If you are planning to lose weight then you should know how many calories you each day. Calorie restrictive diets work well, but only if you correctly follow them! The problem with implementing a calorie restrictive diet is twofold:
- People often overestimate the amount of food that they need
- People underestimate the how hard it is to restrict calories
Here we share daily calorie tables and then provide advice on how to use this information to lose weight.
Remember that these are just average figures so you may need more or less than the calories stated here. If you wish to have a more accurate figure then read our page Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) Explained. Both of these are good weight loss calculators.
Also, you only need the higher figure on the days that you are most active. Doing two intensive workouts each week does not mean you need maximum calories on the other 5 days.
- How Many Calories Does a Woman Need?
- How Many Calories Does a Man Need?
- How Many Calories Do You Need to Reduce By?
- How many calories should you be eating?
- Do Not Eat More When Exercising
- Calorie Requirements for Teenagers
- Calorie Needs As We Get Older
- Calories in Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
- Structure Your Life
- Creating An Energy Deficit
- Permanent Lifestyle Changes
- Calories Are Hard To Count
- 1500 Calories a Day With Exercise
- What Does a 1,500-Calorie Day Look Like?
- How to Calculate Your Daily Calorie Goal
- Breakfast on a 1,500-Calorie Meal Plan
- Morning Snack
- Lunch on a 1,500-Calorie Meal Plan
- Afternoon Snack
- Dinner on a 1,500-Calorie Meal Plan
- The Truth About Calories
- Turns out counting calories doesn’t actually work.
- 1500 calories: Day 1
- 1500 calories: Day 2
- 1500 calories: Day 3
- 1500 calories: Day 4
- 1500 calories: Day 5
- 1500 calories: Day 6
- 1500 calories: Day 7
- 1500 calories: Day 8
- 1500 calories: Day 9
- 1500 calories: Day 10
- Low calorie snacks
- Tasty Recipes for Healthy Weight Loss: 4 Easy Meals in 1,500 Calories
- Quick Breakfast: Banana Pancakes
- The Ideal Work Lunch: Glass Noodle Salad
- The Snack to Beat the Afternoon Slump: Homemade Granola Bar
- A Protein Powerhouse: Hummus-Crusted Chicken with Vegetables
- Are You Exercising Calories Away?
- This is how many calories you need to cut in order to lose weight
How Many Calories Does a Woman Need?
The number of calories depends on your height and muscle mass, so these figures are averages only. However, this does provide a good starting point – aim to eat fewer calories and adjust your diet depending on results. Daily Calorie Needs for Females:
|Age/years||Sedentary||Low activity||High activity|
How Many Calories Does a Man Need?
Again, these are averages, and as with women, some men naturally carry a lot more muscle mass that others. So use these figures as a starting point in your weight loss plan. Daily Calorie Needs for Males:
|Age/years||Sedentary||Low activity||High activity|
How Many Calories Do You Need to Reduce By?
So, how many calories can you eat and lose weight? Studies have shown that women who eat 1000 fewer calories than they need lost around 2 pounds per week. This is a healthy and sustainable level of weight loss. The same rule applies to men.
Start by eating 500 calories a day fewer than your body needs, and if this is not producing results, decrease a little further.
How many calories should you be eating?
The two tables above show the average calories requirements for males and females at various ages for varying levels of activity. Sedentary means no exercise or rarely active. Low activity means walking, housework, some play. High activity means regular exercise, generally more active in work and life.
This is a general guide to the amount of calories you need to be in deficit to lose a specific amount of weight:
- If you are in a deficit of 500 calories per day you will lose approximately 1 pound per week
- A calorie deficit of 750 calories will help you lose about 1.5 pounds per week
- A calorie deficit of 1000 calories will help you lose about 2 pounds per week (about 1 kg weight loss per week)
- To lose 20 pounds in a year you will need to eat 200 calories less per day than you were eating when your weight was stable
- To lose 20 pounds in 1 month, you need to eat 2400 calories fewer per day. Overweight people who usually eat 4000 calories per day can lose weight quicker than lighter people – they can reduce their intake by 2400 calories per day and still eat enough to sustain themselves.
Do Not Eat More When Exercising
What often strikes people who are new to dieting and exercise is that the high activity group do not need many more calories than the low activity group. Being very active adds 300 calories for men and 250 calories for women.
This is the equivalent of a sandwich or a large white coffee in terms of food energy. This is why it is important that you do not eat more food just because you are exercising! The exercise creates a calorie deficit but if you eat more to compensate you will fail to lose weight.
Learn more about activity calorie burn (calories burned for different exercises) in our article on What is the Best Exercise to Help Lose Weight?
Calorie Requirements for Teenagers
We have highlighted the calories needs of teenagers as this is an important time during a persons development, and also a time when many people start to become more aware of their bodies.
Few teenagers are aware that their calorie needs are higher than that of any other age group, and for sporty teens, such as those that play sports or are practicing martial arts or are learning to dance, they need around 500-600 more calories a day than their sedentary peers.
During this time the quality of energy consumed must be high for healthy growth. What is worrying is the trend for many teens to skip meals to keep their weight down. They could be setting themselves up for long term health problems as well as stunted growth. We have a page dedicated to teenagers here: Diet and Weight Loss Advice for Teenagers.
Calorie Needs As We Get Older
For a woman in her 30’s that is not exercising, 2000 calories a day is enough to maintain weight. To lose 2 pounds per week, she needs to reduce her daily calories by 1000, which means consuming 1000 calories a day. If she is exercising 3-4 times a week then she can eat 1250 calories per day.
This may seem low, but it is how our bodies work. To lose weight you need to restrict calories, this is what is meant by a calorie deficit. Eating healthier foods help too. Lean proteins will be used to build new muscle tissue. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain fiber to aid digestion. Bread is full of energy (around 100 calories per slice) and has little of nutritional value.
