Low Calorie Diet

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Posted by Linda O'Byrne (Atkins Nutritionist)

Atkins is not a low calorie diet, but a low-carbohydrate diet. it is important to know the differences. Therefore we give here an explanation of a reduced calorie diet. In this article you will learn how a low-calorie diet works, we've included a low-calorie diet food list and a low calorie diet weekly menu. In addition, you will learn what the advantages and disadvantages of this diet and the difference between a low-calorie and low carbohydrate diet.

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What is a low calorie diet?

A low-calorie diet focuses on counting calories. A calorie is a form of energy which comes from protein, fat, carbohydrates, or alcohol, which the body can use as a fuel. You lose weight when you eat fewer calories than you burn.

What are calories?

The energy content of each food calorie (also called kcal) is the same. It's worked out by raising one kilogram of water to one degree Celsius. However, different macronutrients work differently in our bodies. The types of calories you ingest from different macronutrients are used by your body in different ways. Below you will find the main food groups:

  • Fat calories come from fat.
  • Protein calories provided by protein.
  • Carbohydrate calories supplied by carbohydrates.

How does a low calorie diet work?

The Nutrition Centre recommends a low calorie diet where you lose weight by eating less. The guidelines for a low calorie diet are 1,500 calories per day for women and 1,800 calories per day for men and this is based on the Food Pyramid. In addition, variation is important and reduces foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and alcohol. Later in this article you will find an example of a low calorie diet weekly menu.

What do you eat during a diet low in calories?

Since fat contains more calories than a gram of protein and carbohydrates, you will begin to reduce dietary fat on a low-calorie diet. Therefore, preference is given to foods with lower fat content, such as skimmed milk, low-fat meat and light products. Below is a list of recommended foods according to the Nutrition Centre:

  • Many fruits and vegetables
  • Whole-wheat products
  • Variety of proteins including lean, fish, meat, legumes, nuts, eggs and vegetarian products
  • Liquid fats
  • Beverages without sugar
  • Skimmed and semi-skimmed milk

Basically you can eat all kinds of foods within a reduced calorie diet as long as they are low fat. You can create your own food plan as long as you stick within the maximum number of calories. This makes the diet easy to follow. In the following paragraphs you will find an example of a low calorie diet plan.

low calorie diet

Low calorie diet schedule vs. low carbohydrate diet schedule

You often eat smaller portions when following a low calorie diet. As you're eating much less, there is a greater risk that you'll experience permanent hunger. A low carbohydrate diet has more fat and protein containing foods so you'll feel satisfied sooner and therefore have less hunger and you'll feel fuller for longer.

Meal plan 20g carbs

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Health effects of a low calorie diet

Obesity brings increased risk of many diseases and disorders such as:

  • Overloading of joints and fatigue
  • Heart and vascular disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Kidney problems
  • Gout
  • Gallstones

Besides physical problems, you may also get mental problems such as depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem and stress.

Achieving, and maintaining, a healthy body weight can reduce the risk of these symptoms. Losing just 5 to 10% of your body weight has positive effects on your health and can reduce, or even get rid of, these symptoms.

Benefits of a low-calorie diet

The nutrition centre describes the following benefits of a low-calorie diet:

  • It causes weight loss
    When you consume less energy than you burn you will lose weight.


  • You can still eat varied
    When following a low calorie diet, you can include a wide variety of foods and minimise processed foods.
Disadvantages of a low-calorie diet
  • Feeling hungry and unsatisfied
    A low calorie diet restricts total calories, which can lead to feeling hungry. If you follow the diet and try to eat more foods to combat hunger, you may need large amounts of very low calorie food products (celery, leafy vegetables, etc.).


  • Low satisfaction
    As the emphasis is on calories, you eat less fat as it contains the most calories. This can lead to hunger as fat fills you up for longer


  • Processed sugars
    As low calorie diets are low in fat, they tend to be relatively high in carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are converted in the body to glucose. Glucose causes blood sugar spikes which are high peaks followed by a drop in blood sugar. This can lead to hunger, irritability and can make the diet hard to follow.


  • Too much weight lost in a short time
    Due to low energy intake, you can sometimes lose a lot of weight in a short time. The danger this poses is that you'll not just lose bodyfat but also muscle mass.

Low calorie diet versus low carb diet

A low calorie diet is difficult to sustain and often you're hungry, making it tempting to overeat. It's important to eat regularly and often the foods you eat are processed foods with added sugars and other foods with hidden sugars; this can lead to an increase in fat stores located in your hips, stomach and thighs.

With Atkins you count carbs, no calories, and you choose satiating food. This way of eating will keep your appetite under control. Your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates and sugar, which is an efficient way to lose weight.

The image below shows how your body reacts to these two different diets. On the left you can see how your body reacts to a low calorie diet and on the right you can see how your body reacts to a low carbohydrate diet.

low calorie diet