Nutrition facts to lose weight

Many food products are promoted as healthy choices and are often advertised as ‘low fat’, ‘sugar free’ or ‘high in fibre’ to quote just a few. Unfortunately, just because a product makes one food claim, doesn’t mean it is the best or the healthiest choice.

A product labelled as ‘low fat’ for example may still contain a huge amount of calories from sugar. Similarly a product that is claimed to be ‘cholesterol free’ may still be high in fat.

Fortunately, it is mandatory for food manufacturers to put a nutrition information label on all their products, a development that has made it easier for shoppers to make informed choices about what they are really eating, and to choose the healthiest options for general well-being as well as weight loss.

Contents

The importance of a food label

Even with mandatory nutrition labels, there are still tricks used by food companies to make a product seem healthier than it really is.

One such example is individual tubs of yogurt, which list nutritional information for a 100g serve of the product, when in fact a tub is 200g.

It is unlikely that many consumers leave half the small container, so the majority of people are consuming twice as many calories, fat and sugar than the label states.

For this reason it is important to know how to read a food label correctly.

It is also important to know what to aim for when choosing a product.

How much fat is too much fat? How much fibre is in ‘high fibre’ product? How many calories are in the serve size?

Knowing the answers to these questions can make it easier to choose the healthier options when faced with the multitude of products available to us today.

How to read a nutrition label

This is usually the first thing you will see on the label and tells you what size portion of the food is considered a serve. It is usually a weight or in the case of a product such as biscuits may be a number of biscuits.

It is important to relate this back to the size or weight of the total product as discussed with the yogurt above.

You can use our free calorie counter to analyze nutrition information for more than 200,000 foods and drinks. You can also plan and keep track of your meals. Click on the image to get started!

The number of servings per packet may also be useful in calculating the nutritional content of what you are eating.

For example if a packet of biscuits contains 10 serves, and you eat half the packet, you will need to multiply the nutritional information by five to find the total amount you have consumed.

When dieting it may be useful to measure out portions with a scale or cup, at least the first time, so that you know exactly what you are eating and what a serve size looks like in your bowl.

This is particularly important for foods such as breakfast cereals, when serve sizes can be a lot smaller than what the average person is used to consuming.

When comparing the nutrition values of two foods, it is essential to make sure the serve sizes are the same so that you are comparing like with like.

Some foods may also have nutrition content per 100g column which makes this job easier.

Calories and calories from fat

This lists the energy or calorie content of a serve of the product, and how much of this is derived from fat.

In this way we can tell if a product is high or low in fat. It is important to remember that not all fats are created equal however, and a high fat product may in fact have a large amount of beneficial unsaturated fats.

To determine the type of fat in a product we must check the nutrient values further down on the label. If an item has a low amount of calories from fat, but appears to have a high number of calories, check the sugar content.

1. Nutrients- Fat, carbohydrates, protein, sodium and fibre.

This part of the nutrition label features quantities and types of fats and carbohydrates, as well as protein, sodium and fibre content of the product.

Fat

Total, saturated and trans fats are listed as well as cholesterol. Look for products with less than 10g of fat per 100g, ideally with less than 3g of this from saturated fat and minimal to no trans fats. Some products may also list other types of fats such as healthy omega 3s.

Carbohydrates

Total carbohydrates and sugar content are found on the label. Look for products with less than 10g of sugar per 100g serving if possible, although if the product contains fruit this is likely to be difficult. In this case aim for 20g or less.

Protein

The total protein content of a product is listed here.

Fibre

The fibre content of the product can also be found in this part of the label. For carbohydrate based products such as breakfast cereals and breads look for more than 3g of fibre per serve.

Sodium

Many processed foods contain a high quantity of sodium. Try to find products with less than 120mg of sodium per 100g for a healthy level of sodium intake.

2. Vitamins and Minerals

Information for calcium, iron, vitamin A and C are mandatory on food labels, but some manufacturers include other vitamins and minerals such as niacin, folic acid or other B vitamins if a food is particularly high in one of these.

3. Percentage of daily requirements

In addition to a weight for each nutrient in the product, labels also provide a percentage value based on daily requirements for that nutrient.

This can help you work out if a product is high or low in a certain nutrient.