Losing weight is not just about counting calories – it is about eating a balanced diet and exercising too. Diet without exercise almost always leads to eventual weight loss failure. See our article MotleyHealth’s Guide To Losing Weight to learn why.
Calories in Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
Typical Calorie and Nutrition Label
If you are counting calories to aid weight loss, then you need to know how many calories are in carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
- Protein has 4 Calories per gram
- Carbohydrates has 4 Calories per gram
- Fat has 9 Calories per gram
- Alcohol has 7 Calories per gram
You may think that the best way to create an energy deficit is to eat more carbohydrates, but not all carbohydrates are equal. To lose weight while eating carbs you need to eat low GI carbohydrates (effectively they contain less sugar) which tend to have higher fiber content, which means that you do not absorb so much of the energy.
All food that you consume is either used immediately as energy by the body or stored as fat for the future. You gain weight when you eat more than you burn, you maintain your weight when you eat as much as you burn, and you lose weight when you eat less than you burn. Understanding this is the key to start losing weight.
If you look at the calories in fat, it quickly becomes obvious why there has been such an emphasis on eating low fat foods in recent decades. Fat has more than twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrate or protein. A healthy and well balanced diet will have adequate macro-nutrients and still allow weight loss to occur.
Swapping fatty food for carbohydrate or proteins means that you can eat the same weight in food and take in fewer calories. The health food industry has taken advantage of this and produced many foods that are low in fat but far higher in sugars. Read Sugar, Carbohydrates and Your Health to learn more about this.
Structure Your Life
To lose weight you need to start to structure your life. You need to plan what you are going to eat each day so that you do not end up snacking on junk food when your fridge gets empty. You need to plan each exercise session in advance so that you never put off exercising because you cannot think what to do.
Find 5 workouts that you enjoy doing, such as bodyweight exercises, circuit training workouts, weight training workouts or just sessions on the elliptical trainer. This ensures that you can get variety in your new lifestyle and this helps you to stay interested.
If you plan your weight loss and calorie restriction, there is no reason why you cannot lose 100 pounds in 2 years. It will not be an easy task, but it will be rewarding, and the best thing you ever do.
Creating An Energy Deficit
If there is one rule that applies to every single overweight person it is this:
- To lose weight you must create an energy deficit
It is that simple! Although as we all know, implementing a theory is never as easy as writing it down.
The amount of energy you consume is related to what you eat and drink. So the first step in losing weight is to determine how much you are eating and make a guesstimate at how much you need.
Permanent Lifestyle Changes
ust eating less will work, but it is not as effective as eating less and exercising. When you eat less food than you need you create an energy deficit. You will lose weight, but your metabolism will slow down, i.e. you burn calories slower.
This means that you will burn less energy throughout the day, which reduces your requirements even more, so you stop losing weight. You have to eat even less, and the cycle continues until a point where you are not receiving enough nutrients and vitamins to maintain a healthy body.
By exercising while dieting you keep your metabolism high and you build new muscle tissue which requires energy. By increasing your metabolism it is easier to adjust your diet to make changes to your daily energy deficit.
It is recommended that you make permanent lifestyle changes that will help you lose weight at a steady rate. Generally it is advisable to aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week (0.5 – 1kg per week).
Do not forget that there are a lot of calories in alcohol, especially beer. Just a few beers a week can put you over your daily energy requirements and stop you from losing weight. For example, drinking one glass of wine per day is enough to add 14 pounds of weight over a year. One bottle of wine has as many calories as a large meal. So if you are serious about losing weight you need to ensure that you are losing weight every day of the week. This is why diets such as the Dukan Diet are so successful – they encourage you to give up alcohol completely.
Calories Are Hard To Count
The order in which food is presented to you can determine how many calories you think it contains. If you are shown a low calorie fruit salad and then a burger you are likely to think that the meal contains more calories than if you see a burger followed by a high calorie cheesecake.
Research published in the Journal of Consumer Research explains that simply changing the order in which 2 meals were shown to a person would significantly alter their perception of how many calories were in that meal.
This discovery could explain why so many people eat too much food and put on weight, especially those that love desserts.
For example, when people were shown a cheeseburger they estimated that it contained 570 calories, whereas when shown a salad first and then a cheeseburger, they thought that the cheeseburger contained 787 calories. Just by looking at another meal they thought that the cheeseburger contained more energy than it actually did.
“The sequence in which items are considered often influences our evaluations of these items” – Alexander Chernev, Northwestern University.
Just by changing the order in which the meals were viewed changed the perceived calories from 757 to 1,097 calories.
Self Regulation of Consumption
This principal can help you to self-regulate their food consumption which should reduce overeating. For example, eating more than one course will result eating too much, so stick to a single course.
Diet is the main cause of obesity and weight problems, but many people do not realise that this is the case. Many people think they are not overeating even though they are overweight. For your next meal, avoid starters and desserts.
This could also explain why people that love desserts are more likely to be overweight. They simply underestimate the amount of food that they are eating.
Learn how to measure how many calories you have used or consumed.
1500 Calories a Day With Exercise
Here is an example for anybody hoping to lose 100 pounds. If you aim to lose one pound a week until you reach your goal, you should eat around 1500 calories a day, and exercise.
Your diet should be healthy and balanced. Avoid sugar and saturated fats, and instead eat low GI vegetables, fresh fruits, lean meat, fish and drink water, tea and coffee.
For exercise you should aim to walk for at least 15 minutes every single day. Also do a 30 minute workout 3 times a week. As you get fitter you can do a shorter but more intensive workout 5-6 times a week. This helps you to maintain a higher metabolism and so burn more fat.
