What 1,200 Calories Looks Like (Protein Edition)

Danielle Omar
by Danielle Omar
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When trying to lose weight on a lower-calorie diet — especially 1,200 calories per day, which is near the minimum count recommended for women (and the lowest for men) — it can be challenging to consume enough protein to build and repair muscle and feel satisfied between meals.  

However, with some thoughtful meal planning, you can minimize simple carbs and amp up the protein to feel fuller longer and remain within your calorie budget. Check out the sample menu below (click on the image for a link to the recipe) that illustrates how delicious and satisfying a high-protein 1,200-calorie day can be.






About the Author

Danielle Omar
Danielle Omar

Danielle is an integrative dietitian, culinary nutritionist, author and consultant, frequently lending her love of creating to high-profile food and nutrition media outlets. She’s a regularly featured blogger and founder of foodconfidence.comwhere she inspires men and women on their journey to become their healthiest self. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.


35 responses to “What 1,200 Calories Looks Like (Protein Edition)”

  1. Natalie Kohrs says:

    Where are the recipes?

  2. Rachel says:

    Only if you want to wreck your metabolism!! 1200 calories?!?!?

    • Pauline Pantaleo says:

      This is not a completely accurate statement. What happens is, when certain individuals cut calories to a certain level and loose weight, if they stay at the same intake/ outtake weight will generally stay off. Weight gain is because of eating mote than burned. In other words, some people have to stay at 1200 to maintain 110 (example). If the calorie intake goes to 1800 then weight gain occurs. Regardless if the deflect is from less activity, lost muscle or more food.

  3. Raine says:

    Whoa…the sugar in this meal plan is literally off the charts for USDA recommended sugar intake…based on a 2000 calorie diet (which I know most women out there aren’t getting if they’re trying to lose weight)! Daily max for women is 25g/day and men is 35g/day.

  4. Julie Jones says:

    We really need “nutrition experts” to stop telling people to eat 1200 calories a day in order to lose weight. Nutrition and weight loss are highly individualized and each person has individual health concerns. Taking a general approach to a highly individualized concern is a recipe for disaster. If you want to know how many calories you should be eating, make an appointment with a nutritional therapist who can really help you. Also, you need to factor in how much stress is in your life, how much you exercise and any biological factors that contribute to weight loss or gain. This article oversimplifies a very complex conversation.

  5. NiceGuysFinishLast says:

    I’d have to eat the person eating this to meet my calorie goals…. kidding, but geez really? Everyone is different, and unless you’re a sedentiary person, this meal plan seems like it would turn everyone into a bunch of soy boys/girls.

  6. Christal Thompson says:

    You can click on the meal name and it brings up recipes. I was hoping there was a way to “add” the recipe to our daily planner or maybe a “board” for future reference. do you know of a way to do that?

  7. Henrik Bredberg says:

    1200? Even if you sitting 15 hour on a day, and don’t move your butt anything, 1200 is absolute minimum.
    To build and repair muscle, you need to do some movement also, and eat more calories. I dont think this “diet” is for everyone, maybe ok for very few. This is very individual, me for example, eat around 4.000 and are almost always hungry.

    • William says:

      So, to be clear, you are saying that 1200 is the minimum and isnt for everyone in comparison to in the article where it said 1200 is the minimum and isnt for everyone? Your comment was literally said in the article.

  8. Kittydoll says:

    I don’t have time to do all that prepping but the food looks yummy. I drink 1% milk with my breakfast and supper and don’t see any beverages included here. I wonder how that would play out if milk was included.

  9. TamaraB says:

    You are seriously advocating people eat at a caloric level that is below practically any adult’s BMR? Below a level that would be less than sustaining if any of those individuals were in a coma? How incredibly reckless and unprofessional. My 9-year-old niece needs roughly 1600 calories just to maintain. Seriously, the 1,200 calorie recommendation for adults needs to die.

  10. Debi says:

    Too many carbs on this 1200 calorie day. I am only suppose to have 15 grams a day, for the Keto diet.

  11. Debi says:

    It is possible on a high fat, low carb diet like Keto. I stay full all day.