For example, if an instant soup contains 90% of the daily requirement for sodium, it can be concluded that the product is high in salt and probably not a healthy choice. These daily calorie requirements are based on a 2000 calorie diet and will not be correct for everybody, however, than can be used to get a general idea to determine whether the product is high or low in a certain nutrient.

4. Nutrient claims

To make claims such as ‘low fat’, high fibre’ or ‘sugar free’, the product must meet certain guidelines set by the FDA1.

Claim Requirement
Fat-free Less than 0.5g of fat per serve
Low fat Less than 3g of fat per serve
Less fat 25% less fat than comparable product
Saturated fat free Less than 0.5g saturated fat and 0.5g trans-fatty acids per serve
Cholesterol free Less than 2mg of cholesterol and less than 2g of saturated fat per serve
Reduced calorie 25% fewer calories per serve than comparable foods
Low calorie Less than 40 calories per serve
Lean Less than 10g fat, 4.5g saturated fat and 95mg of cholesterol per 100g
Light (fat) 50% less fat than comparable food
Light (calories) 1/3 fewer calories than comparable foods
High-Fibre 5g or more per serve
Sugar free Less than 0.5g sugar per serve
Sodium/salt free Less than 5mg of sodium per serve
Low sodium Less than 140mg per serve
Healthy A product low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium with at least 10% of daily requirements for vitamin A, C, iron, calcium, protein and fibre

5. Ingredients

All products contain a list of ingredients, starting with the one that is most abundant in the product and continuing to the ingredient which is in the smallest quantity.

This is most useful if you are trying to avoid a certain ingredient such as gluten or corn syrup.

What to look for on nutrition labels for health and weight loss

Fruit and vegetables

  • All fresh fruit and vegetables are good choices
  • Choose no added salt and sugar varieties of canned fruit and vegetables.
  • Read also about Low GI foods and how they can help you lose weight

Breads and Cereals

  • 3g of fibre or more per serve
  • less than 120g of sodium per serve
  • Less than 10g sugar per 100g (20g if the product contains fruit)
  • Choose multigrain or wholegrain varieties
  • Choose untoasted muesli

Drinks

  • Don’t forget that drinks have calories as well. Find out which are the best weight loss drinks.

Fats and oils

  • Choose oils and spreads made from olive, canola, peanut, soy, sunflower or safflower.

Dairy products (excluding cheese)

  • less than 3g total fat per 100g
  • less than 1.5g saturated fat per 100g

Cheese

  • Buy the variety with least fat and sodium per 100g.

Meat, chicken, fish, nuts, legumes

  • 10g total fat or less per 100g
  • less than 3g of this of saturated fat
  • less than 120mg sodium per 100g
  • Choose no added salt varieties of tinned products
  • Choose unsalted nuts

Snacks and treat foods

  • less than 145 calories per serve
  • Compare products and choose those with the least saturated fats and sodium.

Following these guidelines for label reading makes it easier to choose healthier food products lower in fat and calories for weight loss.

It is also easier to compare products to find the healthier choices for your body. Make sure that you also read our Weight loss tips for general guidelines on how to switch to a healthier lifestyle.

References used for this article.

Reading Food Labels

What should I eat?

This question has so many potential answers that it can be overwhelming to find the right one. Fortunately, there’s a tool that can help us make more informed eating decisions: the nutrition label.

Nutrition labels can tell us exactly what’s in our food before we eat it. If you know how to read nutrition labels, they can help you stick with a nutritious diet during your weight loss program and beyond.

Nutrition labels can make it easier to:

  • Eat healthy portion sizes
  • Cut calories, carbohydrates and unhealthy fats from your diet
  • Eat more essential nutrients

Making Sense of the Nutrition Label

From top to bottom, here are the sections of the nutrition label and how to use them to your advantage:

Serving Size

Because it tells you how much you’ll need to eat to get the calories and nutrients listed below, the serving size is your guide to the rest of the label. Just be sure to check out both the serving size and the number of servings per container—you should never assume that a whole package is a single serving.

Calories

You can use the number of total calories to compare different foods and choose low-calorie options. In this section, you’ll also find information on calories from fat, which can help you quickly find foods that are lower in overall fat content.