It is important to see your doctor before you start a weight loss plan that will see you losing so much weight. If you have not done any exercise for many years then it is wise to get some professional medical advice. Generally a walking program is suitable for most people that are obese.
One weight loss method that is growing in popularity is fasting. Rather than eating fewer calories every day, you have extremely limited calories on some days of the week, and eat more normally on other days. Take a look at our articles on fasting:
- 16-8 Hour Intermittent Fasting
- The TRF Diet Plan
- 5-2 Day CRON Diet
All of these fasting systems work, but you must follow them responsibly and ensure that you are still getting all the nutrients your body needs.
“Semantic Anchoring in Sequential Evaluations of Vices and Virtues.” by Alexander Chernev. Journal of Consumer Research: February 2011. A preprint of this article:http://journals.uchicago.edu/jcr.
Jon Wade studied Health Sciences at the Open University, specializing in Nutrition, Obesity, Diabetes, and COPD, and also has a BSc. from Coventry University. He has been researching and writing on fitness, diet and health since 2006, and has published an eBook, The Low GI Diet Plan.
What Does a 1,500-Calorie Day Look Like?
When you’re trying to eat better or lose weight, sometimes you just want someone to tell you what to eat. Following a meal plan that’s designed by a registered dietitian is a great place to start, but first you need to calculate your daily calorie goal.
Related: 7-Day Diet Plan to Lose Weight: 1,500 Calories
How to Calculate Your Daily Calorie Goal
Most people will lose weight following a 1,500 calorie diet. If you want to be even more precise about how many calories you should eat each day to lose weight, this simple calculation will give you a daily calorie goal that can help you lose a healthy 1 to 2 pounds per week.
To estimate how many calories you need each day to stay at the weight you are right now, multiply your current weight by 12.
To lose 1 pound/week: Cut 500 calories/day
To lose 2 pounds/week: Cut 1,000 calories/day
If your current weight is 160 pounds and your goal is to lose 1 pound per week:
160 x 12 = 1,920
1,920 – 500 = 1,420 calories
This formula is used in many clinical weight-loss trials and assumes the person using the equation is sedentary. If you’re an active person, you may find you need more calories than what you calculated to feel satisfied during the day. The best gauge for whether you’re at the right level is how satisfied you feel (you shouldn’t be hungry all day!) and whether you’re losing weight. If you’re losing weight on 1,800 calories a day and you feel great, stick with that. The calculation is just a suggested starting point. As you lose weight, you may want to run the calorie-target calculation again, since your calorie needs will have changed.
For healthy weight loss, we don’t advise losing more than 2 pounds per week. If you calculate a daily calorie goal that’s less than 1,200, set your calorie goal at 1,200 calories. Below that, it’s hard to meet your nutrient needs-or to feel satisfied enough to stick with a plan.
If you’re not sure, start with a 1,500-calorie meal plan (a calorie level that most people will lose weight on). Here we show what a day’s worth of food looks like on a 1,500-calorie diet. And when you’re ready for more, try our 7-Day Diet Meal Plan to Lose Weight at 1,500 Calories.
Some original reporting by Nicci Micco, M.S.
Breakfast on a 1,500-Calorie Meal Plan
For breakfast, choose something between 300 and 350 calories.
- Avocado & Arugula Omelet (344 calories)
- 1 cup green tea (2 calories)
TOTAL: 346 calories
Other breakfast ideas for a 1,500-calorie diet:
Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa Bowl
Huevos Rancheros Tacos
Strawberry-Ricotta Waffle Sandwich
Aim to keep snacks around 100 calories. Try these easy 100-calorie snacks here.
- 1 medium apple, sliced and sprinkled with cinnamon (95 calories)
TOTAL: 95 calories
Lunch on a 1,500-Calorie Meal Plan
Aim to make lunch 350 to 400 calories. Try some of these great lunch ideas for work.
- Roasted Veggie Mason Jar Salad (400 calories)
TOTAL: 400 calories
Use your afternoon snack to fill out the rest of the day’s calories.
- 1 cup cucumber slices (16 calories)
- 1 medium carrot, cut into sticks (25 calories)
- 1/4 cup hummus (104 calories)
TOTAL: 145 calories
Dinner on a 1,500-Calorie Meal Plan
Aim for dinner to be between 425 and 525 calories. Browse these healthy 500-calorie dinners for a 1,500-calorie diet.
- Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto & Shrimp(447 calories)
- 2 cups mixed greens (18 calories)
- Dressing: 1 tsp. olive oil + 1 tsp. Dijon mustard + 2 tsp. red-wine vinegar + a pinch each of salt and pepper (49 calories)
TOTAL: 514 calories
Daily Total: 1,500 calories, 79 g protein, 91 g carbohydrates, 31 g fiber, 100 g fat, 2,026 mg sodium
5-Day 1,500 Calorie Diet Meal Plan
7-Day Diet Meal Plan to Lose Weight: 1,500 Calories
14-Day Clean-Eating Meal Plan: 1,500 Calories
7-Day Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan: 1,500 Calories
See all of our healthy weight-loss meal plans here!
The Truth About Calories
Turns out counting calories doesn’t actually work.
Laura Amber WoodFollow Apr 26, 2017 · 4 min read
Calorie. Just hearing that word used to be enough to send me into a cold sweat.
You see, I had gained 68lbs while pregnant with my second baby and I could NOT get it back off. Obviously (to me back then) I was eating too many calories in a day, but whenever I tried to eat way less I was starving, and it made me want to eat soooo much more. It was this vicious cycle that was beyond frustrating and I felt like a total failure every day that my weight didn’t budge.
I became obsessed with calories. They were literally the only thing I cared about when it came to food. Not ingredients, not quality or even flavour. If it was low cal I was into it.
Sidenote: how crazy is that? Calories are the measure of energy that our body needs just to exist. It’s like being afraid of putting gasoline in your car….
