What Is a Low-Calorie Diet?
At Verywell, we believe there is no one size fits all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your health care provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.
What Can You Eat?
On the low-calorie diet, you’ll want to choose healthy, whole foods that are naturally low in calories. You have the freedom to consume your calories whenever it works for you, but you may find that it’s easier to stick with a low-calorie plan when you spread your calories over the course of a day.
In order to count calories, first, you’ll need to know how much food you’re eating at each meal. Start with a kitchen scale and measuring cups and measure out all your servings, at least until you feel comfortable estimating your portions visually. Remember that your beverages may contain calories too, so you need to measure what you drink.
You’ll increase your chances of success if you keep track of all the foods you eat.3 Keep your food diary in a notebook or with an app such as MyFitnessPal or the one included with a fitness monitor such as Fitbit, or an online diet site.
What You Need to Know
Before you start a low-calorie diet, it’s always a good idea to get a physical examination, especially if you have any health conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.4 It is also important to acknowledge (and get help for) any history of disordered eating. Issues can be explored and addressed with a registered dietitian or qualified therapist. Measure your body composition and decide on your goals.
For example, you can measure your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, which are two measures other than weight that can show your progress.
Next, determine your daily calorie need. This step is going to be different for everyone and will even change for you over time. Determine how many calories you need each day to maintain your current weight, then reduce that number by 100 to 500 calories.
It’s OK to start slowly with just a small reduction in calories. After all, this is a lifestyle modification. If you’re over-exuberant in the beginning, you might find the calorie restriction too difficult later on.
- Lean proteins
- Low- or no-fat dairy products
- Whole grains
- Herbs and spices
- Refined carbohydrates (in excess)
- Rich, fatty foods (in excess)
- Sweetened beverages
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