Nutritional Value

The rest of the nutrition label is devoted to the many different nutrients each food contains, like fat, sodium, carbohydrates, protein and fiber. Each nutrient is listed by grams or milligrams, while some are also listed by percent daily value (sometimes abbreviated as % DV).

Percent daily value is a general recommendation for the amount of each nutrient in a 2,000-calorie diet. If the label says a food contains 20 percent vitamin C, this means that one serving will provide 20 percent of the vitamin C most people need in one day.

Percent daily value may not apply directly to your diet, especially during medical weight loss, but it can still tell you if a food is a good or poor source of certain nutrients.

  • If a food has 20 percent or more of a nutrient, it’s high in that nutrient.
  • If a food has five percent or less of a nutrient, it’s low in that nutrient.

By using percent daily value and comparing the nutritional value of different foods, you can find better options for your diet. In general, you should look for foods that are low in:

  • Total fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Carbohydrates
  • Sugar

You should also try to find foods that are higher in:

  • Protein
  • Dietary fiber
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron

Many people look right past nutrition labels, but paying more attention to them can help you keep your food choices as healthy as possible. With a better understanding of the information a nutrition label provides, you can maintain a balanced diet during your weight loss program and the rest of your life.

Emotional Eating

When we eat, it isn’t always because we’re hungry. Sometimes when we feel emotions like stress, anger, sadness or boredom, we turn to food for comfort, hoping that it will soothe some of the complex emotions we’re dealing with. Unfortunately, this often leaves us feeling worse.

Emotional eating happens when we eat because of emotions instead of hunger, and it’s a frequent cause of overeating. Everyone experiences emotional eating to some degree, but by learning how to anticipate and overcome it, you can help yourself achieve better health and lasting weight loss.

Eliminating Dieter’s Mentality

Many different diets can lead us to form rigid rules about what we should and should not eat. When we get stuck in a dieter’s mentality, we may deeply scrutinize our choices and feel angry or guilty when we eat something we believe to be bad.

Unfortunately, when we make eating choices based on inflexible rules and depriving ourselves of certain foods, it can make our desire to eat “bad” foods even stronger.

Carbohydrates and Weight Loss

Because carbohydrates can be used as a primary energy source by our bodies, they have an important role in our diets. However, many people eat carbs in excess, and this often contributes to weight gain. During your weight loss program, you’ll be reducing your carb intake, which will help you avoid the fat buildup caused by high carbohydrate consumption and take advantage of your body’s ability to burn fat.

Dining Out during Medical Weight Loss

Because preparing your own food at home will keep you in complete control of your diet, it’s the best way to ensure a healthy meal. You should try to keep eating out to a minimum during your medical weight loss program, which you can do by:

  • Eating breakfast at home or bringing your own breakfast to work
  • Bringing your lunch from home every day
  • Cooking dinner at home at least five nights per week, and every night if possible

Low Calorie Diets

While some weight loss diets focus on eliminating one food group or reducing the amount of food eaten at certain times of the day, a medically monitored low calorie diet is one of the most effective methods for achieving long-term weight loss.

Calories and Weight Loss

A calorie is a unit of energy. Each of us uses a certain amount of calories daily to perform tasks, like sleeping, walking and talking.

Mindful Eating Strategies

During your medical weight loss program, it’s important to develop healthy eating habits. Mindful eating is a way of eating that involves complete awareness of your food and how you digest it. It can be a useful tool when it comes to digestion, portion control, losing weight and eliminating “mindless” eating. In fact, mindful eating can even enhance how enjoyable your meal is.

Dietary Fats and Medical Weight Loss in Scottsdale and Chandler

There are many types of fats, and most foods contain a variety of fats. Your body produces its own fat from excess calories while some fats are found in foods from plants and animals. These are known as dietary fats. Dietary fats, along with protein and carbohydrates, provide your body with energy. Although many people think of fat negatively, it is essential to your health because it supports a number of your body’s functions. Not all fats are bad. In fact, some even promote good health.

Glycemic Index and Weight Loss in Scottsdale and Chandler

The glycemic index (GI) is a measuring system that shows how foods containing carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels. GI uses a scale of 0 to 100, with pure glucose measured at a GI of 100. Foods with high GI are foods that are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low GI foods are slowly digested and absorbed; therefore they produce gradual rises in blood sugar levels and have proven health benefits and promote weight loss.