Anyway…maybe you’re in that head space right now? Maybe you were? If you have dieted at ANY point in your life, I’m sure you can relate to the calorie obsession. So here’s why it’s so frustrating: Calories don’t dictate weight loss/weight gain. Not in the long term. They just don’t.
That old, ‘exercise more eat less’ strategy? It’s a total myth you guys! It’s taken me a loooooong time to come to terms with this and it may be hard for you to accept too, but read on and I’ll do my best to bring you to the light side (we have way better food here).
Using the calorie explanation of weight loss means accepting that if your body burns 2000 calories a day, and you eat 2000 calories a day your weight will stay static. If you then eat 1500 calories a day, you will go into a calorie deficit and lose weight. If you continue to eat 1500 calories a day you will continue to lose weight. With me so far?
Okay, so this theory assumes one very important thing: that your body will continue to burn 2000 calories a day even though you’re only eating 1500. The problem? That turns out not to be true!
What?! Restricting food doesn’t work? I know right.
Your body is ridiculously smart, and it does it’s very best to keep you alive (not such an easy task these days), so when your body realizes that you are consistently taking in LESS than you are putting out alarm bells go off. This is because if you continue to operate on a deficit, eventually you will run out of stored energy and you will die.
Now obviously your body doesn’t realize that when you reach XXXlbs you’ll stop the deficit, so it takes matters into its own hands. That means lowering the amount of calories burned in a day. So now, your body is burning 1500 calories a day instead of 2000. Your body is actually even a little conservative so if you keep the deficit up too long it lowers even a bit more, say to 1400 calories per day (just to be safe). Now, even though you’re eating LESS than you were when you were burning 2000 and eating 2000, you’re actually in a surplus and you can start seeing weight come back on!
Mind blowing, right?
This is what happened with those contestants on The Biggest Loser. There was a study that came out a little while ago (a year? Two? Somewhere in there) showing that the contestants who had lost all of this weight using the calorie myth (increasing exercise dramatically and eating less) had pretty much gained it all back. The worst part? They weren’t back to eating horribly or sitting on the couch for the entire day.
What had happened, was that they had gone back to real life where you can’t work out 6 days a week for 3+ hours. They were still eating their new diets (for the most part) and staying low cal. So why had all the weight come back? Their metabolisms had down regulated so much that even eating way less food than they ever had before put them into a calorie surplus so great that the weight came piling back on. Their bodies were in survival mode burning as few calories as possible.
The scary part is, upregulating the metabolism is insanely hard to do. There aren’t enough studies showing that it can even be done successfully in the long term. This is why chronic dieters end up having an EXTREMELY hard time losing weight in the long term. Their bodies just do NOT want to burn more calories in a day, and you can only eat so little and keep going.
This is why in long term studies, 99% of diets based on the calorie equation eventually fail. The weight always comes back.
So then what works? You need to look at the HORMONES underlying weight gain and fat burning. Your body uses hormones to control basically everything, and storing energy away for later is no exception. Turning on the hormones to burn stored fat instead of storing more is critical if you want to achieve long term fat loss.
How do you do that? Stay tuned for part 2 of this post for the detailed explanation or download my Starter Guide free HERE
We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
Eating 1500 calories a day is a lot easier than you might think if you stick to a plan that’s made up of healthy, nutritionally-rich foods.
We’ve put together our 1500-calorie meal planner with this in mind, making sure you’ll have something delicious for breakfast, lunch and dinner without being left feeling hungry, as well as a little snack or something sweet for those dips during the day. The key, we think, is packing in the protein – whether that comes from veggie ingredients like lentils or eggs, or a quality piece of lean meat or fish.
As we all know, the danger with tagging the label ‘diet’ onto anything can make us feel like we’re missing out on something, but not with our 1500 calorie meal plan. We’ve included a tasty snack or indulgent pud each day to make sure you get a little treat regularly, meaning you’re less likely to binge eat. And for many of the days we’ve left a few calories to play with, so that you can have that bag of crisps or that hot chocolate if you fancy it. To help you figure out what you can fit in to which day we’ve compiled a short list of low-calorie snacks at the bottom.
According to the NHS the average woman and man need different amounts of calories per day to keep them fit and healthy. For women this is currently recommended at around 2000, and for men they suggest around 2500 – although this depends on height, weight and physical activity. If you do want to eat fewer than this, by following something like our 1500 calories a day planner, then we’d recommend speaking to a nutritionist or doctor if you start to feel unwell while following the plan, and always respond to how your body feels. If you’re getting tired more easily or are doing a lot of exercise you may need to increase your intake of calories.
Nutritional therapist, health coach and founder at Nosh Detox, Geeta Sidhu-Robb, says: ‘eating 1,500 calories a day is a realistic target for anybody wanting to improve their health and wellbeing, both mentally and physically.
‘In cohesion with the NHS recommendation of less than 2000 calories a day, it is vitally important to eat a balanced diet, rich with nutritional value to keep our mind and body feeling strong and healthy.
‘Whole fruits and fibre, fresh vegetables and foods rich in vitamins and minerals are perfect for achieving the 1500 a day calorie diet. These should leave you feeling satisfied, and you will soon notice the change in your wellbeing too.’
If you’re keen have a go at eating just 1500 calories a day then we’ve calorie-counted each of our meals to make it more simple. What’s more they’re all easy to make, and we promise they won’t list lots and lots of ingredients you’d never have in the cupboard! We’re talking practical family-friendly dishes that will help you stick to your goal of eating 1500 calories a day.
1500 calories: Day 1
To kick things off we’ve gone for a classic Scottish breakfast of filling oatmeal that will keep you full until lunch. To be able to stick to the calorie count at breakfast time you’ll have to measure out your oats. 25g cooked with water come in at 89 calories, and you can flavour them with a pinch of cinnamon if you like for added flavour.
