Saturday, November 5, 2011

What is a Low-Calorie Diet?

A low-calorie diet allows you to eat fewer calories by eliminating foods that are high in calories. Low calorie diets are usually used for weight loss.

Eating foods that are high in nutritional value is important when you are on a low-calorie diet. This will help you to get the nutrients you need for good health while using your excess body fat for energy.

A low-calorie diet usually consists of foods that are high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and peas. At the same time, foods that are high in sugar and foods made from white flour, trans fats or saturated fats must be reduced significantly or avoided as much as possible.

You can expect to lose about one or two pounds a week on a sensible low-calorie diet. That would mean consuming about 500 calories less than you burn. For example, if you are maintaining your weight with 2000 calories, a diet that provides 1500 calories should allow you to lose one pound a week. This estimate is based on the theory that you have to burn an excess of 3500 calories in order to lose one pound.

Increasing your level of physical activity will enhance the effectiveness of your low-calorie diet by boosting your metabolism.  As a result, you may be able to lose weight at a reasonable rate without starving yourself.

Keep in mind that very low-calorie diets can put you at risk for nutritional deficiencies. As a nutritionist, I don’t recommend this extreme approach. However, if you are determined to go this route, talk to your healthcare provider and a registered dietitian to get a clear idea of the risks involved. Comprehensive medical supervision is essential for anyone determined to go on this type of diet. 

You would most likely need to take nutritional supplements to make up for the low nutrient intake that usually results from a very low-calorie diet. That's about 600 to 800 calories per day. Clearly, at this level, you would not be able to get all of the vitamins, minerals and other compounds that your body needs to function properly.

A safe goal to aim for on a low-calorie diet is between 1400 and 1800 calories per day. If you are very active, you might even be able to eat a little more and still lose weight.

Please note that information provided on this site is for education and informational purposes only. Always talk to your personal healthcare professional before making making any major changes to your diet or before  taking large amounts of supplements.

Registered dietitians are the healthcare professionals most trained and qualified to help you create a diet that is just right for you. To find a registered dietitian near you, visit the American Dietetic Association website at And for daily tips to help you stay on track go to