The 1200 Calorie Diet Plan Explained

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Last updated: August 27, 2021

Losing weight isn’t just about busting your butt in the gym for hours on end. You also need to have a healthy and balanced diet plan in place, combined with a good amount of self-discipline.

There are literally dozens of diet plans to choose from, with new ones popping up each day. Some may work really well for you, while others are nothing more than a temporary fad. For those who want to see quick results, the 1200 calorie diet plan is something worth looking into.

What is the 1200 calorie diet meal plan, will it work for you, and what does 1200 calories look like in terms of real, nutritious food? Let’s find out!

What Is the 1200 Calorie Diet Plan?

In order to lose weight, the number of calories you consume in a day should be lower than the amount of calories you burn.

As the name of this diet regime suggests, the 1200 calorie diet plan is about limiting your food intake to 1200 calories per day with the primary goal to lose weight.

While it may sound like a lot, 1200 calories is in fact quite a low amount of calories, and therefore the 1200 calorie diet meal plan is only recommended for women wanting to lose weight. Men who are looking to lose weight should ideally still consume at least 1800 calories per day, and even that is considered quite low.

According to Healthline, the average women aged 26-50 years should ideally consume 2,000 calories per day, whereas the average man aged 26-50 years should ideally consume 2,600 calories per day.

Use this handy calculator tool to get a better idea of how many calories you need per day, based on age, gender, weight, height and exercise regime.

Check out this list of low calorie nutrient rich foods for inspiration!

Does the 1200 Calorie Diet Plan Work?

It is important to understand that just counting your calories everyday isn’t enough to be successful with this diet plan.

It’s vital that you eat food that provides you with healthy nutrients, rather than eating unhealthy food that don’t actually do anything for your body.

You have to make sure that you’re still consuming a good mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Chicken salad

To achieve good results with this diet plan, it’s crucial that you choose your 1200 calories wisely.

There is absolutely no point in drinking a can of coke to get your calories in. There are no nutrients in soft drinks and there aren’t any calories left in your daily budget to make up for it.

Choose Whole, Unprocessed Foods

Instead of eating unhealthy foods, try to plan your food intake around whole, unprocessed foods, packed with a great variety of healthy nutrients. This will give you enough energy throughout the day to keep you going.

The 1200 calorie meal plan alone isn’t enough to help you achieve, and maintain, your desired weight.

Exercise and dieting

This is why it is recommended to combine this diet plan with a healthy dose of exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle. That’s the only way for you to achieve results with this diet plan in the long term.

Examples of 1200 Calorie Diet Meal Plans

So, what does 1200 calories look like? Below are two examples of daily 1200 calorie diet meal plans that are both healthy and nutritious.

Of course, you can play around with the ingredients to satisfy your personal taste buds. Just use these recipes as a guide and you’ll find that creating new recipes each day will become less challenging.

Example 1 – 1200 Calorie Diet Meal Plan



  • 1 Glass orange juice
  • 1 Cup oatmeal
  • 1 Cup low fat yogurt
  • Coffee or tea


  • 2 Slices of whole meal bread with canned tuna
  • Salad with tomato, cucumber and lettuce


  • 100g Free range chicken breast
  • 2 Celery sticks
  • 1/2 Cup brown rice

Cucumber tomato salad

Example 2 – 1200 Calorie Diet Meal Plan



  • 1 Slice whole wheat bread toast with light cheese
  • 1 Banana


  • Sandwich with turkey breast and light mayonnaise
  • Handful of mixed nuts (such as almonds, and walnuts)
  • 1 Apple and 1 kiwifruit


  • 100g Grilled salmon
  • 1/2 Cup brown rice
  • Large leafy green salad
  • 1 Cup steamed broccoli
  • 1 Cup Greek yogurt

Grilled salmon with asparagus

These are just a few examples. As you can see, the 1200 calorie diet plan doesn’t have to be boring at all! You can still make yourself exciting and nutritious meals without having to feel really hungry.

It may not look like a lot of food, but you might be surprised how satisfied you’ll feel after having one of these meals.

Benefits of the 1200 Calorie Diet Plan

The only way to find out if this diet regime can work for you, is to actually try it out for a month.

Here is a summary of some of the main benefits when sticking to the 1200 calorie meal plan.

Lentils salad

  • If you want to lose weight, this diet plan will work for you, as long as you eat healthy and nutritious food. If you stay disciplined, you’ll actually get used to the healthy food which will have a positive impact on your diet preferences in the long term.
  • The 1200 calorie diet plan can easily be combined with other diet plans as long as you limit your intake to 1200 calories a day.
  • There are plenty of different types of meals you can prepare while still maintaining the 1200 calories consumption. Variety should not be an issue at all.
  • The 1200 calorie diet plan can easily be customized. This means that you can design your own diet regime that gives you 1200 calories each day. For example, you can focus on a high protein diet or perhaps a 100% low-fat diet, whichever you feel works best in your personal situation.
  • There are no restrictions to what types of food you can eat with this diet plan. Just make sure that your meals are healthy and nutritious.

Final Thoughts

Most of us will find it challenging to limit our food intake to 1200 calories a day. But once you get used to the 1200 calorie diet plan and start to see results, you will find that it becomes easier to get used to.

Keep in mind though that it isn’t the amount of calories that is the most important. What matters most is that you maintain a healthy and nutritious diet at all times. A diet that provides you with all the important nutrients your body needs each day.

If you do this, you will find that in the long term you can easily consume more than those 1200 calories per day without actually gaining significant weight. And that should be the goal, to maintain a healthy diet that can be well above those 1200 calories.

Losing weight, or maintaining a healthy weight, is about consistently eating well and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle that also includes regular exercise. Even if it’s just going for a refreshing walk in the morning each day!


Guide to the 1200 calorie diet and meal plan

Donna Harrison

I created Healthy Food Tribe because I am passionate about discovering new foods and learning everything about them. I am also a smoothie fanatic and I document all my favorite recipes here on my blog.

  1. I’ve been tempted to try this plan for a while, and I like the grilled salmon recipe you recommended. Do you have any other recipes I could try to help me keep within this meal plan?

  2. Hi Jess B, if you focus on lean white meat (i.e. skinless chicken and turkey), fish (i.e. tuna and salmon), fresh fruit and vegetables (i.e. broccoli and spinach) you really can’t go wrong.

    Maybe try one of these delicious chicken salads.

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