1,200-Calorie Keto Diet Meal Plan

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Written by Bridget Nalwoga, Certified Nutritionist and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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If you have been looking to go on a lower-calorie eating plan, this guide is for you. With so many of the foods we eat today being loaded with calories and little to no nutritional value, it is no surprise that one would want to go on a calorie-restricted diet. 

If we are being honest, sticking to a 1,200-calorie keto diet plan will not be easy. However, not easy does not mean impossible. You can find a way to sustainably eat 1,200 calories a day for a while. 

A guide like this can help you increase your odds of success with this plan. In this guide, you will learn what 1,200 calories on keto mean, what to expect, the benefits and drawbacks, and how to start the diet. 

The guide also includes a free 1,200-calorie low-carb meal plan for weight loss. Finally, we will answer some of the questions you might have about low-calorie diets.


What is the 1,200-calorie keto diet plan?

To understand what a 1,200-calorie keto meal plan is, we must first know what a regular 1,200-calorie diet plan is. A 1,200-calorie diet plan is an eating plan where one limits their calorie intake to 1,200 calories a day. 

A 1,200-calorie keto diet plan, therefore, is a low-carb high-fat eating plan that limits one’s calorie intake to 1,200 calories a day. 

An average woman requires about 2,000 calories per day to maintain body weight, while men require about 2,600. This should give you an idea of how low 1,200 calories are. It can be challenging to keep your calorie intake that low for a sustained period of time.  

Distributing keto macros for 1,200 calories a day is even harder. So, what are perfect keto macros for a 1,200-calorie day?

The good news is that no matter how many calories one is eating, the keto macro breakdown remains the same: 70 - 80% fat, 20 - 10% protein, and 5 - 10% carbs. 

It is essential to see a qualified doctor or registered dietitian before starting on this meal plan.

If you have sought and gotten your doctor’s permission, keep reading to learn how you can do 1,200 calories on keto.


Benefits of a 1,200-calorie diet plan 

The main goal of low-calorie diets is weight loss, more specifically fat loss. Most of the benefits seen on a 1,200-calorie low-carb regimen are as a result of weight loss. Some of these include:

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and conditions like high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. This is especially important in obese and overweight diabetic individuals.
  • Improved cholesterol levels and control.

If you are getting your daily 1,200 calories from healthy food sources, you may also experience a reduction in inflammation levels in the body.


Drawbacks of a 1,200-calorie ketogenic diet 

Similar to any eating plan, a 1,200-calorie diet plan has some challenges. These are especially pronounced at the start.  

First, it is highly restrictive. 1,200 calories is a low number. Even for the person with the smallest appetite, it can still be a challenge to stay within those limits. Imagine, 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise have about 200 calories, nearly 20% of your daily intake. For this reason, many will not be able to sustain this eating regimen.

Secondly, a 1,200-calorie diet may work against your weight loss journey by increasing hunger levels. When your body detects that you are not getting enough calories, it may respond by increasing your hunger to get you to eat more. You can see why this is not a good thing if you are trying to lose weight. 

Another way this regimen may work against your weight loss journey is by slowing down your metabolism. Your body may reduce the rate at which it burns fat to compensate for the reduced calorie intake. 

If not done properly, very low-calorie diets can result in a variety of micronutrient deficiencies. It can be difficult to get all your vitamins and minerals when eating so little food. This is why eating nutrient dense foods is so important.

Very low-calorie diets can increase the risk of gallstones. This may be because when you eat less (or lose weight quickly) your liver secretes more cholesterol into your bile. This excess cholesterol can form gallstones. In addition to this, fast weight loss can also prevent the gallbladder from emptying properly. Another risk factor for gallstones. Chat to your doctor about reducing your risk for gallstones, there are medications that can help.

Finally, very-low-calorie diets like this one have been shown to lead to even greater weight regain later, especially if you do not change your behaviors in the long run. If not done under the guidance of a trained professional, one can easily put back on all the weight lost, and sometimes more. 

This program may also cause some unpleasant signs and symptoms, especially at the beginning as the body is trying to adjust. Some of these signs and symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea


How to start the 1,200-calorie keto diet 

One of the most underrated parts of a good diet is planning. Having a plan for your food intake increases your chances of sticking with your food goals tremendously. A 1,200-calorie diet is no exception to this rule.

To increase your chances of success, here are some steps you should consider taking on your journey:

  • First things first, see your doctor to get the green light. This is very important as it helps you determine if you can or need to go on this diet. Your doctor or registered dietitian may even help you better determine how to do 1,200 calories on keto. 
  • While you are at the doctor’s, why not ask him/her to help you determine your nutritional needs. You should figure out your daily needs for calories and key nutrients like iron, calcium, and vitamin D. 
  • Start a food diary. To correct your eating habits, you need to have a clear understanding of how you are currently eating. Log your food for 1 to 2 days to get a general picture of your starting point.
  • Determine the nutritional composition of your current diet. For keto, it is especially important to know your macro distribution (intake of carbohydrates, protein, and fat).
  • Determine how you will distribute your macros. Most importantly, set your daily carb limit. 
  • Start planning by determining which foods are best for your new lifestyle. High-carb and non-nutritious high-calorie foods should be the first to go.




What to eat on a 1,200-calorie ketogenic diet

On this plan, there are two considerations to think about when choosing foods. First, they have to be low-carb, and secondly, they have to be nutrient-dense. 

