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What is the Minimal Amount of Food My Body Requires While Dieting?

Written by Thin Thin

Example of a 1,200 calorie diet plan, including food serving size amounts and serving suggestions.


Think of the body's energy(calorie) requirements as a budget where one can both save and spend money. If the body takes in more energy than it expends, the result is an overage of energy which is stored in the fat cells; such energy may be used for future energy needs, if required. Take note that different forms of energy are stored in different manners by the body.

It's an amazing process - the body having the ability to store energy for future use, and an important tool of survival for early man, particularly when food sources were sparse or during those times when the bitter cold required more energy to support the body than early man was able to intake. All that climbing over rocks, over hill, over dales in search of food took a lot of energy.

Progress in technology is just one arrow-upwards that has added greatly to the Weight Gain Equation as man is able to accomplish much with minimal energy expenditure, as well as produce ample food supplies.


But the flip-side of nature's energy storage abilities, as well as the cornerstone of weight gain is that our bodies are able to store an almost-endless supply of energy which has the potential to add tens-of-hundreds of pounds to our body frame.

For every 3,500 calories we eat in excess of our energy requirements, the result is one pound of fat stored in the fat reserves. That may seem like a lot of calories, but in actuality it only takes one regular-sizecandy bar and one soda per day to gain a pound per week when these calories exceed our required daily calorie (energy) intake.

So how many base calories does the body require to simply function? Actually, the amount may surprise you. Here is a quick summary:

- Digestion, absorption and storage of energy requires 5% to 10% of our total daily energy requirement. WOW!

1,200 Calorie Daily Diet Plan

Food Group

Daily Serving Size


1 cup


1.5 cups


4 ounces

Meat & Beans

3 ounces


2 cups


4 teaspoons

Calories You Choose

Allow 171 Calories

- Maintaining the body's vital processes requires 60% to 70% of our total daily energy requirements. DOUBLE WOW!

As one can quickly see, the body requires almost all the recommended calories which are consumed just to survive. We can add an additional 15% to 30% of the total daily energy requirement towards physical activity. However, all this huffing and puffing and blowing down our house in regards to activity for weight loss is truly overblown.

Moderate activity - YES; killing ourselves and wearing out our bodies - NO. The chief regulator when it comes to weight loss is calorie intake rather than calorie expenditure through activity. And take note that activity and exercise charts include the amount of calories that our bodies require just for living. As an example:

Dan requires 2,000 calories per day to maintain his current weight. His body requires 70% of those calories in order to maintain the vital processes which equal 1,400 calories. Dan's body requires 200 calories for digestive, absorption and storage needs. His total calorie requirements thus far equal 1,600 calories, leaving 400 calories which Dan will need to expend during the day or they will be stored in his energy reserves - the old fat cells.

If Dan sleeps 8 hours per night, he will burn about 40 extra calories. If he spends the remainder of the day watching tv, he will burn about 18 calories per hour for a total of 288 calories.

Oh my - we have almost maxed-out Dan's daily calorie requirement needs - and he hasn't even left the sofa to take a whiz. But take note that we set Dan's energy needs on the high end (10% for digestive-related performance and 70% for vital function performance).

The point is this; because our body requires much of the energy that we consume to meet our most basic vital needs, activity accounts for much less than is commonly assumed in regards to 'burning' calories.

This isn't to say 'blah' on exercise and activity by any means as it's a very vital part in achieving and maintaining our good health. Coupled with a smart diet plan, exercise can work towards increased weight loss results, as well a assist in toning and fighting 'skin sag'. However, the foods and beverages that we consume have the most impact on what we weigh.

The above nutritional data is why a dieter should never-ever-never embrace a weight-reduction plan too restrictive in calories. A dieter should never go below 1,200 calories per day, and some individuals with certain health conditions - at times, hidden conditions, require a daily much higher in calories during the weight loss process. That's why seeing your doctor before starting ANY weight loss plan is a great idea. As a note, if you're a teen, or pregnant, or a lactating mom, it's wise to remain under a doctor's supervision while dieting.

