For those looking to shed some weight in the short-term, the 1,000 calorie meal diet can be a popular option.
The 1,000 calorie meal diet is a short-term, slightly extreme diet plan (opens in new tab) that requires you to slash the calories you’re eating and opt for high-protein (opens in new tab), low-fat and low calorie foods to keep you full throughout the day - similar to the Fast 800 diet (opens in new tab). While it’s by no means the most drastic way to lose weight, as sometimes it’s an option recommended by doctors for health reasons, it’s a diet plan that shouldn’t be taken lightly as you’re eating well below the recommended calorie threshold for adults.
Lee Chambers (opens in new tab) is a Environmental Psychologist and Performance Nutritionist. He explains, "The 1000 calorie diet plan is yet another trend which is anything but new. It is an effective rebranding of very low calorie diets, which are often used medically in situations where the benefits outweigh the risks. In terms of effectiveness, due to the large calorie restriction there will be a net weight loss. When looking from an overall health perspective, it is challenging to consume a nutritionally complete diet with such severe restriction on overall calorific consumption."
What is the 1,000 calorie meal diet?
As the name suggests, the 1,000 calorie meal diet is low calorie diet option for those looking to lose substantial amounts of weight fairly quickly. It's a diet based on counting calories (opens in new tab).
To stay healthy, an average man should be aiming for 2,500 calories a day and a woman should aim for 2,000 calories a day. This, therefore, is well below the recommended amount of calories you should be eating.
Low calorie diets such as these ones are suitable, according to the NHS, for those who have a BMI (opens in new tab) of 30 or 40, are obese and need to quickly lose weight (opens in new tab) to manage conditions like diabetes (opens in new tab), or if they are about to have surgery or fertility treatments.
As Aisling Moran, Nutritional Scientist at Thriva.co (opens in new tab) says, "A very low-calorie diet might be useful in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. This approach involves mainly a liquid diet of about 800 kcal a day for about 3 months, followed by a less restrictive diet. Very importantly, this is all done under the guidance of a dietitian."
However, many people opt for diets like these to lose weight in the short term for other reasons. Whatever the reason is for taking on a low calorie diet, you should always make sure that your food is nutritionally complete and that the plan is only undertaken for a maximum of 12 weeks.
What can you eat on the 1,000 calorie meal diet? Examples
- Strawberry and rhubarb breakfast bars (opens in new tab) (388 calories)
- Scrambled eggs (opens in new tab) and mushrooms (91 calories)
- Blueberry Bircher muesli (opens in new tab) (105 calories)
- Alpen No Added Sugar cereal (opens in new tab) (199 calories)
- Kiwi, Greek yogurt and blueberries (95 calories)
- Quorn lunch bowl (opens in new tab) (161 calories)
- Green miso noodle bowl (opens in new tab) (198 calories)
- Mediterranean vegetable chilli (opens in new tab) (190 calories)
- Spring vegetable soup (opens in new tab) (130 calories)
- Chicken pittas (opens in new tab) (176 calories)
- Wholewheat spaghetti with roasted vegetables (opens in new tab) (400 calories)
- Wild mushroom risotto (opens in new tab) (317 calories)
- One-pot tuna puttanesca (opens in new tab) (429 calories)
- Roast lamb with potatoes and rosemary (opens in new tab) (381 calories)
- Cheese and tomato bake (opens in new tab) (481 calories)
- Banana smoothie (opens in new tab) (165 calories)
- Red pepper hummus (opens in new tab) (128 calories per portion) with 4 x cracked black pepper Ryvita crackers (opens in new tab) (136 calories)
- Baked chickpeas (opens in new tab) (71 calories)
- Homemade cheese straws (opens in new tab) (40 calories each)
- Quick pizza (opens in new tab) (218 calories)
The 1,000 calorie meal diet isn’t the most restrictive one out there because it’s all based around calorie counting and opting for low calorie meals (opens in new tab) to lose weight.