Healthy Eating for Weight Loss

The path to sustainable weight loss is paved with healthy eating habits that last a lifetime. This is especially true for anyone in a medical weight loss program. Developing healthy eating habits can help you lose weight and keep it off without feeling hungry.

Share a Meal

Avoid eating alone. Sharing healthy meals with others provides many social and emotional benefits – good company makes food taste better. Eating with others also provides subconscious clues about healthy choices, portion sizes, and a cue to stop eating. Dining alone, especially in front of the television or computer, leads to mindless overeating and habitual snacking.

Pay attention to the calories per serving and how many calories you’re really consuming if you eat the whole package. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories and nutrients.

The next section of information on a nutrition label is about the amounts of specific nutrients in the product.

3 – Limit certain nutrients.

Check key nutrients and understand what you’re looking for. Not all fats are bad , and total sugars can include both natural and added sugars. Limit the amounts of added sugars , saturated fat and sodium you eat, and avoid trans fat. When choosing among different brands or similar products, compare labels and choose foods with less of these nutrients when possible..

4 – Get enough of the beneficial nutrients.

5 – Understand % Daily Value.

The % Daily Value (DV) tells you the percentage of each nutrient in a single serving, in terms of the daily recommended amount. If you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat or sodium), choose foods with a lower % DV (5 percent or less). If you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber), choose foods with a higher % DV (20 percent or more).

Here are more tips for getting as much health information as possible from the Nutrition Facts label:

  • Remember that the information shown in the label is based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day. You may need less or more than 2,000 calories depending upon your age, gender, activity level, and whether you’re trying to lose, gain or maintain your weight.
  • When the Nutrition Facts label says a food contains “0 g” of trans fat, but includes “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list, it means the food contains some trans fat, but less than 0.5 grams per serving. So, if you eat more than one serving, you could end up eating too much trans fat.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the Nutrition Facts label seen on packaged foods and drinks. In 2016, the FDA released changes to the label to make it easier to see how many calories and added sugars are in a product and to make serving sizes more realistic. These changes are still being implemented throughout the food industry, so for now you may see the redesigned version shown here or the old original version.

*Source: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

How Many Calories Should You Eat per Day to Lose Weight?

Calories are simply a measure of energy.

It’s a known fact that to gain weight, more calories need to be entering your body than leaving it.

Conversely, you lose weight if more calories leave your body than enter it.

That said, cutting calories without taking the foods you eat into account is usually not a sustainable way to lose weight.

Though it works for some people, most end up hungry and eventually give up on their diet.

For this reason, it’s highly recommended to make a few other permanent changes to help you maintain a calorie deficit in the long term, without feeling starved.

Here are 5 evidence-based diet and lifestyle changes that have been shown to help people lose weight.

1. Eat more protein

When it comes to losing weight, protein is the king of nutrients.

Adding protein to your diet is the simplest, most effective, and most delicious way to lose weight with minimal effort.

Studies show that protein both increases your metabolic rate and helps curb your appetite (3).

Because protein requires energy to metabolize, a high protein diet can increase calories burned by 80–100 calories per day (4, 5, 6).

Protein is also by far the most filling nutrient. One study showed that people who ate 30% of calories from protein automatically ate 441 fewer calories per day (7).

In other words, you can easily increase calories out and reduce calories in just by adding protein to your diet.

Protein can also help fight cravings, which are a dieter’s worst enemy.

In one study, consuming 25% of daily calories from protein reduced obsessive thoughts about food by 60% and cut the desire for late-night snacking by 50% (8).

If you want to lose weight sustainably and with minimal effort, consider making a permanent increase in your protein intake.

It will not only help you lose weight but also prevent ⁠— or at least significantly reduce ⁠— weight regain (9, 10).

Summary Increasing your protein intake can boost metabolism, fight cravings, and significantly reduce appetite. This can lead to automatic weight loss.

2. Avoid sugary soft drinks and fruit juices

Another relatively easy change you can make is to eliminate liquid sugar calories from your diet.

This includes sodas, fruit juices, chocolate milk, and other beverages with added sugar.

These products are among the most fattening aspects of the modern diet, as your brain doesn’t register liquid calories in the same way as it registers solid calories.