1,200 Calorie Diet Plan Based on the Official Food Pyramid Daily Recommendations

Let's take a deeper look at a 1,200 calorie diet plan based on the Official Food Pyramid serving size requirements listed in the box to the right of the screen above. It doesn't take much food for the calorie content to quickly add up to 1,200 calories, and it's challenging to fit all the required food group serving recommendations into the 1,200 Calorie Diet Equation:

Breakfast - 1 serving of oats, 1 teaspoon of margarine, 1 slice of whole grain bread (up to 60 calories), 1/2 cup of skim milk, black coffee or unsweetened tea; about 275 calories.

Mid-Morning Snack - 1/2 cup of whole strawberries; about 22 calories.

Lunch - 1 extra-lean ham sandwich on whole grain 60-calorie-per-slice bread with reduced-fat cheese (50 calories), lettuce, sliced tomatoes and a smear of mustard. One serving of low fat cottage cheese (110 calories). One cup of the following mixed raw veggies: baby carrots, mushrooms, cucumbers, unsweetened tea; about 350 calories.

Mid-Afternoon Snack - 1 whole grain snack bar; 100 calories.

Dinner - 3/4 cup of pinto beans, 1/2 cup of whole grain rice, 1 serving of cornbread (up to 100 calories), 1 teaspoon of margarine, unsweetened tea; about 400 calories.

Bedtime Snack - 1/2 cup of skim milk blended with 1/2 cup of frozen berries; about 65 calories.

Let's view the recommended serving sizes:

Fruits: 1 cup of 100% fruit juice equals 1 cup of fruit from the Fruit Group

Vegetables: Dark Green Veggies - 1.5 cups per week, Orange Veggies - 1 cup per week, Legumes - 1 cup per week, Starchy Vegetables - 2.5 cups per week, Other Vegetables - 4.5  cups per week, 2 cups of raw leafy greens equals 1 cup from the Vegetable Group

Grains: Includes oats, barley, rice, wheat, cornmeal, bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, tortillas, grits; 1 slice of bread equals 1 ounce from the Grain Group, 1/2 cup of cooked pasta, rice or cereal equals 1 ounce from the Grains Group, 1/2 of grains consumed should be whole grains 

Meat & Beans: 1 ounce of meat (beef, chicken, pork, turkey, fish) equals 1 ounce, 1 egg equals 1 ounce, 1/4 cup of cooked dry beans equals 1 ounce, 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter equals 1 ounce, 1/2 ounce of nuts and/or seeds equals 1 ounce

Milk: 1 cup of milk or yogurt equals 1 cup from the Milk Group, 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese equals 1 cup, Cream cheese, butter and cream are not considered as part of the Milk Group, Sources should be skimmed, low fat

Oils: Includes oils that retain liquid state at room temperature such as canola, sunflower, olive oil, corn oil, soybean oil. Includes foods high in oil such as certain species of fish, avocados, nuts & olives. Includes processed foods such as Mayo, salad dressings and soft margarine are chiefly oil. 

Current Food Group Recommendations:

Milk, Yogurt & Cheese Food Group: 2-3 Servings

Vegetable Food Group: 3-5 Servings

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs & Nuts Group: 2-3 Servings

Fruit Group: 2 - 4 Servings

Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta Group: 6-11 Servings

Fats, Oils & Sweets - Use Sparingly

The Bottom Diet Line: Choose a weight loss plan that you can LIVE with! A couple more hundred calories each day can make a big difference in the way you feel while dieting, as well as the amount of weight you can lose while dieting. In fact, restricting calories too severely can cause the old metabolism to balk as it assumes you are in trouble and slows down the process to conserve energy - as well as life.

Thin Thin feels that the perfect diet embraces the calorie needs required by recommended weight. After all, when the diet is done, if we return to old eating habits, the unwanted weight will quickly come a-knockin' on our Diet Door. In order to maintain permanent weight loss, we must consume, as well as expend the amount of energy that our body requires, or it's just going to return to those old fat reserves.


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