In order to lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you burn - but because the exact number of calories you should eat can vary based on a number of factors, including your age and activity level, it's important to work with a dietitian to establish some guidelines. Take this 1,200-calorie meal plan: while eating so few calories can help kick your weight-loss efforts into high gear, it should only be done temporarily, and it isn't for everyone.
"This type of plan would be most beneficial for someone looking to really dial in their nutrition for a short period of time," Amanda Nighbert, RD, told POPSUGAR. "It really forces you to load up on a ton of low-calorie, high-volume foods like vegetables and lean proteins. This focus on whole food nutrition can help detox the body, reduce unhealthy food cravings, and spark quick weight loss." That said, this type of meal plan would be considered too restrictive for anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as anyone participating in any type of endurance training (like long-distance running) or athletes who spend multiple hours per day training and conditioning.
A dietitian can also help you determine just how long to follow a plan this restrictive. Most people should only do it for a week or two, Amanda explained. "When we dial down our calories that low for longer periods of time, the body will adapt, which can create weight gain when more calories are introduced."
Once you're certain that 1,200 calories is where you need to be, this meal plan will give you seven days of meals and snacks that are packed with fresh, healthy foods to keep you satisfied. You'll see that some days finish just above 1,200 calories, while others just below, but these small adjustments balance each other out over the course of the week. Each meal should consist of one serving of the recipe unless otherwise noted, but always listen to your body. If you need an extra serving or snack, heed those hunger cues.