  12. Marilee Jikey says:

    The day plan looks great, the meals are tasty looking, with varied flavors, and, have nice eye appeal. Perhaps I should hire a chef to do this for me. I certainly don’t have the time for the shopping, prep work, cooking and serving that would need to be done. Plus, I don’t eat leftovers. Send me a magic wand and I will try this. lol

  13. Dehlia Sprague says:

    That example all looks well and good but what about people like me who happen to be allergic to eggs, chicken, tree nuts (no almond milk), peanuts and dairy? (also oatmeal, wheat, barley, soy, corn, beef and pork) Basically, my animal proteins are turkey and fish, and my grains/starches are rice and potatoes. And my doctor did a body-composition test for me, where they run a low electrical current through your body and it tells you how much of your body is lean mass, fat and water, and based on that, along with my age,and activity level and determined that I need to keep it around 1500/cal per day to lose weight. Anything less than that would be detrimental, and because my thyroid is already slow, I don’t want to cause any further damage by over-resricting. This above diet looks ideal for a 5′ tall office worker, though….

  14. Petite says:

    If you are petite, and moderately active, 1200cals/day is your allowance. BMR for a 5-foot 105lb person who works out 3 times/week is only 1000 kcal s/day.

  15. If I Had A Donkey says:

    CUT THOSE CARBS and forget the calorie counting!!

  16. Brian S. says:

    1155 calories by my count?

  17. stmahmood says:

    1200 calories is a dangerous calorie threshold to be eating and exercising. I recently trained for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament and had to lose 10 lbs (I lost 11) eating 1500 calories a day and exercising 5 – 6 times a week for 5 – 6 weeks. Sometimes I even questioned if 1500 was too small. Although, considering I had to lose weight for a competition, extreme was the route I had to go. I think I might have died if I was consuming 1200 calories.

    • William says:

      How did you do? I just did 1700 a day for 90 days. I lost almost 40lbs, went from 216 to 179. I’ll do an agf at 175 in a month and a naga at 169 next and then I’ll probably stay around there.

      • stmahmood says:

        I didn’t win, unfortunately, but it was a hell of an experience and the amount of discipline that went into the diet and exercise was an accomplishment. That’s some awesome discipline for you as well. Keep it up!

  18. Dori Kelner says:

    For those of you who didn’t read the opening statement, this post was for me (a petite yogi), not for you.You rarely see meal planning at 1,200 calories a day, and I appreciate that there is finally content directed at what I need. That said, I would definitely drop the shake as the sugar/protein ratio is awful. That leaves us looking for another high protein source, which is generally my problem. It would be great if there were some other options provided for the snack.

    • William says:

      Its probably a safe assumption that no one read that statement because literally not a single word of that was said in your opening statement.

      • Dori Kelner says:

        Not sure of your point. The opening statement says “When trying to lose weight on a
        lower-calorie diet — especially 1,200 calories per day, which is near
        the minimum count recommended for women (and the lowest for men) — it
        can be challenging to consume enough protein to build and repair muscle and feel satisfied between meals.” My diet is 1,200 calories. So this article is for people like me, not those who keep posting about how bad a 1,200 calorie diet may be.

        • William says:

          My point is at no point in your opening statement did you say this is my diet or I eat 1200 calories a day or in any way shape or form even imply that this is in anyway personal to you, yet you said that was exactly what you did. No one is going to assume that anyone in any health field is only going to write articles that directly relate to themselves.

    • Pauline Pantaleo says:

      !,200 is not starving. It is a sound amount for women who are either smaller, older, or other reasons. I am trying to adjust to have 1200 calorie days, but have been about 1500 for years. Since my activity level has lessened,

  19. Dori Kelner says:

    The post starts out by saying it is for those of us on a 1,200 calorie diet, not that YOU should be on one.

  20. Barbara Will-Henn says:

    I think I would have to challenge the amount of protein attributed to each of these meals/snacks. I feel each pushes the high limit if not exceeds the actual amount that would be provided by the serving/calories indicated. Even using myfitnesspal one is hard pressed to get the protein totals that are listed.

  21. JGray1 says:

    1200 calories or less will melt the fat off you. it is a hard way to live because actually you will eat very small portions. very small. we are used to enormous portions that no one else anywhere in the world eats as a regular portion. if you want to deblubber this is how you do it. or stay fat. the excuses in the comments are hilarious.

  22. Dana says:

    I can’t access the recipes. Can you help?

  23. blackeyedpanda says:

    The foods look ok but honestly I would be starving on this diet. You can eat SO MUCH MORE in 1200 calories by being a little more mindful and filling yourself up with low cal vegetables like mushrooms, courgettes, cauliflower and celery. I bulk up all my meals with those and it only adds about 200 cal over the entire day but at least I am not starving!

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