Weight-loss calorie needs are based on age, gender and activity level.
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A well-balanced low-calorie diet is best when trying to lose weight and to keep it off long term. Getting recommended amounts of each food group -- just choosing smaller portions - will maximize your energy levels when you're trying to shed pounds. While using low-calorie diets is generally safe, very low-calorie diets require medical supervision.
Low-Calorie Diets for Women
For women, a low-calorie diet containing 1,200 calories daily is a good choice for safe and effective weight loss. While low-calorie diets for women often range from 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day, according to Weight-control Information Network, Harvard Health Publications recommend that women avoid dropping below 1,200 calories daily unless supervised by a doctor. Active women may require slightly more than 1,200 calories a day to lose weight at a safe pace of 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Low-Calorie Diets for Men
Low-calorie diets for men often consist of 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day, reports the Weight-Control Information Network reports. However, Harvard Health Publications recommend 1,500-calorie diets for men, as this is the minimum amount a man should consume without medical supervision. Eating fewer calories than this may result in nutrient deficiencies and side effects such as fatigue. Active men may require up to 2,000 calories daily to safely lose 1 to 2 pounds weekly.
Sample Meal Plans
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 provides healthy meal plans at different calorie allotments. Based on these guidelines, a 1,200-calorie plan includes 1 cup of fruit, 1.5 cups of vegetables, 4 ounces of grains, 3 ounces of protein foods, 2.5 cups of dairy foods, 4 teaspoons of oils and 121 extra calories each day. A 1,600-calorie plan contains 1.5 cups of fruit, 2 cups of vegetables, 5 ounces of grains, 5 ounces of protein foods, 3 cups of dairy foods, 5 teaspoons of oils and 121 extra calories daily.
A breakfast containing one slice of whole wheat bread, 1 teaspoon of peanut butter, one-half cup of strawberries and 1 cup of fat-free cottage cheese provides 231 calories. For a morning snack, try one-half cup of honeydew melon and 1 cup of plain, Greek yogurt for 176 calories. A healthy lunch might include a black bean burger on a whole-grain bun topped with one slice of reduced-fat cheese, and 1 cup of sliced cucumbers mixed with cherry tomatoes topped with 1 tablespoon of Italian salad dressing for a total of 348 calories. For an afternoon snack, try one-half ounce of unsalted almonds containing 85 calories. A nutritious dinner might include 3 ounces of grilled salmon, 1 cup of steamed broccoli and 1 cup of cooked quinoa providing 380 calories.
A breakfast containing 423 calories includes 1.5 cups of oatmeal prepared with 1 cup of skim milk, three egg whites and 1 cup of cantaloupe. For a morning snack, try 1 cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt with 1 cup of sliced apples equaling 202 calories. A healthy lunch might include 3 ounces of canned light tuna mixed with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, one slice of reduced-fat cheddar cheese, two slices of whole wheat bread and 1 cup of cherry tomatoes providing 428 calories. For an afternoon snack, try 1 ounce of almonds equaling 169 calories. A healthy dinner might include 1 cup of brown rice, 3 ounces of grilled chicken breast and 1 cup of asparagus for a total of 358 calories.