For this reason, drinking sugary soda doesn’t make your brain automatically compensate by having you eat smaller amounts of other things instead (11, 12).

Studies have shown that sugary drinks are strongly linked to an increased risk of obesity, with one study in children showing a 60% increased risk for each daily serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage (13).

Of course, the harmful effects of sugar go beyond weight gain. It can have disastrous effects on metabolic health and raise your risk of many diseases (14).

Though small amounts of natural sugars from foods like fruit are fine, large amounts from added sugar and sugary drinks can harm your health in a variety of ways.

There is no physiological need for these beverages, and the long-term benefits of avoiding them can be enormous.

Summary It’s important to avoid sugary soft drinks and fruit juices, as liquid sugar is the single most fattening aspect of the Western diet.

3. Drink more water

One very simple trick to increase weight loss is to drink more water.

Doing so can increase the number of calories you burn for up to 90 minutes (15, 16).

Drinking about 8 glasses (equal to 68 ounces or 2 liters) of water per day can make you burn about 96 more calories.

However, the timing of when you drink water may be even more important, as having it before meals can help reduce hunger and make you automatically eat fewer calories (17).

In one 12-week study, drinking 17 ounces (0.5 liters) of water half an hour before meals made people lose 44% more weight (18).

When combined with a healthy diet, drinking more water (especially before meals) appears to be helpful if you need to lose weight.

Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and green tea, are also excellent. Their caffeine content can somewhat boost metabolism, at least in the short term (19, 20).

Summary Studies have shown that drinking water can boost metabolism. Drinking it half an hour before meals can help you eat fewer calories.

4. Exercise and lift weights

When you eat fewer calories, your body compensates by saving energy, making you burn less.

This is why long-term calorie restriction can significantly reduce metabolism.

Plus, it can lead to loss of muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active, so this can reduce metabolism even further.

The only proven strategy to prevent this effect is to exert your muscles by lifting weights.

This has been repeatedly shown to prevent muscle loss and stop your metabolism from slowing during long-term calorie restriction (21, 22).

Of course, if you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t want to just lose fat, you also want to make sure that you take care of your muscles.

If you can’t get to a gym, consider doing bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, squats, and sit-ups, at home.

Doing some cardio, including walking, swimming, or jogging, can also be important — not necessarily for weight loss but for optimal health and general well-being.

What’s more, exercise has a variety of other benefits that go beyond weight loss, such as longevity, lower risk of disease, more energy, and feeling better every day (23, 24, 25).

Summary Lifting weights is important, as it reduces muscle loss and prevents your metabolic rate from slowing.

5. Reduce your carb intake

Cutting carbs is a very effective way to lose weight, as it reduces appetite and makes you eat fewer calories automatically (26, 27, 28).

Studies have shown that eating a low carb diet until fullness can make you lose about two to three times more weight than a calorie-restricted, low fat diet (29, 30, 31).

Not only that, but low carb diets also have many other benefits for health, especially for people with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

But you don’t have to go low-carb. Simply ensure that you eat quality, fiber-rich carb sources, focusing on whole, single-ingredient foods.

If you stick to whole foods, the exact composition of your diet becomes less important.

Summary Cutting carbs may aid weight loss by reducing appetite and making you eat fewer calories.

How to Read a Food Label to Lose Weight

The Nutrition Facts food labels, which are required on every packaged food product in the United States, contain a wealth of valuable information for people interested in trying to lose weight or eat healthfully. But if you don’t know how to read the label or don’t fully understand your personal dietary goals, that information won’t do you much good.

“There is so much wonderful information on the label, and there are so many people who don’t take advantage of that,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a weight-loss expert and columnist for Everyday Health. Here’s how to read food labels so that you can make choices that will will fuel your weight-loss efforts.

