Low calorie diet plan
You would consider following a low calorie diet if you wanted to lose weight, because doing so would force your body to make use of fat stores as a source of energy.
Calorie requirements vary, and depend on a persons height, weight, age, gender, activity levels and overall goals. A diet plan that my be considered as low calorie for a 6 foot man in his 20’s who exercises 5 times a week may not be low in calories for a 60 year old woman who leads a sedentary lifestyle.
You can use the tool below to calculate a fairly accurate estimate of your calorie requirements.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, anything below 1700 calories a day would be considered a low calorie diet for a 30 year old lady who weighs 185 lb, is 5 feet 6 inches tall and exercises 1 – 3 days a week. If she consumed 1700 calories or less per day, she would lose weight.
Whilst you do need to remain in a caloric deficit to burn fat, it is important to make sure that you don’t consume too few calories, because doing so can have negative consequences. These include a lowered metabolism & immunity, nutrient deficiencies and weak bones.
In general, aim to stick to the ‘Lose weight fast’ number of calories shown in the calculator above, at minimum. If you plan on eating fewer than 1200 calories per day over a long period of time, speak to a qualified medical professional before doing so.
Once you know your caloric requirements, you can begin making changes to your diet. Here are some tips to help you control the number of calories that you consume without starving yourself.
Eat lots of vegetables
The vast majority of vegetables are low in calories. For example, a cup of cooked spinach has around 41 calories. This means that veggies should play a big part in low calorie diets because you can eat large amounts of them.
Many vegetables are rich in fiber, which when eaten forms a thick gel like substance that slowly moves through the digestive system. This can help you feel satisfied for longer. Studies have found that increasing fiber intake is one way to assist weight loss.
Loading up on vegetables also helps to reduce your risk of suffering from nutrient deficiencies because they contain large amounts of vitamins & minerals. A cup of kale for example provides you with your entire daily requirement of vitamins A & C.
You should aim to eat at least 3 servings of vegetables per day. These can include leafy greens, fruit and root vegetables.
Eat some fruit
Similar to vegetables, most fruits are low in calories, thanks to their high water content. They are also nutrient dense and a source of natural sugars, which comes in handy if you enjoy eating sweet food. A cup of chilled watermelon has only a fraction of the calories that half a cup of ice cream has, but it can satisfy a sweet tooth equally as well.
Fruits come in many varieties, so you have plenty of options to choose from. Examples include berries, apples, pears, mangoes, pineapples, bananas and oranges. Dried fruits contain more calories and sugar than fleshy fruits, but they can still be enjoyed in moderation.
You can eat fruits on their own as a snack, or with other foods like yogurt, nut butters and hummus. You can also use them to prepare healthy homemade versions of popular desserts, such as banana ice cream or mango sorbet.
Aim to eat around 2 servings of fruit per day. If you lead an active lifestyle, you can eat slightly more.
Eat sufficient amounts of protein
Protein is highly filling, which is why experts recommend that you should eat enough of it, especially when trying to lose weight.
Eating more protein can help to reduce your overall food intake and also boost your metabolism slightly. This means that it benefits both ends of the calories in – calories out equation, thereby creating a larger net calorie deficit. It also helps you to retain muscle mass.
Numerous studies have found that protein is beneficial for weight loss. This study found that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of total calories lead to a decrease of 400+ calories being consumed. Another study found that obese men who ate more protein had fewer obsessive thoughts about food and less of a late night desire to snack.
Studies seem to suggest that a protein intake of around 30% of total calories is optimal. Protein has 4 calories per gram, so if your goal is 1600 calories a day, try to get roughly 120 grams of protein per day.
If you are a breakfast person, it’s a good idea to include protein. Swapping carbohydrate rich foods like some types of cereal and bagels for eggs may help you to better manage hunger later on in the day.
There are plenty of foods for all kinds of diet plans that are high in protein. Examples include fish, lentils, unprocessed meat, beans, nuts, seeds, dairy and even some vegetables.
It is important to keep in mind that protein rich foods are not made up entirely of protein; this is a common mistake people make. A large egg, which weighs 50 g, does not have 50 g of protein; it has 6 g of protein.
Don’t be afraid of fat
It is true that fat is much higher in calories (9 per gram) than protein or carbs (4 per gram). Despite this, fat should still be a part of your diet, even when your are watching calories. What is important however is making sure that you eat high quality fat rich foods.
The ones that you want to eat are those that have undergone very little processing and are as close to their natural state as possible. Many of these foods tend to also be high in fiber & protein; examples include avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish. If you have ever eaten an avocado or a handful of almonds, you know just how filling they are.
The fat rich foods to minimize intake of or avoid entirely are those that have been highly processed. Junk foods such as potato chips, cookies and cakes fit into this category.