With carbohydrates at lunch time and lean protein at dinner this 1500 calories’ day leaves room for dessert too.
Nutritional therapist Geeta says: ‘Oatmeal is an effective way to stay satisfied until lunch due to it’s density, as for lunch and dinner, this has the perfect mix of protein, which is vital for balancing our blood sugar levels, as well as being the most filling food group, and carbohydrates which are a vital source of energy.’
1500 calories: Day 2
Day two in our 1550 calories a day planner sees a healthy breakfast of yogurt and berries, homemade falafel for lunch (which take just 10 mins prep!) and everyone’s favourite dinner – sausage and mash – with a low-calorie twist. For a little treat we’ve added in a flapjack, and think these are a great thing to make in bulk to have on hand for when you’re peckish, they even freeze well if you fancy repeating the plan once you’ve completed it.
‘The fruit is rich in fibre, and the high water content helps to keep the calories low, plus the low-fat yoghurt is a refreshing addition to the fruit,’ Geeta adds.
1500 calories: Day 3
We don’t always have lots of time to prep and pack fancy breakfasts, so today we’ve gone for a store-cupboard staple – honey on toast. This classic combo packs carbs in early. One slice of brown toast comes in at 73 calories, while 1tsp of honey totals 21 calories, meaning your meal will come in under 100 calories in total. Plus combining carbs and natural sugars will help you keep going until it’s time for our simple sweet potato salad at lunchtime. To round off the day we’ve gone for Mexican chicken taquitos followed by a delicious berry blondie which certainly don’t taste like low calorie cooking.
Using natural alternatives to sugar in your breakfast is key to keeping your meal plan healthy says health coach Geeta, adding: ‘honey is an effective substitute for refined sugar and the sweet potato salad is a healthy lunch. The chicken taquitos is another source of protein, which is really important, as studies have shown packing in plenty of protein can reduce cravings by 60%.’
1500 calories: Day 4
Sometimes sticking to a low calorie diet can be as simple as grabbing a piece of fruit for breakfast, as long as you balance out the calories for the rest of the day so you don’t become too hungry. To do just that after a breakfast of a banana we’ve added in a trout pate that packs in healthy fatty acids and will keep you feeling full until tea time. Dinner’s a demi-veggie chilli which combines protein from the minced beef with additional health benefits from the beans. We’ve gone for a savoury snack of hummus and chopped crunchy veg today, since it’s a light breakfast, which we think is perfect for enjoying between breakfast and lunch.
Geeta says: ‘there is plenty of omega-3 content in the trout pate, and protein in the beans and mince for the chilli, but my favourite element to today’s menu is the hummus snack. Hummus is an extremely healthy, yet tasty, snack and is perfect for dipping celery and carrots in – which it goes without saying are healthy choices.’
1500 calories: Day 5
Eggs are a great way to kick start the day, thanks to their high-protein content, and we’ve added a slice of wholemeal toast to give you body carbs, as well as some tasty mushrooms for additional potassium at breakfast-time today. To total the calorie count here stick to one slice of wholemeal toast (73 calories), 1 medium egg (73 calories) and 50g mushrooms (7 calories).
Today lunch is a quick soup (which is also great for batch cooking!) that is perfect for packing into some Tupperware and heating up at home or work. It’s an indulgent end to the day today with sticky Chinese ribs which are surprisingly low in calories. We’ve added in the calories for one portion of white rice and a side of steamed green beans too. As if that wasn’t good enough we’ve plumped for a pretty rich, delicious baked cheesecake for pud.
‘Day five is the perfect day to incorporate any exercise you want to do,’ says Geeta. ‘The high protein and carbohydrate intake is a good supplement to exercise, so if you’re looking to go to the gym this week, make it day 5. The cheesecake is obviously one of the more calorie-filled options, so to ensure you have space for this, you must be strict with the rest of your day.’
1500 calories: Day 6
We love bircher museli, because it can be so easily prepped the evening before, meaning more time in bed the next morning! Lunch is a Jamie Oliver recipe that uses up leftover spaghetti, while dinner is a Spanish classic – prawn pil pil. We’ve gone for a pretty indulgent snack today too, thanks to lots of leftover calories, which is a cheesy, chicken-stuffed Mexican quesadilla.
Snacks are all well and good nutritional therapist Geeta says, but reminds us that portion size is also key to success with a 1500 calories a day meal planner: ‘Day six fits into the diet plan’s common theme of fruit and fibre to start and carbohydrates and protein to finish. If you are to find space for that calorie rich snack of chicken quesadillas, it’s vital to keep the portions of the rest of your meals sensible.’
1500 calories: Day 7
Smoothie bowls are all the rage on social media now, but in addition to their photogenic nature they’re also a great way to start the day as you can pack in lots of healthy ingredients. We’ve included antioxidant-rich green tea and plenty of fresh fruit in ours but they’re really easy to play with and tweak it to your taste. Lunch is another Jamie Oliver recipe that transforms a classic prawn cocktail by using the ingredient of the moment: avocado. Dinner is a deliciously sticky soy chicken while we’ve boosted the 5-a-day count with a snack of sweet watermelon.
Today’s a day that should have you looking as good as you feel says health coach Geeta, commenting that: ‘Day 7 is my favourite on the menu, full of fresh fruits that hold plenty of antioxidants. The meals today are not only helping us hit our calorie targets, but are also great for our complexions as well.’
1500 calories: Day 8
For a quick and simple start to the day it’s fruit and yogurt again, but we’ve added in a kiwi fruit, some mango, raspberries and blueberries this time as there were extra calories to use. 3tbsp fat-free yogurt comes in at roughly 25 calories, while 50g of blueberries make up 30 calories. Add in 10 raspberries (10 calories), 1 kiwi (42 calories) and 30g mango (18 calories) and you’ve got a filling, healthy breakfast for just 125 calories.