Deciphering the Nutrition Facts Food Labels

Start by understanding what each fact on the Nutrition Facts food labels means:

  • Serving size: This information, found at the top of the label, is particularly important when you’re trying to lose weight because all of the nutrition information (calories, fats, cholesterol, etc.) relates to that serving size, whether it be a measurement, like one cup of soup, or number of items, like 10 crackers. The number of servings tells you how many are in each container.
  • Calories and calories from fat. You need to pay attention to this number if you want to lose weight. You need to burn more calories than you eat every day. You also want to keep the number of calories from fat that you eat each day under 35 percent of your total calories.
  • Fats are calorie-dense, so you should try to choose foods that are lower in fat, especially if you are trying to lose weight. The label also lists the amount of saturated fat and trans fats in each serving. You want to choose foods that are low in saturated and extremely low in trans fats, as they can raise your blood cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease. On the other hand, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol. You should limit your cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day if you’re healthy, and less than 200 milligrams per day if you have heart disease.
  • Sodium. Sodium (salt) can cause high blood pressure, so it is helpful to keep your daily sodium intake below 2,400 milligrams per day.
  • Carbohydrates. The food label lists total carbohydrates, but also shows the amount of carbohydrate that comes from either dietary fiber or sugar. Subtract the amount of fiber and sugar from the total carbohydrates to get an idea of how many complex carbohydrates are in each serving. Dietary fiber is good for you, aiding in your digestion and lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes while increasing your feeling of fullness. Sugars, on the other hand, burn quickly and can raise your blood glucose levels, so you should keep an eye on how much is in what you’re eating.
  • Protein. Proteins burn slowly and are essential for building tissue and muscle. Look at the number of protein grams in each serving and the percentage of daily protein it provides.
  • Vitamins and minerals. This part of the food label can help you determine if the food is high or low in certain vitamins and minerals, including calcium and iron. Each nutrient listed on the Nutrition Facts food label comes with a Daily Value (DV) percentage that shows you how much of the recommended daily allowance is contained in a single serving of that food. In general, foods that are a good source for a particular vitamin contain 10 percent to 19 percent DV of that nutrient in each serving.

4 Foolproof Ways to Use Nutrition Labels for Weight Loss

Now that you know what information is on the label, it’s time to apply to it your personal diet plan:

  • Take the serving size into account. “All the numbers on that label reflect one serving,” Taub-Dix says. “If you’re eating more than the manufacturer is recommending as a serving size, you need to multiply those numbers by the amount you’re eating.” For example, you might be interested in eating a muffin because the food label says each serving contains just 150 calories. But if the serving size is half a muffin and you eat a whole one, you’re actually consuming 300 calories.
  • Apply the food label information to your personal health or diet goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to look at calories. If you’re concerned about your heart health, you’ll want to see how much saturated fat the product contains. People with diabetes will review the package for carbohydrate and sugar amounts.
  • Pay attention to the “Daily Value” percentages. You need to eat a certain amount of unsaturated fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins each day to stay healthy. You also need to limit your daily intake of unhealthy ingredients like saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium. Each nutrient listed on the Nutrition Facts food label comes with a percentage that shows you how much of the recommended daily allowance is contained in a single serving of that food. “This is very important because it gives you an idea of how valuable your food is,” Taub-Dix says. “If you see all zeros there, the food you’re eating may taste good, but may not have much value to you.”
  • Read the ingredient list, too. “Sometimes the food could say something on the label that makes it look like a healthy food, but when you read the ingredient list it’s not that at all,” Taub-Dix says. “Ingredients are listed in order of amount. The greatest quantities come first, and the lowest quantities come at the end.” A product that lists sugar or corn syrup as its first ingredient is guaranteed to be high in calories and low in nutrition, for example.

Interested in Losing Weight?

What You Need to Know Before Getting Started
Weight loss can be achieved either by eating fewer calories or by burning more calories with physical activity, preferably both.

A healthy weight loss program consists of:

  • A reasonable, realistic weight loss goal
  • A reduced calorie, nutritionally-balanced eating plan
  • Regular physical activity
  • A behavior change plan to help you stay on track with your goals

We want to help you with each of these components.

Keep in Mind

  • Calories count
  • Portions count
  • Nutrition counts
  • Even a small amount of weight loss can lead to big health benefits
  • Strive to develop good habits to last a lifetime
  • Discuss weight loss with your doctor before getting started

Getting Started

  • Check your Body Mass Index (BMI) – an indicator of body fat – and see where it fits within the BMI categories.
  • Discuss weight loss with your doctor and decide on a goal. If you have a lot of weight to lose, set a realistic intermediate goal, maybe to lose 10 pounds. Remember that even a small amount of weight loss can lead to big health benefits.

How Do I Know Which Weight Loss Plan is Right For Me?

