What Does a 1,500-Calorie Diet Look Like?

By Nicci Micco, EatingWell 500 Calorie Dinners (2010)

Create your own 1,500-calorie day with these delicious and satisfying meals to help you lose weight.

"I did a calculation based on my weight of 180lbs and the number of calories needed to maintain my weight was about correct. For a weight loss of 2lb per week it came out at just under 1200 calories and they suggest 1200 as a minimum. I...

Great article! I enjoyed the reader comments too.

The formula is a well accepted rule of thumb. It's a close approximation for your daily calorie burn, not including exercise or sports activities. In other words, it includes the calories you burn just being alive plus the number of calories you would burn through office work or low intensity household activities. I weight 190 lbs, so my calorie burn is 2280. This is a good number for me to know and here's why:

To lose 1 lb per week, I need to consume 3500 calories less than I burn. That's a 500 calorie differential per day (3500 / 7).

To lose 2 lb per week, I need to consume 7000 calories less than I burn. That's a 1000 calorie differential per day (7000 / 7).

Assuming I want to lose 2 lbs per week, I can't eliminate 1000 calories a day from my diet. I'd starve and be miserable. The only way I can do this is to reduce my intake by a certain amount and commit to burn additional calories through exercise.

For example, I could cut 400 calories from my diet, giving me a calorie target of 1880 (2280 - 400) and burn 600 calories a day in exercise. I can burn 600 calories by jogging on a treadmill for 45 minutes or biking in the 14 - 16 mph for the same duration.

The point is, it's tough as hell to lose weight without exercise. Especially, when you at starting from a lower weight than mine. When you look at these calorie calculators, it's just as important to thing about the calories you burn as well as the calories your consume. Weight Control is my business and 95% of the successful people I work with who have lost weight (and keep it off) Exercise every single day.

They also read Eating Well Magazine and!


02/10/2010 - 1:05pm

OK, I normally weigh about 130 and wish I could go back to the 127 of my 30's when I had to go up a size and have new bras to fit what then was the most I'd ever weighed. As midlife has come on, I edge up to 138-142. I can't go any higher as diabetes runs high in my family., besides that I don't want to, period.

Right now I'm 138 lbs and would at this point be thrilled to hover at 130. But if I do 138 x 12, I am already eating 1656 cals. To lose two pounds a week you suggest I eat 656? I am amazed that I only eat that many calories, as while I eat well, low fat and fairly clean and exercise, I keep gaining weight.

I recalculated three times and get the same number... I was expecting it to say that it took 2500 or 3200 cals to maintain this weight which is 11 lbs heavier than I was just about a decade ago. I was not eating only 1500 cals when I weighed 125 and 127 in my late 30s' and early 40's. though I did get more exercise, living in NYC where you walk everywhere,carrying things with you, as well as go to the gym.

Can you enlighten me as to how this is? Has midlife -- age 47 to now 51 -- made all the difference?


03/04/2010 - 12:07am

I just had one of those "aha" moments ! Right now I'm about as wide as I am tall but I am working on a plan for weight loss. I can plan my meals and snacks to total about 1500 calories and then factor in some activity and bam! There you have it. Depending on how much activity, I CAN lose weight. My family already eats pretty healthy, we just eat a lot of healthy! Portion control and moving my body will be the answer. That simple calculation of body weight x 12 was an eye opener. I'm consuming in excess of 2200 cal per day. Wow. Thanks for an enlightening article.


04/14/2010 - 11:29am

I think that everyone is reading too much into this. I think the overall point of it is to watch the amount (portions) that you eat, make healthier choices (olive oil vs peanut oil), and start being more active. Weight loss really shouldn't be about math, it should be about a person changing their lifestyle to a more active and healthy one. There is no 'one rule to lose weight' as there is no 'one diet that works for everyone.' If a person wants to lose weight, then it starts with a change in lifestyle completely.

1. Getting enough sleep
2. Eating the right things
3. Drinking the right things
4. Being more active
5. Proper decision making

All these things must be altered. It's not about the amount crash diets or counting calories, but more about overall choices and changes. The calorie budget thing, I think, is more of a guideline than a set rule. It just helps us realize how much we *should* be eating and open our eyes to how fatty / unhealthy a lot of food is.


04/22/2010 - 7:18pm

Yes I agree people are taking this far too seriously.
These comments are hilarious! If you people can find that many excuses as to why you cannot eat healthy or do some physical exercise then I guess you don't want to lose weight that badly...oh and you're not going to get "professional advice" on here, so quit asking detailed crazy questions. Go see your doctor or a personal trainer or something...


05/21/2010 - 11:40am

For some people, it has to be about the math at first.

