How To Follow A 1200-Calorie Diet

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The 1200-calorie diet is a low-calorie diet meant to speed up and support weight loss. It works by limiting one’s daily caloric intake to 1200 calories. Since this is severely limiting diet in terms of calories, it is usually not recommended men, large people, pregnant, or breastfeeding women, and those with an active lifestyle. People with certain medical conditions that require eating a balanced diet or maintaining a certain weight should also avoid such extreme diets. It is advisable to seek advice from a certified dietician when following this diet. 

What is a 1200-Calorie Diet?

1200 calories are the lowest number of calories considered safe to consume for the average person on a daily basis. The recommended daily intake is 2000 calories, so consuming only 1200 calories is a steep drop for most individuals and can lead to the loss of 1-2 pounds a week, depending on your activity levels and specific metabolism. This diet appeals to many, as there are no restrictions on specific types of food, such as sugars or fats. It may also increase your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which can temporarily boost metabolism. [1]

It should be noted that the number of calories needed per day varies greatly between individuals, and 1200 calories may be too low or too high, depending on the person. A consistent decrease in caloric consumption will lead to weight loss for most adults. A 1200-calorie diet plan is considered quite extreme, falling under the category of a ‘crash diet’. There are other dietary recommendations that are generally considered safer and longer-lasting, as explained in this article from Obesity Reviews. [2]

Woman measuring her waist with a measuring tape.

1200-calorie diet or a ‘crash diet’ should be planned carefully. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

1200-Calorie Diet Meal Plan

Although the focus of this diet is on the total calorie count, it is still important to consider what, and not just how much, you are eating. Calories are how we get the majority of the micro and macronutrients necessary for optimal health. When cutting out calories, it is important to ensure that you don’t force yourself into nutritional deficiencies, as this can lead to long-term health impacts. You should eat meals containing fiber, protein, vegetables and whole grains. A balanced meal covers most of your fundamental nutritional needs.  Here are a few ideas for the three major meals throughout the day to promote a balanced diet. [3] [4]


Starting your day with protein may contribute to weight loss. Protein-focused breakfast options include: 

Oatmeal, while not high in protein, is also considered to be a good option for weight loss. Try adding bananas and blueberries instead of refined sugars. 


For lunch, get some healthy fat in the mix, such as olive oil or avocado. Some studies have found that the addition of healthy fat may aid in weight loss. It is also important to include vegetables and protein. Try:


To round out your day, consider the following options:

Tips and Things To Consider 

There are many issues to consider when beginning any diet. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when following a 1200-calorie meal plan:

  • Safety: It is important to ensure your health and safety when restricting your food intake, particularly when eliminating up to 40% of your daily calories.
  • Needs: Your own caloric needs, based on age, gender and activity level, are important to consider before beginning this diet. A caloric intake of 1200 calories may be too low to sustain a healthy lifestyle for some populations.  [5]
  • Underlying illness: Dropping caloric intake is likely to lead to weight loss. But there could be many additional factors to address, such as stress, sleep, and underlying illnesses that may contribute to weight gain and obesity. It is always important to consult your physician before dieting. Combining a diet with other healthful practices, such as staying active and working can relieve chronic sources of stress.  [6]
  • Post-diet weight gain: It is also well documented that severe caloric restriction diets can be followed by a period of weight gain. This is often due to a return to standard eating practices, rehydration, or a slowdown of the metabolism. Caution and moderation are strongly recommended. [7] Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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