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Nutrient-Dense, Low-Calorie Foods to Lose Weight Quickly

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If it is recommended by your doctor that you drop your calorie intake by more than 500 to 600 calories, ensure your diet you do eat is high in nutrients. If you choose to eat foods of low nutritional value, your body is likely to struggle to carry out its vital day-to-day functions and you risk harmful side-effects.

NUTRIENT DENSE FOODS

CARBOHYDRATES

  • Chard, collard greens, kale, spinach, mustard greens
  • Bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Baked potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Raspberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and papaya
  • Barley, oats, brown rice and quinoa

PROTEIN

  • Eggs
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame)
  • Dried beans (kidney, navy, garbanzo, pinto)
  • Peas, lentils
  • Almonds, cashews, peanuts
  • Poultry: Chicken, turkey
  • Red meat: Lean beef, lamb, venison
  • Fish such as salmon, halibut, cod, scallops, shrimp, tuna
  • Include protein sources with healthy fats such as seeds, nuts, and fish.
 

DAILY NUTRIENT REQUIREMENTS

CALORIE LEVEL
1,200
Calories
1,400
Calories
1,600
Calories
1,800
Calories
Fruits
1 cup
1.5 cups
1.5 cups
1.5 cups
Vegetables
1.5 cups
1.5 cups
2 cups
2.5 cups
Grains*
4 ounce
5 ounce
5 ounce
6 ounce
Lean meat and beans**
3 ounce
4 ounce
5 ounce
5 ounce
Dairy (fat-free or low-fat)***
2 cups
2 cups
3 cups
3 cups
Oils
17 g
17 g
22 g
24 g
Discretionary calories
171
171
132
195
*1 ounce = ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cooked cereal; 1 ounce dry pasta or rice; 1 slice bread; 1 small muffin; 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal flakes.
**
1 ounce = 1 ounce of lean meat, poultry, or fish; 1 egg; ¼ cup cooked dry beans or tofu; 1 tablespoon peanut butter; ½ ounce nuts or seeds.
***
1 cup = 1 cup milk or yogurt; 1.5 ounces natural cheese or 2 ounces processed cheese.

Source: USDA Food Guide, Appendix A-2, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005.

 

1,200 CALORIE SAMPLE MENU

This is a 1,200-calorie sample menu (for women). You should not reduce your calorie intake any further, unless under medical supervision. You can adapt it to suit your needs. Basically, when the amount of food you eat is dramatically reduced, you need to pay careful attention to what you are eating to keep your nutrient intake high.

Breakfast (Banana Smoothie)

(Blend ingredients together)

  • 1 cup [8 oz] plain, low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 cup fresh/frozen berries
  • 1 tbsp flaxseeds
Lunch (Green Salad)
  • 1 cup dark green lettuce
  • 1 red/ orange pepper
  • ½ cup edamame beans
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted sunflower seeds.
  • Salad dressing made with 1 tbsp. olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pepper

And 1 small whole-wheat pita

Dinner (Salmon)
  • 4 oz broiled wild salmon with yogurt sauce
  • Yogurt sauce: 1 tbsp. Greek-style non-fat yogurt, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 clove chopped garlic.
  • ¼ cup cooked barley and ¼ cup cooked lentils with spices to taste
  • 1 cup steamed baby bok choy

This food plan is low in calories but full of essential vitamins and minerals to meet your body’s needs. Vitamins include: Vitamin A, C, E, K, B6,B12, Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Folate and Pantothenic acid. Minerals include: Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Selenium, Zinc and Potassium.

Eating nutrient-dense foods helps to:

1. Decrease Hunger

Supplying your body with nutrients will increase the amount of weight you lose when on your fast weight loss plan. Why? The reason many people often still feel hungry when reducing their calorie intake is that their body is getting insufficient nutrients. However, when you consume more nutrient-dense food, you’ll be satisfied with fewer calories. You simply desire less food. You will feel less hungry, which means that you are more likely to stick to your diet. This means you can drop your calories low enough to lose weight fast, without giving-up after a few days.

2. Decrease Cravings

You’ll also ensure fast weight loss because when your body is supplied with the nutrients it needs you’ll have fewer craving fat- and high-calorie foods, making you less likely to give up. When incorporating high nutrient foods you can help reduce the food cravings, hypoglycemic symptoms and other sensations that drive you to break your diet. On the other hand, low nutrient foods will promote food cravings and overeating.

3. Reduce Fatigue

The health of your skin, hair and fingernails all reflect the nutritional status of your body. Dry hair, premature aging, hair loss, dandruff, skin tags, acne, dry skin bumps on the back of the arms, cracks at the corners of your mouth, dark circles under the eye, poor fingernails and more can all be the result of nutritional deficiencies. There’s no point to being slim, but ugly – not to mention sick because you lack vital nutrients. Furthermore, meeting your nutritional needs will decrease the likelihood/ severity of fatigue, headaches and irritability that often occur when you lose weight fast.

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