For plenty of veggies we’ve chosen a fresh and vibrant buddha bowl with a Greek twist. To round things off we’ve plumped for a Mexican bean stew that is warming and filling comfort food, followed by a dessert of frozen yogurt packed with berries.
‘There are plenty of salad and vegetables in today’s menu, which are great sauces of fibre,’ says Geeta. ‘Continuing that, ‘fibre is perfect for filling you up, without filling you out. They have the same weight as other foods but don’t carry the calories – just make sure, as always, that the yoghurt doesn’t contain any unhealthy sugars or colours!’
1500 calories: Day 9
If you’ve got a hand blender or a Nutribullet then smoothies take seconds to whizz up and get into a glass. For a little extra nutritional value we’ve put oats into this morning’s breakfast, which will help you to keep feeling full. A quick, zesty salad is for lunch while we’ve gone for a veggie dinner in the form of a crunchy-topped filo pie with a softly spiced lentil filling. In case you thought it was all sounding a little too virtuous we’ve thrown in a white chocolate, lemon and raspberry muffin. Making your own treats cuts down on unnecessary processed ingredients and ensures you know exactly what you’re eating.
‘Smoothies are a great and tasty source of nutrition, but don’t fall into the trap of buying ready-made smoothies as they’re laced with sugars and additives. As for the rest of the day proteins and salads are always a good mix,’ nutritional therapist Geeta says.
1500 calories: Day 10
For the final day of our 1500 calories a day meal plan we’ve chosen an indulgent breakfast of rich smoked salmon with a silky omelette. Lunch is a delicious combination of salty halloumi cheese and fresh quinoa salad, which dinner is a rich French chicken stew made with creme fraiche and tarragon. For a mid-morning or afternoon snack we’ve gone for popcorn – because who doesn’t like popcorn?
‘Congratulations! You’ve made it to day 10,’ says Geeta, before adding that she thinks you should be feeling better for it.
‘This is probably the most indulgent menu of the group, which of course means you cannot go overboard with the portions but… You’ve earned it, so enjoy!’
Low calorie snacks
We’ve got plenty more low calorie snacks in our gallery, but for a quick overview we’ve put together this simple guide on a few of our favourite treats to help keep hunger from the door throughout the day.
It’s also worth remembering that hot drinks contain calories, with a cup of tea or coffee with semi-skimmed milk and one sugar coming in at around 41 calories. Fizzy drinks, juices and smoothies will also tot up, so remember to include those.
For her final advice nutritionist and health coach Geeta flags that diet should always be flexible, to reflect your needs. ‘It’s always advisable to check with you doctor or a nutritionist as to whether you should go through with the 1500 a day diet. When it comes to pregnancy or athletes preparing for an event, sometimes diets should be altered to their specific needs,’ she says.
Tasty Recipes for Healthy Weight Loss: 4 Easy Meals in 1,500 Calories
Do you want to lose weight? Then you need a calorie deficit! If you cut 300-500 calories a day, you will lose weight in a slow and healthy way. How about working in a 1,500-calorie day once in a while? These recipes are guaranteed to keep it tasty and never boring!
Quick Breakfast: Banana Pancakes
These banana pancakes basically consist of three ingredients: rolled oats, eggs and bananas. They taste especially good with cinnamon and peanut butter!
One serving has 516 calories, 55 g of carbohydrates, 21 g of protein and 22 g of fat.
The Ideal Work Lunch: Glass Noodle Salad
Perfect to take to work! This colorful glass noodle salad is guaranteed to make your coworkers jealous. The veggie sticks and the peanuts give this dish a real crunch.
One serving has 390 calories, 74 g of carbohydrates, 18 g of protein and 13 g of fat.
The Snack to Beat the Afternoon Slump: Homemade Granola Bar
Granola bars from the supermarket are often loaded with calories. Why not just make them yourself? These granola bars give you a boost of energy on stressful days or before a long run.
One granola bar has 250 calories, 28 g of carbohydrates, 8 g of protein and 11 g of fat.
A Protein Powerhouse: Hummus-Crusted Chicken with Vegetables
One serving of this hummus-crusted chicken with vegetables replenishes your glycogen stores after a hard workout. This dish supplies you with a whopping 38 g of protein!
One serving has 310 calories, 11 g of carbohydrates, 38 g of protein and 10 g of fat.
That’s right: Cutting calories too much can actually cause you to lose muscle mass. If you’re not eating enough calories post-exercise, that can mess with muscle protein synthesis, says Knott. And if you don’t have enough available energy (especially if you’re not eating enough protein), your body will actually start breaking down your muscle for protein. “Both of these underscore the importance of adequate calorie intake not only to allow muscles to recover and build after training, but also to prevent loss of existing muscle mass,” Knott says.
Beside that, you can see energy imbalance manifest throughout the whole body. “Digestion will start to slow, making you feel fuller quicker; enzyme production slows in your GI system and you can become more intolerant to particular foods; your body temperature drops making you colder; for women, your menstrual cycle will start to dysfunction and eventually shut off, and for men, testosterone drops, causing them to have less libido and less facial hair,” explains McConville. You can also see shifts in mood and sleep cycle, and you might experience fatigue, exhaustion, poor sleep, difficulty concentrating, increased risk of injury, slower recovery time, and an increased risk of illness, adds Knott.
So How Does All of This Affect Your Performance?
Obviously, losing muscle would be detrimental to your power on the bike—and probably directly contradicts your training and fitness goals. But it goes so much deeper than that.