I'm 19 years old, 190 pounds currently trying to get down to about 160. When I first started counting my calories every day, I was kind of amazed and saddened at what I'd been eating before. I probably ate 3000-4000 calories a day, but all the foods I was eating were pretty healthy. I don't drink soda or eat chips or fast food. Lots of fruits and veggies, yogurt and granola, cottage cheese, grilled chicken, salads, stuff like that, but I was eating way too much. I really love eating. And, okay, some of the foods were pretty high in fat/carbs/cals/etc. Like cheese and bread. Now I only let myself have cheddar cheese one day a week, and I try to limit myself to 2 slices of bread a day. I could eat an entire loaf of bread a day and a pound of cheese without even realizing it.

But you don't know how to make the right decisions until you know what the right decisions are. For the first weeks of counting calories, I measured out everything that I ate, especially mayo and yogurt and "wet" foods. This really helped me get a feel for exactly how much I was eating. Now I can eyeball how much a cup is, or how far a tablespoon of salad dressing goes, and I am making way better decisions of how much of each I use. You're conscious of every single thing that goes in to making a sandwich or whatever. Measuring really really helps you not go overboard.

One of my big problems is snacking though. Some people can eat 8 small meals a day and lose weight. That would be pretty much impossible me; it would just turn into an all-day meal, things would blend together, and I'd end up eating 4000 calories again. If I must have a snack (often late at night when I'm studying and doing homework), I carefully measure out a cup of cheerios and some dried apricots, or have an apple/orange/banana/carrots, and only let myself have that. Or a single tortilla and a ton of salsa. I love salsa, it's super filling and super low cal. I put salsa on everything. If I don't measure out then put the box away, I end up eating the whole box before I realize. Did I mention how important measuring is for me?

I also drink so much tea now. Whenever I feel the urge to eat and I know I'm not actually hungry, I make myself some tea, no sugar or milk. It's warm and filling and comforting in your stomach. This is especially good when I'm watching tv and want something to chew on or sip. Sometimes, if it gets really bad, I make myself a cup of bouillon. I try not to do this too often though, because even though it's low cal, it can be very high in sodium.


05/27/2010 - 1:31am

I just don't find this kind of advice to be healthy or on point.
I am 120 pounds, which means my calculated caloric intake daily, just to maintain weight, is under 1500 calories, which doesn't sound too healthy to me.
I don't think your weight has as much to do with your calorie burn as your body composition, i.e. muscle/fat. Certainly someone who is 120 lbs, mostly muscle, can eat far more than someone who is 120lbs of fat.

Its not responsible for a magazine that promotes health, in my opinion, to put this kind of information out there without going into greater detail of the reasoning (if any?) behind the simplistic formula.


06/21/2010 - 7:03pm

Yeah, definitely doesn't include exercise! I weigh 135 and am 5'8.5" and female. I learned to count calories as a teenager and I'm good at estimating amounts, etc. According to that formula I use 1,620 calories a day but I KNOW I consume about 2,000 calories a day and maintain my weight, even now in middle age. I don't exercise for its own sake but I'm really active taking care of my pets. For whatever reason I've found that fatty, greasy foods have lost their appeal as I've grown older. I actually gravitate to more fruit and veggies and I'm sure this helps. For me it's all about listening to my body. I eat when I'm hungry, I stop when I'm full and I'm aware of what I'm eating.


06/21/2010 - 10:19pm

No offense to the 19 year old, but c'mon, it doesn't matter whether the food was healthy or not. It shouldn't be a surprise even if "healthy" bread, granola, yogurt, cheese, blah, blah, blah adds up to 4000 calories if you eat the entire pack of all those things in a single day. Healthy doesn't mean 0 calories. Healthy just means less of sodium/preservative/whatever. But let's use some common sense here. Onions are healthy, but if you eat 10 pounds of onions, then it's still 10 pounds of food and all the nutritions AND calories that come with it. You can't just think "Gee, the company labeled them healthy and I'm not eating something fried, so I must be eating healthy and therefore my caloric intake is totally normal even if I eat the entire box of granola bars, which contain 24 servings."

Plus weight loss is much more than just couting calories. Besides, it's ridiculous to cut out a 1000 calories a day. The focus should be on MODERATION, not "I'm going to cut out anything and everything chocolate so I can be uber skinny." Healthy people eat chocolate. They just don't empty out the entire candy store.

The main point of the article was to provide the readers with a GUIDELINE for what should be, not the LAW. The idea here is to MODERATE, as in, spread out your 1,500 calories throughout the day. Don't skip breakfast then have a 1,500 calorie dinner.


06/21/2010 - 10:25pm

This can't be right. At barely 5' tall, I am heavy at 115. At my most active and healthy eating I was 100-105. so this article is saying that now at 115 I need 1380 cal to keep the same weight, and -500 (880 cal) to lose one pound per week? How can one survive on less than 1000 cal per day? I haven't gained steadily in months, but I know I eat more than 1380 per day. And I don't exercise anymore. Then they say if target goal is less than 1200, then set goal at 1200. Is 180 cal/day really going to make a difference? No.


06/22/2010 - 3:24am

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