High-carb foods you should avoid include:

  • Bread
  • Grains and grain products
  • Baked confectioneries like cookies
  • Candy
  • Ice cream
  • Soda
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes 
  • Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils

Now that we know what to avoid, let us talk about what to eat on this plan. As you will be eating a limited volume of food, it is highly advisable to focus on nutrient-dense food. There is very little room for treats.

Some of the foods you can include on a 1,200-calorie diet plan include:

  • Non-starchy vegetables like zucchini, asparagus, kale, and spinach
  • Nutritious high-fat foods like avocado, nuts, and seeds
  • Meat and meat products
  • Fish 
  • Unsweetened beverages like tea and coffee

On a regular low-calorie eating plan, it would normally be recommended to avoid high-fat foods as they are high in calories. However, on a 1,200-calorie keto diet, high-fat foods should be front and center to enable you to get into ketosis.


1,200-calorie keto grocery list

Remember how we said that planning is key to good eating habits? Shopping is the most important part when planning a change. Choosing the right foods when shopping can set you up for success as it removes unnecessary temptations.

Starting with the fridge, you will need a variety of fresh produce to give you as many nutrients as possible. Some of the produce you can buy include:

  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli.
  • Low-sugar fruits like watermelon, avocado, and berries.

Feel free to choose one item from each category each week to ensure variety. 

Other fridge components that are not fresh produce include:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Cream  

Freezer foods make cooking and eating very convenient. Some of the freezer-friendly foods you can stock up on on a 1200-calorie diet include:

  • Frozen fruit. Remember, only low-carb fruits like berries.
  • Ground beef or turkey
  • Sausages*
  • Other meat products like bacon strips
  • Fish

*Although sausages and bacon are high in fat, they are also known as processed meats which shouldn’t be eaten regularly for good health.

Finally, let's fill that pantry. You will want to really stock up on a variety of pantry items to spice up your meals. Some of the pantry foods you may need include:

  • Oil. You will need different types like avocado, olive, vegetable, and so on. 
  • Herbs and spices
  • Low carb salad dressings
  • High-fat flours like coconut and almond
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut and seed butters
  • Prepackaged keto snacks


Sample 1,200-calorie keto meal plan

To give you a more accurate picture, we have included a 1,200-calorie low-carb diet menu for a day. 

  • Breakfast: Plain whole Greek yogurt
  • Lunch: Stuffed bell peppers
  • Dinner: Chicken salad 
  • Dessert: Strawberries

If you prefer, split the dessert after dinner into two portions to work as a morning and afternoon snack.

Calories: 1,204 | Macros: 18.4 g net carbs, 61.7 g protein, and 52.2 g fat. 

This is only a one-day sample of a 1,200-calorie low-carb diet. There are so many other meal ideas that can work just as fine. You can use it as an example of how to plan a meal for 1,200 calories on a keto diet, especially as a beginner.

BREAKFAST Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Whole Greek Yogurt, Plain  Whole Greek Yogurt, Plain 100 g 406 4 9 5
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
406 4 g 9 g 5 g            
LUNCH Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Stuffed bell peppers Green bell pepper 1 large, 164 g 32.8 4.8 1.4 0.3
  Ground beef 85 g 168 0 16.5 10.8
  Olive oil 1 tablespoon, 15 ml 115 0 0 12.8
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
315 4.8 g 17.9 g 23.9 g            
DINNER Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Chicken salad Cooked chicken 50 g 79 0 32.1 3.2
  Mayonnaise 1 tablespoon 90 0 0 9
  Mustard 1 teaspoon 4.1 0.1 0.3 0.2
  Green onions 1 leaf 0 0 0 0
  Avocado 1/2 a medium fruit 113.5 1.3 41.4 10.5
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
286.6 1.4 g 33.8 g 22.9 g            
DESSERT Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Strawberries Strawberries 1 cup, whole 196 8.2 1 0.4
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
196 8.2 g 1 g 0.4 g            
DAILY TOTALS   1,204 cal 18.4 g net carbs 61.7 g protein 52.2 g fat




FAQs on a 1,200-calorie ketogenic diet

Still on the fence? Here are some answers to questions you might still have.

You can stay on a 1200-calorie diet as long as your doctor recommends. For some, 1,200 calories a day may cause serious health implications, while some can sustain it for a year. 

Continue to work with a qualified health provider. When the time is right, they will let you know when to stop.

The dietary reference intake (DRI) for protein for women is 0.8 g/kg (which equates to 46 g for the ‘average’ woman). The same remains true even on 1,200 calories. 

It is very important to get adequate protein. A low-calorie diet can lead to the breakdown of muscle mass if one consumes inadequate protein.

The recommended daily limit for sodium is 2300 mg or 2.3 g. It is important to maintain this intake to sustain your electrolyte balance.

You can lose up to 20 lb if you maintain a 1,200-calorie keto diet plan for a month. However, you should not focus on how fast you can lose weight. Instead, focus on how sustainable your eating habits are in the long run.

For a normal healthy adult, 1,200 calories are nowhere near enough. However, low-calorie diets can be used in the short term to manage obesity and related conditions like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

It most certainly is possible for vegetarians to use this eating regimen. It is important to know that unless one has specific needs, it is possible to succeed on most eating plans without consuming animal products.  

However, it is twice as important to get guidance from a professional due to the risk of nutrition deficiencies like iron, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.


Other ketogenic plans

Curious about different ways to go keto? Here are some alternatives:

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