“If a cyclist doesn’t consume adequate calories to meet his or her needs, then it can have a cascading effect where performance during training is reduced due to the poor energy availability,” says Knott. “Muscle protein synthesis is impaired post-training, which results in reduced training adaptations, and glycogen stores aren’t replenished, which results in reduced energy availability during the next training session.”
Plus, you’ll have to work harder to see the same effects as your rate of perceived exertion declines. “You’ll slowly lose your endurance ability, which means you’ll hit a wall sooner,” says McConville. “And since your energy stores have been used up on basic energy needs, you won’t have as much to help with recovery, leaving you a more tired, sore athlete.”
What’s a Better Way to Lose Weight?
Weight loss shouldn’t be just about crunching calorie numbers. As mentioned, you do have to consider calories in versus calories out, but it’s not quite that simple. The quality of those calories matters. Weight loss is so individualized and depends on a variety of factors, including body size, age, gender, fitness level, training schedule, stress, environment, medication, and other chronic health conditions if present, Knott says.
Making smaller changes such as cutting out alcohol, replacing highly-processed carbs with whole grain carbs when appropriate (think: off the bike), or cutting back on refined sugars in favor of fruit are all simple swaps you can make that will increase your health without decreasing your performance. Having your body composition tested is another option to figure out your personal needs.
That said, it is common for endurance athletes to consume a minimum of 2,500 calories, and some may need as much as 5,000 calories, says McConville. “The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends caloric intakes ranging from 25 calories per kilogram body weight for an active, healthy individual to 80 calories per kilogram body weight for an elite athlete,” says Knott.
But if you are concerned about the numbers, a healthy amount of weight loss for the average person is a little over a pound per week, or about four to five pounds per month, according to the The Centers for Disease Control. That translates to a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day. Which means, if you’re starting out at 2,500 calories to keep up with your endurance needs, you should only be going as low as 2,000. Or if you’re an active man starting at 3,000 or an active woman starting at 2,400, you’d only drop as low as 2,500 or 1,900 respectively.
“It’s always good to work with a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition if you’re planning to start a new training regime or to participate in an endurance event or other sports event requiring specialized training and nutrition,” says Knott.
Just remember that calories aren’t everything. Focus instead on the composition and quality of the calories you’re consuming, and eating what makes you feel best when you’re on the bike.
Ashley Mateo Ashley Mateo is a writer, editor, and UESCA-certified running coach who has contributed to Runner’s World, Bicycling, Women’s Health, Health, Shape, Self, and more.
Are You Exercising Calories Away?
Almost any woman playing the weight loss game knows how vitally important daily calorie intake is. If you aren’t in a net negative calorie balance by the time you go to sleep each night, you aren’t losing weight. You can will it off all you want, it just isn’t going to happen unless this criteria is met.
You could consume cookies, cakes, chips and candy as your daily food intake (not recommended however!) and as long as the total calorie intake is less than what you’ve burned that day through your basic metabolic rate and all the various activities you did, you will lose weight. Basic weight loss is really that easy.
So after learning this concept, some women start thinking that they would much rather increase the amount they are exercising so then they don’t have to cut back on their food intake quite so much.
It only stands to reason right, if you are burning 500 or more calories per day in your workout, you will then be able to eat more calories and still lose weight.
For illustration purposes, take two women, both of which require 1500 calories per day to maintain their weight (before structured exercise sessions). The goal is to lose one pound per week so this means they should be aiming to create a net deficit of about 500 calories per day either through diet or exercise.
Woman A burns 600 calories per day exercising and eats a daily diet of 1600 calories. 1600 calories—600 burned through exercise equates to a 1000 calorie balance. Since she required 1500 calories to maintain, she has achieved her goal.
Now, woman B only burns 200 calories per day exercising. Therefore in order for her to have this same 1000 calorie net balance, she’s going to have to only consume 1200 calories.
One woman gets to eat 1600 calories and the other only 1200. For any dieter out there who knows what it’s been like to be on a strict diet, option A probably sounds a heck of a lot better.
Be warned however, there are problems with this approach.
The first problem is if you are using moderate cardiovascular exercise as a means to burn these additional calories off (which is most often the case because we all know that weight lifting doesn’t usually burn as many calories minute per minute as cardio does—it’s the “after” calorie burn that’s more predominant there).
When first starting these cardio sessions, you may be burning about 300 calories per 30 minutes of exercise. However, after a couple of months time, your body has started to learn the exercise, has gotten comfy performing it and now is only required to burn 200 calories for that same 30 minutes (assuming all other variables have remained constant). Therefore you have two choices.
- Increase the time you spend exercising in order to reach that 300 calorie burn rate.
- Decrease your food intake to make up for those reduced 100 calories.
Let’s say you go with door A. So now you are doing forty minutes of cardio. That’s not too bad, just 10 minutes longer than your favourite sit-com. What happens though in a few more months? Are you going to then bump it up to 50 minutes? And in a year’s time? Are you planning to dedicate half your evening to slaving away on the treadmill? Likely not.
So going with door B then. You simply decide, “100 calories isn’t really all that much to cut. I’d rather keep the cardio at 30 minutes and take away that half a cup of pasta with dinner.” Easy enough. But… and you knew this was coming, in another few months, you’re now not burning 200 calories for those 30 minutes, you’re burning 100 calories. So you reduce food further. You’ll be damned before you start increasing your time on that treadmill.
So a few more months pass, you’ve stopped seeing results and now your foot intake is on par with woman B from above who chose to only burn 200 calories per day exercising BUT you are also still doing your 30 minutes of cardio per day. Hardly fair now is it?
The way to get around this issue is to rather than increasing the time you spend exercising, increase the intensity of it. That will increase the calorie burn more minute-by-minute so you can still achieve your desired goal.
But I digress, the issue now becomes, after a few months of doing this, you’ve got five high intensity cardio sessions per week on top of your three to four lifting sessions. How much can your body take? This is a fast track to overtraining yourself.
