1,200-Calorie MyPlate Diet

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
healthy meal

A 1,200-calorie MyPlate diet is a weight loss diet based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA's, newest edition of the food guide pyramid called MyPlate. Following a MyPlate diet is a good way to plan healthy, well-balanced meals based on individualized characteristics such as your age, gender, current body weight, height, activity level, and weight management goals.

Key MyPlate Recommendations

  • Avoid oversized portions
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains
  • Switch to fat-free or one percent milk
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid high-sodium foods
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks
  • Reduce sugar-sweetened beverages

Is a 1,200-Calorie MyPlate Diet Right for Me?

If you're overweight or obese, a 1,200-calorie MyPlate Diet may help you achieve a healthier body weight. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, effective weight loss diets range from 1,000 to 1,600 calories per day depending on your gender, current weight and activity level. More specifically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends diets containing 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day for most overweight women and 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day for overweight men, active women and women who weigh more than 164 pounds.

MyPlate 1,200-calorie Meal Plan

MyPlate Daily Food Plan is based on your age, gender, height, weight, activity level, and weight management goals. A MyPlate 1,200-calorie meal plan, also included in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, includes:

  • 4 ounces of grains
  • 1 cup of fruits
  • 1.5 cups of vegetables
  • 3 ounces of protein foods
  • 2.5 cups of dairy or other calcium-fortified products such as soy milk
  • 4 teaspoons of oils
  • 121 extra calories from solid fats or added sugars

Sample MyPlate Menus for a 1,200-Calorie Diet

Use the MyPlate Food Groups feature if you have questions about portion sizes when planning your menus, and the USDA national nutrient database if you have questions about the calorie content of your favorite foods.

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Breakfast
  • 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup of low-fat milk
  • 1/2 ounce of sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries
  • One whole-wheat mini bagel
  • 2 teaspoons of peanut butter
  • 1 cup of low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of cantaloupe
  • 1/2 whole-wheat English muffin
  • One scrambled egg
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1.5 ounces of cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fruit juice
Snack
  • 1 cup of low-fat yogurt
  • 1 ounce of granola

Blended smoothie:

  • 1.5 cups of a soy milk
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 2 teaspoons of almond or cashew butter
  • 1/2 ounce of almonds
  • One small apple
Lunch
  • 2 ounce of canned light tuna packed in water
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • One slice of whole-grain bread
  • 1 cup of raw carrots
  • 1 tablespoon of ranch veggie dip
  • 2 cups of leafy greens
  • 1/4 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 ounce of grilled chicken strips
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian salad dressing
  • 5 whole-wheat crackers
  • One slice of whole-wheat bread
  • 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise
  • 2 ounces of lean, roasted turkey
  • 1 cup of raw celery sticks
  • 1 tablespoon of ranch veggie dip
Snack
  • 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup of strawberries
  • 1 ounce of pretzels
  • One small bran muffin
  • 1.5 cups of low-fat yogurt
Dinner
  • 1/2 cup of whole-grain pasta
  • 1 ounce of lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup of cooked green beans
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 ounces of grilled tilapia
  • 1/2 cup of whole-grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli

Beef stew:

  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 ounce of lean beef
  • 1/2 cup of cooked carrots
  • 1/2 cup of potatoes

History of the Food Guide Pyramid

The food guide pyramid has changed drastically since 1992. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 and the old food guide pyramid became MyPyramid. In January 2011, the USDA released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 and MyPyramid became MyPlate, the newest edition of the old food guide pyramid.

Old vs. Newer Food Pyramids

Food Guide Pyramid MyPyramid MyPlate
Year Released 1992 2005 2011
Shape Pyramid with horizontal blocks symbolizing different food groups Pyramid with vertical stripes symbolizing different food groups Plate of food divided into different food groups
Food Groups
  • Bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group
  • Vegetable group
  • Fruit group
  • Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts group
  • Milk, yogurt, and cheese group
  • Fat, oils, and sweets group
  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Lean meat and beans
  • Milk
  • Oils
  • Discretionary calories
  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Protein foods such as meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, soy products, nuts, and seeds
  • Dairy
  • Oils
  • Calories from solid fats and added sugars
Meal Plans

One standard meal plan for all adults consisting of:

  • 6 to 11 servings from the breads and grains group
  • 3 to 5 servings from the vegetable group
  • 2 to 4 servings from the fruits group
  • 2 to 3 servings from the dairy group
  • 2 to 3 servings from the meat group
  • Limit fats, oils, and sweets as much as possible
  • Customized meal plans based individualized requirements
  • Vegetarian options
  • Customized meal plans based on individualized requirements
  • Vegetarian options

Bottom Line

You can use other types of 1,200-calorie diets for weight loss including:

Consuming a MyPlate 1,200-calorie diet will help ensure you consume a well-balanced diet including adequate amounts of all the food groups. However, talk with your doctor before beginning any type of weight loss diet. You can use MyPlate Daily Food Plan to determine an appropriate diet and calorie level based on your body's needs. You may find that 1,200 calories per day is too few for you, even for weight loss.

1,200-Calorie MyPlate Diet