  • Keep in mind that you want to develop lifestyle habits that will help you maintain your weight in a healthy range. A short-term “diet” that you “go on” and then “go off” is not the answer to long-term weight management.
  • In choosing how to go about losing weight, keep in mind key habits of people who have lost weight and kept in off. These people are called “Successful Losers” by the weight control experts who have studied them.

Key Behaviors of Successful Losers*

  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Reducing calorie and fat intake
  • Eating regular meals, including breakfast
  • Weighing themselves regularly
  • Not letting small “slips” turn into large weight regain
  • If you are considering a commercial weight loss program, read Selecting a Weight Loss Program or Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight-Loss Program.
  • Ask your doctor if you should have a referral to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). An RDN can provide personalized dietary advice taking into consideration other health issues, lifestyle, and food likes and dislikes.
  • You might also take a look at our Popular Diets page.

Resources for Healthy Eating

  • Shopping: What to Look For
  • Sample Reduced-Calorie Menus
  • Eating Healthy When Dining Out
  • Eating Healthy with Ethnic Food
  • MyPlate Plan

Resources for Healthy Activity

  • What is Physical Activity?
  • Guide to Physical Activity
  • Walking: A Step in the Right Direction
  • Active at Any Size
  • HHS Physical Acvitity Guidelines for Americans
  • How Many Calories Does Physical Activity Use

Staying On Track with Your Goals

Setting realistic goals and tracking your progress are key to your success. In fact, research has shown that those who keep track of their behaviors are more likely to take off weight and keep it off. A reasonable rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week.

These resources can help you set goals and monitor your progress:

  • Physical Activity:Strategies and Resources
  • Guide to Behavior Change

Questions or comments? Contact Us

7-Day Diet Meal Plan to Lose Weight: 1,200 Calories

Lose weight, eat well and feel great with this easy weight loss diet plan. This simple 1,200-calorie meal plan is specially tailored to help you feel energized and satisfied while cutting calories so you can lose a healthy 1 to 2 pounds per week. Each day of this 7-day diet plan features the best foods for weight loss, being high protein, high fiber foods (a combination that research shows can help with weight loss by keeping you feeling fuller for longer), and strategically balances calories throughout the day so you won’t feel starved. The calorie totals are listed next to each meal so you can easily swap things in and out as you see fit. Couple this healthy meal plan with daily exercise and you’re on track to lose the weight.

Browse More: Weight-Loss Diet Recipes

How to Meal Prep Your Week of Meals:

  1. Make a batch of the Baked Banana-Nut Oatmeal Cups to have for breakfast on Days 1 through 3. Freeze any leftovers.
  2. Meal prep a batch of the Chipotle-Lime Cauliflower Taco Bowls to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5.
  3. Hard boil 3 eggs to have for snacks on Days 2, 5 and 6.

See More: Healthy Weight Loss Meal Plans

Day 1

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Breakfast (271 calories)

  • 1 serving Baked Banana-Nut Oatmeal Cups
  • 1 medium apple

A.M. Snack (35 calories)

  • 1 clementine

Lunch (325 calories)

  • 1 serving Veggie & Hummus Sandwich

P.M. Snack (105 calories)

  • 1 medium banana

Dinner (468 calories)

  • 1 serving Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajita Bowls with 1/2 cup cooked brown rice

Daily Totals: 1,203 calories, 66 g protein, 177 g carbohydrate, 34 g fiber, 32 g fat, 1,186 mg sodium

Day 2

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  • 1 serving Baked Banana-Nut Oatmeal Cups
  • 1 medium apple

A.M. Snack (192 calories)

  • 1 oz. Cheddar cheese
  • 1 hard-boiled egg

Lunch (344 calories)

  • 1 serving Chipotle-Lime Cauliflower Taco Bowls

P.M. Snack (35 calories)

  • 1 clementine

Dinner (373 calories)

  • 1 serving Zucchini-Chickpea Veggie Burgers with Tahini-Ranch Sauce

Daily Totals: 1,215 calories, 45 g protein, 158 g carbohydrate, 30 g fiber, 50 g fat, 1,488 mg sodium

Day 3

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  • 1 serving Baked Banana-Nut Oatmeal Cups
  • 1 medium apple

A.M. Snack (70 calories)