These foods are high in calories and processed sugar, but they don’t fill you up as much as other types of foods do. They also lack vital nutrients. Eating them simply causes your blood sugar & insulin levels to spike and fall rapidly, which can leave you feeling hungry once again.
Eat complex carbs
Studies have found that low carbohydrate diets are beneficial when trying to lose weight, so if your current diet is primarily carbohydrate based, you may want to reduce your intake.
You will still need some carbs in your diet, and just like with fat, you want to eat carbohydrate rich foods that have not been processed much. Examples include quinoa, oats, beans, vegetables, fruit and brown rice. These foods are high in fiber & nutrients and they provide a slow and steady release of energy.
The foods to avoid are the highly processed ones; again, junk foods are a great example. Most of the carbohydrate in these foods is in the form of refined sugar, which studies have shown is a major culprit of weight gain.
Carbohydrate requirements vary from individual to individual and will depend on factors such as a persons activity levels, age and metabolism. As a general guideline, aim for a daily carbohydrate intake of 50 – 150 grams and adjust accordingly, depending on how your energy levels and mood are affected.
Drink plenty of water
One way in which calories sneak into your body is via the beverages that you drink. For example, a can of cola has roughly 140 calories (and 30+ g of sugar), but very few nutrients. Drink a can of cola each day and that amounts to 1000 extra calories per week!
Studies have shown that sugar sweetened beverages are some of the biggest causes of weight gain. This is because the calories that they contain are not registered efficiently by the brain. They therefore don’t have as large of an effect on satisfying one’s appetite as calories from solid foods do.
Two large eggs and a can of cola have approximately the same number of calories, but the eggs will keep you feeling full for much longer, which will help to reduce the total amount of food that you eat later on.
For this reason, water should be your primary beverage of choice. Because it has 0 calories, you can drink large amounts of it without having to worry about how it will affect your energy intake. In fact, studies have shown that water can boost metabolism slightly and also reduce your food intake if consumed half an hour before a meal.
Some people mistake thirst for hunger and end up reaching for food rather than a glass of water. The next time you feel hungry, you may want to drink some water and then decide if you really need to eat.
Water requirements vary from person to person – the colour of your urine and your thirst levels will let you know if you are drinking enough or not.
Following a low calorie diet
Keeping the tips mentioned above in mind, you can divide up your meals according to your personal preferences. If you are someone who prefers eating less often, you can have 3 large meals a day. Alternatively, you can have 5 or 6 smaller meals at regular intervals.
With regards to the types of foods to eat, there are lots of options.
- Egg based dishes – eggs are low in calories but are very filling. If you are concerned about the cholesterol that they contain, you can eat egg whites and the occasional whole egg.
- Soups – are low in calories but can still be filling if protein rich foods are included in them. Soups are simple to prepare and are an ideal option for lunch or dinner.
- Dips & nut butters – these are great for snacking on, with examples include guacamole, peanut butter and cottage cheese. You can eat them in between main meals, together with vegetables and fruits.
- Smoothies – let you easily combine a variety of nutritious ingredients. You can use vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds & protein powders when preparing them. They can be consumed either as a main meal or as a snack.
- Grilled meats & fish – lean meats are high in protein. You can marinade them with homemade sauces and then cook them in various ways. Eat them together with lots of vegetables.
- Unrefined grains – quinoa is a great example of a food that is both high in protein and complex carbs. You can include it in breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes.
Example meal plans
Below are some examples of low calorie meal plans. Once you know your calorie requirements, you can devise your own similar ones.
Breakfast: 2 large boiled eggs and 1 cup of cooked oatmeal – 320 calories
Snack: 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt with 1 cup of strawberries – 147 calories
Lunch: 1 grilled chicken breast with steamed vegetables – 394 calories
Snack: a handful of almonds – 162 calories
Dinner: 1 cup of cooked lentils – 230 calories
Total calories: 1253 calories
Breakfast: smoothie made of 1/2 avocado, 1 scoop of oats, 1 cup of almond milk, 1 cup of spinach and 1/2 cup of frozen mango – 361 calories
Lunch: 1 fillet grilled haddock, 1 large boiled egg and steamed vegetables – 355 calories
Snack: 2 tablespoons of almond butter and an apple – 297 calories
Dinner: 1 grilled chicken breast with steamed vegetables – 394 calories
Total: 1407 calories
Breakfast: yogurt parfait made from 1 cup of Greek yogurt, fresh berries, 1 medium sized banana, 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 ounce of chopped nuts – 631 calories
Snack: 5 tablespoons of hummus and carrot sticks – 165 calories
Lunch: mixed bean salad – 310 calories
Snack: 1 low sugar protein bar – 190 calories
Dinner: 1 cup of cooked quinoa with mixed vegetables – 322 calories
Total: 1618 calories