1,200-Calorie Diet: What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Amy Richter, RD

A 1,200-calorie diet restricts caloric intake to 1,200 calories per day. This may have some health benefits, such as helping with weight management and reducing the risk of diabetes. However, it may not be suitable for everybody. If you are considering making any significant changes to your diet, it is best to contact a doctor for advice. They can advise on how many calories you should aim for per day. They can also help you create an eating plan that will allow you to meet your goals while providing you with all of the required nutrients.

This article looks at a 1,200-calorie diet, including its potential benefits and challenges. It also provides a sample menu.

Does consuming a 1,200-calorie diet create a deficit? 

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Consuming 1,200 calories per day may create a deficit in some people.

Calories are the energy units you absorb when your body digests food. These energy units exist in varying amounts in different foods.

When you eat more calories than your body burns, you store the extra as fat. So, eating too many calories may contribute to weight gain.

Fitness coaches may recommend inducing a calorie deficit if you want to lose weight. A calorie deficit is when you use up more calories than you consume.

You can typically create this metabolic state by exercising or adopting a low calorie diet. 

However, not everyone needs the 1,200-calorie diet specifically to be in the deficit. Individual factors such as sex, activity level, and body size can influence results, which is why a personalized approach may be necessary.

Still, most nutritionists consider around 2,000–2,500 calories Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source per day to be the average, depending on factors such as sex and physical activity levels. Many individuals also find that a daily deficit of 500 calories helps them lose about 1 pound of fat per week.

There are many ways to check how many calories you typically burn daily. You can calculate your daily calorie needs using an online calculator

Learn about how many calories you should eat in a day.

Claimed benefits of 1,200 calories per day

Here are some claimed benefits of restricting your calorie intake to 1,200 calories per day.

Weight management

By creating an energy deficit, a low calorie diet may contribute to weight loss. A 2020 review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source shared that energy deficit is a crucial factor for weight loss. However, long-term strategies for creating this deficit are necessary.

Maintaining energy balance by burning as many calories as you consume can help prevent weight gain.

Reduces the risk of diabetes 

A 2021 review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source emphasizes that a prolonged imbalance between consumed and burned calories can contribute to obesity. In turn, obesity may increase Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source the risk of factors that can contribute to diabetes, such as:

Maintaining a moderate weight through a lower calorie diet may help reduce diabetes risk factors.

Reduces the risk of other conditions

Gaining extra fat from excessive calorie intake can raise the risk of health problems, such as Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

A low calorie diet can help reduce these risks.

Learn about heart-healthy foods.

Possible risks 

Eating 1,200 calories per day may not be enough for many adults. It may also have numerous risks.

Nutrient deficiency and reduced energy levels

Severely limiting calories may lead to insufficient intake of essential nutrients, according to a 2020 review. For example, you may not get enough iron, folate, or vitamin B12.

These deficiencies can lead to anemia, fatigue, and other health problems.

Slowed metabolism

A different 2020 review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source notes that calorie restriction can reduce your metabolic rate.

When you limit your calorie intake significantly, your body adapts to conserve energy. This may slow your metabolism and reduce your ability to lose weight consistently.

Bone and muscle weakness

In some cases, eating a low calorie diet may cause the bones to lose strength. 

A 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis investigated the link between calorie restriction and bone strength. The paper found that weight loss related to calorie restriction may reduce hip and lower spine bone density. It also found that exercise-induced weight loss does not reduce bone density.

Also, weight loss associated with calorie restriction may also result Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source in the loss of muscle mass. You may be able to prevent muscle mass loss by consuming high amounts of protein and engaging in endurance and resistance training.

It is important to moderate your calorie restriction. It also helps to ensure that your diet remains well-balanced and provides all essential nutrients. It is best to contact a doctor or registered dietitian before making significant dietary changes.

Foods to include 

A balanced 1,200-calorie diet could include:

  • lean proteins, such as skinless chicken or fish
  • fruits and vegetables, such as apples, bananas, and carrots 
  • whole grains, such as brown rice and oatmeal 
  • healthy fats from sources like nuts or olive oil

Foods to limit

Limiting the intake of certain foods may help someone aiming for 1,200 calories per day consume a nutritious diet.

Examples of foods a person may limit or avoid include:

  • sugary snacks and those with added sugars
  • high calorie beverages
  • refined carbohydrates, such as pasta and pizza 
  • high fat foods, such as cakes and muffins 
  • other processed foods, such as crackers or chips

Summary

The 1,200-calorie diet can help some people lose weight by creating a calorie deficit. 

However, not everyone needs a 1,200-calorie diet to create a calorie deficit. Individual factors like activity level can influence results, so a personalized approach is necessary.

It is best to contact a doctor or registered dietitian before making any significant dietary changes. They can advise whether they recommend 1,200 calories per day based on your circumstances, and help you create a suitable eating plan.

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Medical Reviewer: Amy Richter, RD
Last Review Date: 2024 Feb 9
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