1200-Calorie Whole Food Diet

by Michelle Kerns

A whole food diet is based on unprocessed foods: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and lean meat, seafood or poultry. Refined grains -- white rice, white bread or regular pasta, for example; refined sugar; commercial items that contain hydrogenated fats; preservatives; and artificial colors or flavors are eliminated as much as possible on the plan. An "Annual Reviews" article published in 2014 concluded that eating minimally processed foods, especially plant-based foods, will enhance your health and help prevent disease.

Who Can Follow the Diet

Harvard Health Publications cautions that a 1,200-calorie diet such as a whole food diet is appropriate only for women -- men should consume at least 1,500 calories per day. Eating less than this amount daily may cause men to become deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. In addition, women who are very physically active may need more than 1,200 calories daily. Before starting a 1,200-calorie whole food diet, talk to your doctor.

Include Whole Grains at Breakfast

A typical breakfast on a 1,200-calorie whole food diet could consist of 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal topped with 1 tablespoon of nuts like almonds and a small sliced banana, paired with a glass of nonfat milk. This breakfast would supply approximately 301 calories. Avoid instant or sweetened oatmeal products in favor of old-fashioned or steel-cut oats. For a more substantial breakfast that provides around 357 calories, wrap a scrambled egg, 1/2 cup of cooked black beans and fresh salsa into a whole-wheat tortilla. Serve with a piece of whole fruit, like kiwi.

Work in Lean Protein at Lunch

A quick 431-calorie lunch on the plan might be a whole-wheat nut butter sandwich prepared with 100 percent fruit preserves, eight baby carrots and 1/2 cup of sliced fresh fruit. If you don't prepare the nut butter yourself, choose a brand with no added sugar. A 3-ounce serving of broiled pork loin, 1/3 cup of roasted sweet potatoes, 1/2 cup of steamed green beans and 1 cup of nonfat milk is another whole food-friendly option, with 410 calories. Check the label on the fresh meat, fish or poultry you purchase to ensure there aren't any added seasonings, preservatives or saline solutions.

Fill Up on Fresh Vegetables at Dinner

A 2-ounce serving of grilled chicken, 1/3 cup of brown or wild rice, 1 cup of sauteed, steamed, roasted or grilled vegetables like asparagus and mushrooms, a whole-wheat bread roll and a serving of fresh fruit could provide a 340-calorie dinner on a 1,200-calorie whole food diet. Whenever possible, select fresh, organic, in-season vegetables over canned or frozen choices. If you do need to use convenience vegetable products, look for ones with no added ingredients. For a meatless dinner, have whole-wheat pasta topped with homemade marinara sauce, roasted eggplant and grated Parmesan served with salad greens and a dressing made from olive oil and your choice of vinegar.

Stick With Simple Snacks

If you're careful to control your calorie intake at breakfast, lunch and dinner, you'll be able to have one or two daily snacks without going over 1,200 calories. A serving of fresh fruit like 1 cup of grapes or cantaloupe or a small whole apple or orange typically contains between 45 to 63 calories. While following a whole food diet, avoid fruit products like sweetened applesauce and canned fruit that is packed in sugar-heavy syrup. Other snack choices could include 3 cups of air-popped popcorn -- 93 calories -- or five low-fat whole-wheat crackers, which contain a total of 125 calories.

Photo Credits

  • JoanieSimon/iStock/Getty Images

About the Author

Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.