Which then brings us to problem 2.
The second problem with ‘exercising away your calories’ is that it’s going to leave you with less energy reserves to weight lift.
You absolutely MUST be lifting weights—heavy weights!
You should know by now that while cardio may make you smaller, it’s weight training that will change your shape. Therefore, if you really want to see a noticeable difference in your aesthetics, you absolutely MUST be lifting weights—heavy weights. I’m sorry, there is just no way around this one.
As stated above though, if you are already performing five cardio sessions per week, where are you going to fit weights in? Are you going to start doing twice daily workouts? Most of us who have a full-time job, a husband and potentially demanding kids simply do not have time for this.
Something has got to give and it sure shouldn’t be your weight training sessions. So now we move onto our last problem.
The last issue with trying to create your calorie deficit entirely with cardio and potentially the most important one, is the mindset it can get you into.
Eating disorders are a very real thing among many women who are involved in fitness. Even the average dieter who starts seeing results rather quickly can begin to take their commitment a little too far and start performing some behaviours that would borderline on a problem.
If you are using exercising as a way to justify eating vast quantities of food, you are showing symptoms of exercise bulimia. There are women out there (and this is an extreme case), who will binge eat thousands of calories at a time and then head off to the gym immediately after to spend 2 hours on the elliptical in order to burn away all the calories they’ve just consumed. It’s their way of purging.
While you may think you’d never let it get this far, don’t be mistaken. What is once the thought of ‘Oh, I’ll have that extra slice of cheesecake and just do an extra 20 on the bike tomorrow’, can quickly progress to you loving food again and becoming conditioned to realize you can have that food you crave so long as you exercise it off.
In no way am I trying to say you must always deny yourself that piece of cheesecake because you should never go to the gym to work it off, I’m more saying that you need to pay attention to the mental processes that are going on when eating that cheesecake. If you are eating it while calculating the ‘burn off’ time in your head, Houston we have a problem.
If on the other hand you realize that it is perfectly natural and normal behavior to treat yourself once in a while with a food you are really craving (in moderation), and you know that you needn’t worry because one slice of cheesecake is not going to cause a massive 10 pound weight gain that requires hours in the gym, then congratulations, you have a healthy frame of mind.
As a last and final warning with this whole notion of burning off the foods you eat, be very careful about how far you take this concept. If taken too far, it can really set you up for serious psychological issues.
This is how many calories you need to cut in order to lose weight
Having some knowledge about your daily calorie requirements can be exceptionally helpful when learning how to eat to lose or even maintain weight.
Here are the easiest ways work out how many calories you are likely to need each day to support slow but sustainable weight loss, and what those calories should be made up of.
1. CALCULATE YOUR BASELINE
We all have a baseline number of calories that we will burn each day, which is called our resting metabolic rate.
There are some online applications such as My Fitness Pal that can help you calculate this based on your height, weight, age and gender, although there will always be slight inaccuracies depending on how much muscle mass each individual has.
As a rough guide, a woman will need a minimum of 1200-1400 calories each day, whereas a man who generally has more muscle mass will need 1400-1800 calories.
2. CREATE A DEFICIT
To lose 0.5-1kg of body fat each week, you will need to create a calorie deficit of 200-300 calories each day.
It is for this reason that weight loss diets often focus on 1200 and 1500 calories — they are roughly 200-300 calories less than the person needs to function.
You can easily cut back on calories each day by watching portion sizes, minimising mindless munching and cutting back on high calorie food such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and alcohol which contain at least 200-300 calories per serve.
3. NEXT ADD IN YOUR ACTIVITY
Now this is where many people seeking weight loss go wrong. They cut back on their calories but they forget that they will also need more if they exercise.
The reason for this is that an active muscle burns extra calories and if we do not eat enough calories to fuel the muscle, fat loss will slow down.
This explains why people training an hour a day and eating only 1200 calories do not always lose weight, they actually need to eat more as strange as this may sound.
As a general rule of thumb we will need at least 200 extra calories per hour of physical activity that we do.
That means if you go to the gym for an hour and are a small female trying to lose weight eating 1200 calories, most likely you will need more calories or 1400-1500 calories to lose weight when you are exercising.
4. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR HUNGER
While we have these rough ways to calculate the number of calories we require, another powerful sign may be how hungry we are.
If you are eating 1200 or 1400 calories and are hungry all the time, it is the body telling you that you actually need to eat a little more.
The best time to add an extra 100-200 calories is early in the day, at either breakfast or lunch or before the time that you exercise.
Experiencing a little hunger in between meals is OK — it is relentless hunger and extreme cravings that we need to pay attention to.
5. CHECK YOUR MACROS
It is commonly thought that when you consume fewer calories than you need you will lose weight, but this is not always the case.
The wrong balance of our key macronutrients — protein, carbs and fats — can impact our ability to burn body fat as well.
For example, diets that are low in carbohydrates (50-100g) but not low enough to shift us into ketosis (less than 50g carbs for most people) can actually be too low for the body to efficiently burn body fat.
The average person will successfully drop 0.5-1kg a week on diets that contain 30-45 per cent carbohydrate, 30 per cent or less of fat and 25-30 per cent protein.
You can check your macronutrients on My Fitness Pal or have a dietitian calculate them for you.
6. CHANGE THINGS AROUND
The interesting thing about weight loss is that we do need to change things around as you lose body fat and become more efficient at burning calories.
While you may initially lose weight on a 1200 calorie plan, over time you will find that you may actually need to eat an extra 200-300 calories to continue to lose weight.
So if you find your weight loss has plateaued, you may find that eating a little more is the key to ongoing success, especially if you are hungry, or you may also need to exercise more to build more muscle and increase your metabolic rate.