Meal Planning Guide
Meal Planning Guide 1200 Calorie
This Meal Planning Guide is based on the Exchange System, which groups foods into categories such as starches, fruits, vegetables,
milk, meats and meat substitutes, and fats. One serving in a group is called an “exchange.” An exchange has about the same amount
of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and calories as a serving of every other food in that same group. So, for example, you could swap one
small apple for 3/4 cup of blueberries for one fruit serving. Sometimes nutrient figures may seem to vary a bit from list to list due to
rounding-off, different serving sizes, or different methods of preparation. But if you eat the specified number of servings of each
group, you can be comfortable that you’ll have a diet rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories.
At first it appears a bit tedious measuring out an ounce of this and a cup of that, and with some foods it can be hard to measure or
estimate an exact serving size. An inexpensive kitchen scale will come in handy. And these pictures will illustrate some helpful
The palm, not including
fingers and thumb, is
about 3 ounces of meat.
A fist is about 1 cup.
The thumb is about
The thumb tip is about
Based on woman’s hand size. Measure meats after skin, bone, and visible fat have been removed.
Do best you can, and hope little inaccuracies average out.
Avoid snacks that are not counted in your meal plan, and avoid nibbling while preparing foods. These uncounted portions can add up
to a significant number of calories, and are a frequent reason for people not to lose weight when they are otherwise following the meal
For combination foods, like casseroles or dessert items, you may have to do a little research. For packaged foods, look at the
nutritional label. For recipes you prepare at home, either add up the calories for all the ingredients and divide by the number of
servings, perform an Internet search, or use a smartphone application. One particularly good resource is MyFitnessPal.com.
A diet that promotes weight loss is sometimes slightly deficient in some vitamins and minerals, so you should take a one-a-day type
multivitamin/mineral/iron supplement. An inexpensive generic will suffice.
Initially many of these meals and servings will appear much smaller than you’re accustomed to—and that is, after all, part of the
object here. To combat hunger as your appetite and serving-size perception adapt, it helps to drink a full glass of water at the start of
each meal. Eat slowly; if you eat too fast, your sense of fullness doesn’t get a chance to catch up with what you’ve eaten. And make
use of the free foods list—items that you can add in addition to other foods listed in your meal plan.
Exercise promotes weight loss and has numerous other health benefits; it is as close to a fountain of youth as you’ll ever find. Start
slowly and work your way up. Even if all you do is walk the length of the yard, that’s fine, as long as you go one step farther
tomorrow. If your weight or arthritis problems prohibit you from walking for exercise, consider walking/exercising in a swimming
pool; you’ll burn a lot of calories without having to support all of your weight. Try to build up to 30 minutes of exercise daily.
On the exchange lists you’ll see several footnotes. Some of these tell you that that food selection counts as a serving from more than
one group. And you’ll see two other footnotes related to sodium (salt) and fiber:
♦ Foods marked with ♦ contain 480 mg or more of sodium per serving. The less sodium you get, the better.
☺ Foods marked with ☺ contain more than 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving. The more fiber you get, the better.
• The Practical Guide: Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults; National Institutes of Health; National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute; North American Association for the Study of Obesity; NIH Publication Number 00-4084; October 2000.
• NIH menu planner for 1200, 1400, 1600, 1800, 2000 cal diets. http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/menuplanner/menu.cgi.
• Daily Meal Planning Guide; www.LillyDiabetes.com.
• MyFitnessPal.com: Numerous online and smartphone weight management tools, including food and exercise calorie listings.
• Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes; American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association, 2007.
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