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.
Some health care professionals claim that significantly 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:
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 the deterioration of muscles and bones (3).
Dehydration & Electrolyte Imbalance
When people cut out certain food groups altogether without considering nutrient balance, they may also miss getting the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. These foods contain electrolytes like potassium which help control nerve signals, which means not getting enough can cause dehydration.
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. Rapid weight loss might also be accompanied by increased fat content in the heart, which can impair its function (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).
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.
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 for most people 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.
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 a 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 added sugars can help regulate blood sugar levels. Keeping blood sugar levels steady can help you maintain a healthy weight and may reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases (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 a 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 along with healthy weight loss (4).
BetterMe app will provide you with a host of fat-frying fitness routines that’ll scare the extra pounds away and turn your body into a masterpiece! Get your life moving in the right direction with BetterMe!
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 and added sugars which are high in calories but low in nutrients. It might also trigger cravings for sweets which could increase caloric intake in the long run (1). Instead of these foods, try to incorporate whole grains, 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 lean meats, fish, and plant protein for an improved level of nutrition.
You should limit foods that have been deep fried, which are also high in calories but often lacking in nutrients. The excessive consumption of fried food products has been linked to various chronic illnesses including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes (2). Instead of deep fried foods, try to incorporate steamed or roasted vegetables into your meal plan as often as possible.
These products have been highly 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, use other spices and herbs to flavor your food.
Fruit Juices & Soda
These sugary drinks contribute a significant number of calories every day but only provide minimal nutritional value. Instead of these products, try to incorporate healthy alternatives like water, tea, coffee or skim milk.
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 fiber, 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).
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.
Betterme will keep you laser-focused on your weight loss journey! Nutrient-packed meal plans, fat-blasting workouts, galvanizing challenges, and much more. Try using the app and see for yourself!
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.
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!
- A review of recent evidence relating to sugars, insulin resistance and diabetes (2016, nih.gov)
- Association of fried food consumption with all cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality: prospective cohort study (2019, nih.gov)
- Bone Metabolism in Obesity and Weight Loss (2014, nih.gov)
- Caloric Restrictions in Humans: Impact on Physiological, Psychological and Behavioral Outcomes (2011, nih.gov)
- Crash diets can cause transient deterioration in heart function (2018, sciencedaily.com)
- Dietary Treatment of Obesity (2015, nih.gov)
- Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables (2012, nih.gov)
- Health benefits of whole grain: effects on dietary carbohydrate quality, the gut microbiome, and consequences of processing (2021, wiley.com)
- Health effects of saturated and trans-fatty acid intake in children and adolescents: Systematic review and meta-analysis (2017, nih.gov)
- 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)
- Is Too Much Salt Harmful? Yes (2020, nih.gov)
- Lean Meat (2019, diabetes.co.uk)
- The effect of fiber on satiety and food intake: a systematic review (2013, pubmed.gov)