequences of processing (2021, wiley.com)
  9. Health effects of saturated and trans-fatty acid intake in children and adolescents: Systematic review and meta-analysis (2017, nih.gov)
  10. Interactions Between Dietary Calcium Intake and Bone Mineral Density or Bone Geometry in a Low Calcium Intake Population (KNHANES IV 2008-2010) (2014, oup.com)
  11. Is Too Much Salt Harmful? Yes (2020, nih.gov)
  12. Lean Meat (2019, diabetes.co.uk)
  13. The effect of fiber on satiety and food intake: a systematic review (2013, pubmed.gov)
Eve Chalicha

Eve is a freelance writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She has a passion for promoting good health and well-being and believes that education is the first step towards changing lives for the better.
For the past few years, Eve has been writing about topics such as nutrition, fitness, natural remedies, and more.
Thanks to her background in Legal studies, she has a knack for research and always prioritizes scientific facts over hearsay. She is also very socially conscious and ensures that her pieces inform and empower readers.
When she's not writing, Eve enjoys watching documentaries, going on nature walks, or just hanging out with friends.

J. Paul

Jovial is from Dubai, and is a Head EMS Instructor/Fitness Manager/Nutrition Consultant for REMS Fitness. He is certified by the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and Registered as a Gym Instructor.
Jovial specialises in HIIT training, Rehabilitation/injury recovery, Strength and Conditioning, Kickboxing, Body Weight Training and Weight Training, and practices each discipline himself. His approach is to focus on improving his clients’ lifestyle by motivating them and setting an example.

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