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Low-Calorie Diet

A low-calorie diet is usually used to achieve weight loss of 1 lb (0.5 kg) to 2 lb (0.9 kg) per week. Most experts do not recommend losing more than 2 lb (0.9 kg) per week unless you are participating in a medically-supervised weight loss plan.

General recommendations for a low-calorie diet include:

  • Reducing calorie intake to 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day for men. Women should not restrict themselves to fewer than 1,000 calories per day and men to fewer than 1,200 calories per day without medical supervision.
  • Limiting fat intake to no more than 20% to 35% of your total calorie intake. For a person following a 1,500-calorie diet, this means eating no more than 35 to 60 grams of fat per day. Eating foods that are made with fat substitutes (such as olestra) might help decrease your daily fat intake, but they have not been shown to lead to weight loss.
  • Choosing complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. About 45% to 65% of your total calorie intake should come from carbohydrate. For someone following a 1,500-calorie diet, this means eating between 170 to 240 grams of carbohydrate per day.
  • Choosing low-fat protein sources, such as fish, poultry, and legumes (for example, pinto beans, lentils, and split peas). About 15% to 25% of your total calorie intake should come from protein. For someone following a 1,500-calorie diet, this means eating between 55 to 95 grams of protein per day.
  • Eating 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day.
  • Having no more than 1 alcoholic drink for women and 2 for men per day. A standard-size alcoholic drink is:
    • One 12 fl oz (355 mL) bottle of beer or wine cooler.
    • One 5 fl oz (148 mL) glass of wine.
    • One mixed drink containing 1.5 fl oz (44 mL) of 80-proof hard liquor, such as gin, whiskey, or rum.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last RevisedMarch 19, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 19, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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