Eating just 1,200-calories daily helps women effectively lose weight, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, or NHLBI. However, the NHLBI also notes that active women and those weighing more than 164 pounds may need up to 1,600 calories daily to safely lose weight. Aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week when following a reduced-calorie weight-loss diet.
Women need at least 46 grams of protein per day, notes the Institute of Medicine. However, since protein helps you feel full, boosting your protein intake is often helpful during weight loss. The Institute of Medicine suggests it’s safe to obtain up to 35 percent of your intake from dietary protein, equaling 105 grams daily when following a 1,200-calorie meal plan. Healthy, protein-rich choices include nonfat Greek yogurt, low-fat milk, cottage cheese, egg whites, soy products, poultry, seafood, lean meats, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Carbs and Fat Needs
Cutting bad carbs — such as sugary drinks, sweets, syrups, white bread, white rice and baked goods — and unhealthy fats, like high-fat meats, full-fat dairy foods, butter, margarine, shortening and fried foods, and can help you stick within your 1,200-calorie daily allotment. Get at least 130 grams of carbs daily and obtain 20 to 35 percent of your calories from heart-healthy fats — such as plant-based oils, nut butters, olives and avocados. Choose fiber-rich whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables to help fulfill your daily carb needs.
1,200-Calorie Meal Plan
A well-balanced 1,200-calorie weight-loss menu for women provided by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 includes 4 ounces from the grains group, 3 ounces of protein foods, 2.5 cups of dairy products, 1.5 cups of veggies, 1 cup of fruit and 4 teaspoons of oils daily. This meal plan also allows you to eat 121 extra calories — from foods of your choice — each day.
A healthy breakfast includes two slices of whole-wheat bread, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, one-half cup of blueberries and 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt. For a morning snack, try a small orange. A healthy lunch might include 2 ounces of grilled chicken breast, one-half cup of brown rice, 1 cup of cooked asparagus and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. For an afternoon snack, try 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese. A healthy dinner might include 2 ounces of baked tilapia, one-half cup of cooked quinoa, 1 cup of steamed broccoli, 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 cup of skim milk. This daily weight-loss menu provides 1,204 total calories.