Low Calorie diets can and are used for relatively short periods of time, specifically in order to lose weight. On a low calorie diet it is possible to lose quite a large amount of weight, but exercise during this period is still necessary, but not exhaustive.
The principle behind a low calorie diet is to eat healthy foods that have a low calorific value, and to balance the amount of calorie intake, with the amount that you expend. A low calorie diet can have side effects if you work in a profession where you already burn calories at a high rate, or you are the type of person that rigorously works out. Balance is really the key.
When reading a food label, it will tell you how many calories are in a specific foodstuff. A calorie is a unit of measurement relating to energy, which our bodies burn through a series of metabolic processes and the resulting enzymes transport this energy into the bloodstream and finally into your cells, whereupon they wait to be used up or stored. The intake of oxygen will then release the stored energy.
Low Calorie Diets and Calorie Intake
The recommended daily calorie intake for women is 2,000, and for men 2,500. Health professionals recommend no more than a 500 calorie reduction for women and 750 calorie reduction for men, in order to achieve a steady weight loss. In cases where a lot of weight needs to be lost, specifically for health reasons, your doctor may recommend a VLCD (very low calorie diet) which is based on an intake of 1,000 calories only.
This low calorie diet plan is only ever followed for a continuous period of up to 12 weeks, or for 2 or 3 days intermittently, due to its’ possible side effects, such as fainting, dizziness, nausea and a general feeling of debilitation. Heart problems and anaemia are also possible side effects of such a drastic diet.
You are able to find lists of low calorie diet foods on the internet, or via your surgery or health centre. Other options are companies that sell low calorie diet foods in the form of shakes, soups, bars as a specific low calorie diet plan, substituting your ‘normal’ foods with their products.
Low Calorie Diet Foods
Some specific low calorie diet foods would be:
- Leafy greens such as cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, watercress, sprouting broccoli, lettuce
- Mushrooms, onions, garlic, peppers
- Radishes, fennel, celery, beets, turnips, cauliflower, courgettes, cauliflower
- Tomatoes, asparagus
- Lemons, limes, grapefruit, pumpkin
- Tea, coffee
This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are specifically under 40 calories per portion.
However, remember that the cooking process you use for vegetables could add more calories to your low calorie diet, particularly if you use oils or butter – the low calorie foods then become pointless!
Low Calorie Diet Recipes
If you wish to follow a low calorie diet plan, try to make most dishes yourself – buying ‘so-called’ low calorie readymade meals from supermarkets, apart from items like fresh salad bowls already prepared, often have hidden ‘nasties’, extra fat of some description or other carbs. Freshly prepared foods will guarantee that you know exactly what is in the meal you just prepared.
Avoid heavy sauces or dressings such as salad dressings, mayonnaise, sugar-laden desserts or sweets, fizzy drinks or sodas, fast foods such as Chinese or Indian or burgers, and foods labelled in supermarkets as ‘low fat’ – these are often bolstered up by extra sugar to maintain any form of taste. Alcohol should also be avoided.
Typical Low Calorie Diet Plan
As an example, here is a typical daily plan
1 cup of tea or coffee with skimmed milk
1 fresh medium sized orange
½ cup of bran flakes
Mixed salad leaves with tomatoes, cucumber, celery, grated carrot, 1 spring onion, half a toasted pitta bread (no butter), 2oz grilled chicken, breast only, no skin
4oz roasted or steamed cod fillet, 3 oz grilled mushrooms, 2 grilled tomatoes and small portion of green beans, 2oz brown rice
This sample low calorie diet plan day would bring you in at 1200 calories, so this would be way below the recommended average for women, and certainly for men. Men would be able to increase the size of the meat and fish portions as an example. There would be a resultant weight loss with these low calorie diet foods.
High Protein Low Calorie Diets
These are worth a mention as a lot is talked about this topic in the press. This form of low calorie diet plan is not recommended for everyone and is usually followed for a specific reason, such as those partaking in competitive bodybuilding. Most of the time, bodybuilders follow a high calorie high protein diet to build muscle, but for instance, prior to competition, they will usually want to get a ‘leaner’ look and lose any excess fat, whilst still building muscle. Meal plans will be much ‘larger’ including bigger portions and intermediate pre and post-workout snacks, also with the addition of pulses and some grains, such as chickpeas and brown rice respectively, due to the amount of training that will be carried out and the resultant calories burned.
All in all, following a low calorie diet will benefit some more than others and is certainly a necessity in case of obesity, critical diabetes and other illnesses. Consult your medical practitioner for further advice before embarking on this form of diet.