  • 2 clementines
  • 1 serving Chipotle-Lime Cauliflower Taco Bowls
  • 1 medium banana

Dinner (401 calories)

  • 1 serving Easy Salmon Cakes over 2 cups baby spinach

Daily Totals: 1,190 calories, 59 g protein, 176 g carbohydrate, 35 g fiber, 36 g fat, 1,534 mg sodium

Day 4

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Breakfast (287 calories)

  • 1 serving Muesli with Raspberries
  • 1 clementine
  • 1 serving Chipotle-Lime Cauliflower Taco Bowls

P.M. Snack (32 calories)

  • 1/2 cup raspberries

Dinner (521 calories)

  • 1 serving Chicken & Cucumber Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce

Daily Totals: 1,220 calories, 62 g protein, 159 g carbohydrate, 42 g fiber, 46 g fat, 1,109 mg sodium

Day 5

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  • 1 serving Muesli with Raspberries

A.M. Snack (135 calories)

  • 1/2 oz. Cheddar cheese
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 1 serving Chipotle-Lime Cauliflower Taco Bowls

Dinner (454 calories)

  • 1 serving Mediterranean Ravioli with Artichokes & Olives

Daily Totals: 1,220 calories, 51 g protein, 161 g carbohydrate, 39 g fiber, 49 g fat, 1,478 mg sodium

Day 6

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  • 1 serving Muesli with Raspberries

A.M. Snack (95 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 serving Veggie & Hummus Sandwich

P.M. Snack (77 calories)

  • 1 hard-boiled egg

Dinner (405 calories)

  • 1 serving Curried Sweet Potato & Peanut Soup
  • 1 (1-in.) slice whole-wheat baguette

Daily Totals: 1,190 calories, 47 g protein, 168 g carbohydrate, 38 g fiber, 46 g fat, 1,281 mg sodium

Day 7

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Breakfast (285 calories)

  • 1 serving “Egg in a Hole” Peppers with Avocado Salsa

Lunch (345 calories)

  • 1 serving Curried Sweet Potato & Peanut Soup

P.M. Snack (220 calories)

  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 oz. dark chocolate

Dinner (371 calories)

  • 1 serving Spinach & Artichoke Dip Pasta

Daily Totals: 1,221 calories, 47 g protein, 139 g carbohydrate, 32 g fiber, 58 g fat, 1,741 mg sodium

WATCH: What to Eat on a 1,200-Calorie Diet

Guidelines for Losing Weight

Since food equals calories, in order to lose weight you must either eat fewer calories, exercise more to burn off calories with activity, or both. Food that is not used to fuel the body is stored as fat.

A major component of losing weight is to make smarter food choices. Here’s how:

Limit non-nutritious foods, such as:

  • Sugar, honey, syrups and candy
  • Pastries, donuts, pies, cakes and cookies
  • Soft drinks, sweetened juices and alcoholic beverages

Cut down on high-fat foods by:

  • Choosing poultry, fish or lean red meat
  • Choosing low-fat cooking methods, such as baking, broiling, steaming, grilling and boiling
  • Using low-fat or non-fat dairy products
  • Using vinaigrette, herbs, lemon or fat-free salad dressings
  • Avoiding fatty meats, such as bacon, sausage, franks, ribs and luncheon meats
  • Avoiding high-fat snacks like nuts, chips and chocolate
  • Avoiding fried foods
  • Using less butter, margarine, oil and mayonnaise
  • Avoiding high-fat gravies, cream sauces and cream-based soups

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Eat a variety of foods, including:

  • Fruit and vegetables that are raw, steamed or baked
  • Whole grains, breads, cereal, rice and pasta
  • Dairy products, such as low-fat or non-fat milk or yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese and low-fat cheese
  • Protein-rich foods like chicken, turkey, fish, lean meat and legumes, or beans

Change your eating habits:

  • Eat three balanced meals a day to help control your hunger
  • Watch portion sizes and eat small servings of a variety of foods
  • Choose low-calorie snacks
  • Eat only when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied
  • Eat slowly and try not to perform other tasks while eating
  • Find other activities to distract you from food, such as walking, taking up a hobby or being involved in the community
  • Include regular exercise in your daily routine
  • Find a support group, if necessary, for emotional support in your weight loss effort

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