One of the good things about the 1,000-calorie diet plan is that you can pick and choose when and how much you want to eat, so long as you stick to the 1,000 calorie maximum.
How to maintain a low calorie diet
Performance Nutritionist at Maximuscle, Gareth Nicholas (opens in new tab)says, "Only you can decide how many total calories you’ll need each day, so a fixed 1,000 calorie diet could work for some individuals but it's very likely that this one-size fits all approach will not work for the majority of people."
He goes on to explain: "To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. The amount of calories you need to cut back on varies from person to person and involves your height, weight and activity levels which determine your metabolic rate (opens in new tab)." This is why the 1,000 calorie diet may not work in the same way for everyone.
Top tips to maintain a low calorie diet:
- Hydration - Water is calorie free, keeps you hydrated and is basically all you need to drink. If you’re one of those people who claims they don’t enjoy the taste, just keep drinking it and you’ll quickly grow used to it.
- Sugars - One of the best ways to reduce calorie intake is to opt for low GI (Glycemic index) foods. Loosely, GI relates to a food’s sugar content and how fast it releases glucose in the body. If you haven’t worked out and eat high GI foods, they are stored as fat. With that in mind, you should cut out sugary, high GI food such as white rice, white bread and pasta and replace them with low GI carbs such as brown basmati rice, wholegrains and fruit such as apples and berries.
- Fats - There are good and bad fats, but in a low calorie diet you will want to try and taper down all kinds, since fats are an inefficient energy source compared to carbs and are responsible for the physical appearance of body fat. With that in mind, aim for 20% or less of your calorie intake from good fats.
- Cardio - When you’re eating at a calorie deficit, you’ll lose body fat. Doing more cardiovascular exercise will increase the rate at which you burn calories, so you’ll be able to drop body fat faster if you stick to your deficit whilst training hard. This also means that if you add heavy cardio in, you will have low energy levels on a 1000 calorie diet.
Is the 1,000 calorie meal diet effective for losing weight?
Our experts agree that in the short-term the 1,000 calorie meal diet would be effective but it's not a long-term solution.
As Aisling Moran says, "Very low calorie diets can lead to significant weight loss, but once you stop this diet, some weight tends to be regained.
"Part of this is due to bingeing once you don't have any restrictions on food. But it can also lower your metabolic rate - the number of calories your body needs to function. Plus, it can also affect your hormones, gut, heart, and immune system. As diets go, this is extreme."
Is the 1,000 calorie diet sustainable?
As Aisling said, the diet might be successful in the short term but it's unlikely that the results will continue and the weight is likely to return after the diet stops.
"At such a level of calorific restriction, sustainability is nigh impossible." Lee Chambers confirms, "These types of diets are difficult to follow and often come with unpleasant side effects. They are not a realistic long term method to manage our weight in a healthy way. Health bodies themselves advise they should not be a first option and should not be routinely used."
Should you exercise on the diet?
As with other diets, it’s suggested that a healthy combination of exercise and calorie deficit eating will be the most successful way to lose weight.
However, with the 1000-calorie diet plan it’s important to remember that on average, you’re consuming half of the calories that you normally would. The side effects of doing so include headaches, feeling dizzy, low energy and tiredness, so a low-energy workout like walking (opens in new tab) would probably be best.
Lee says, "Consuming [calories] at such a low level will leave us actively trying to conserve energy, making us less likely to move and exercise to become challenging and possibly dangerous. There is also the reality that at this level, we are unlikely to be consuming enough protein to protect ourselves from muscle loss."
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Grace Walsh is a Features Writer for Goodto.com, covering breaking news health stories during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as lifestyle and entertainment topics. She has worked in media since graduating from the University of Warwick in 2019 with a degree in Classical Civilisation and a year spent abroad in Italy. It was here that Grace caught the bug for journalism, after becoming involved in the university’s student newspaper and radio station.
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