What Is the 1200 Calorie Diet?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 10, 2022
5 min read

Many popular diets are making their rounds on the internet. Whether you’ve found success or are searching for an alternative, there is a simple option. The 1200-calorie diet is designed to help you eat less without giving up certain foods. 

Consuming too many calories can cause weight gain and other health problems. Poor eating choices can raise blood sugar and bad cholesterol levels. High-calorie foods with few to no nutrients include: 

  • Soda
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Chocolate

A 1200-calorie diet can help you lose weight by keeping you on a structured meal plan. This plan removes the extra calories you might get from snacks and sodas throughout the day. Yet, a diet isn’t for everyone. 

People use this diet to eat fewer calories than they expend through exercise. An eating plan built around your current weight with your goal weight and exercise level factored in can set you up for success. 

Below, you’ll find the pros and cons of the 1200-calorie diet.

The amount of calories you should eat daily isn’t black and white. There are some formulas you can follow to determine the recommended amount of calories you should eat to maintain weight. These are similar to the ones you can use to find a plan to lose weight. 

To start, multiply your current weight by 15. This is the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to aim for a meal plan that keeps you under that number.

Determining your calorie intake also depends on your activity level. 

Sedentary. You may lead a sedentary lifestyle if you’re inactive or spend very little time doing cardio or strength training exercises. Examples of how you spend your time include reading, watching TV, or using the computer. A majority of your time is spent sitting down or lounging around. 

Light physical activity. This level of activity includes some casual, light walking. You may have hobbies that bring you outside and get you moving. These activities could include fishing, gardening, and walking your dog. 

Moderate physical activity. At this level of activity, you spend some time working out. You may spend about two to three hours a week in the gym or doing something active. These activities might include strength training, running, biking, or tennis. 

Consistent physical activity. Working out daily in some way means you’re consistently active. You may train regularly or compete in sports. These vigorous physical activities include playing volleyball, skiing, or running long distances. 

If you’re moving less, you might need to eat less calories. The calories you need to eat to lose weight revolve around the caloric deficit. The 1200-calorie diet focuses on how much you eat and less on what you eat.

The 1200-calorie diet can be healthy and effective if you design a plan that works best for your body type and hunger levels. It’s best not to restrict yourself, so choosing foods you enjoy that make you feel full is a great first step to making this diet work for you. 

Studies have shown that certain diets can be a safe and effective weight loss strategy. While this does depend on what you’re eating to fill your 1200-calorie plan, eating less to lose weight has other health benefits. 

This diet can be healthy if you plan ahead. You don’t want to start the diet with too many decisions to make and calories to count. Determine what you’ll be eating for your meals and snacks ahead of time to set yourself up for success.

A low-calorie diet is safe, but you should discuss it with your doctor. If you have diabetes or other health conditions, discuss the benefits of the 1200-calorie diet before trying it. 

The 1200-calorie diet is geared toward women. Men's bodies require a higher caloric intake. This means that a typical woman can eat between 1200 and 1500 calories a day to lose weight. A typical male body needs about 1500 to 1800 calories daily to lose weight. 

But if you have diabetes and are on a low-calorie diet, you should monitor your blood sugar levels to avoid any problems. The change in your diet could affect your blood sugar regulation with insulin.  

The guidelines for weight loss change with new research, and the nutritional management of obesity is more challenging. While many weight loss programs claim to offer the only solution, restricted calorie diets will help you lose weight. It may not be feasible for you only to eat 1200 calories. 

By following the formula above and talking with your doctor, you'll be able to find a safe caloric intake for your current weight and healthy goal weight. This will keep you from disrupting your body's ability to absorb nutrients and "crash" dieting

Eating a healthy ratio of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins is the safer option for creating a sustainable meal plan. Eating a quality diet and maintaining a caloric deficit is a healthier alternative to restrictive diets that cut out whole food groups.

Eating less can help you feel more energetic and reduce weight gain. Reducing your overall calorie intake enables you to eat fewer foods with little nutritional content. Because you’ll want foods that help you feel fuller, you could choose low-fat options that keep you satisfied. 

The amount of weight you lose on a 1200-calorie diet depends on how active you are during the diet and other factors like your age, weight, and body composition. When setting weight loss goals, make sure you’re setting realistic, healthy standards. Small amounts of weight loss are beneficial to your overall health.

Success with the 1200-calorie diet is finding the right foods to fill you up and sticking to your meal plans. Creating a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack plan can help keep you on track to stay within 1200 calories. 

Some examples for breakfast include jelly on whole wheat toast with a glass of milk or orange juice. You may choose to swap toast for shredded wheat cereal instead.

Lunch food examples include sandwiches filled with protein and vegetables. An apple on the side and a glass of water can help make you feel fuller longer.  

Leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, and other similar vegetables are high in fiber and water. Adding these non-starchy vegetables to your lunch and dinner can help you feel full. 

If you need some dinner plans, you could make salmon, a baked potato, and vegetables like green beans or carrots. Depending on how many calories you have left, don't be afraid to have a dinner roll and a sweet tea on the side.

There are health risks to the 1200-calorie diet. If any of the following apply to you, talk to your doctor before attempting this diet: 

  • You're a lean muscle mass builder
  • You're a large man
  • You have disordered eating
  • You're malnourished

Eating a low-calorie diet can cause problems if you are experiencing any of the above. Not eating enough calories can cause your body tissue to break down. 

It's important to know that this diet is not for everyone. Use caution before restricting your diet. Listen to what your body needs and what your doctor or a registered dietitian recommends.