How to follow a low-calorie diet

Although weight loss targets should be set individually, generally speaking the aim should be for initial weight loss (phase one) of approximately 10% of total body weight. ”Balanced low-calorie diets” are those most recommended by different organisations and scientific associations for the treatment of obesity. With  some modifications with regard to proteins, macronutrient distribution is quite similar to that recommended for the population in general for a balanced diet (1):
  1. Carbohydrates: These should represent 45-55% of total caloric value, but total consumption should never be below 100 g/day. Limit consumption of refined sugars (<10%) maintain intake of dietary fibre (25-30 g/day).
  2. Fats: These should represent 25-35% of total caloric value. Consumption of fat should be reduced due to its high energy density, and this will be beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease.
  3. Proteins: These should represent 10.15% of total caloric value. In low-calorie diets with daily intake below 1,500 kcal, the percentage of proteins may be lowered to the point where it is insufficient to cover minimum protein requirements (0.8-1 g/kg adjusted body weight), and in such cases an increase to 25% is recommended. Remember, too, that at least half of the proteins in diet should be of high biological value.
  4. Water: Abundant water intake is recommended to prevent crystallisation and precipitation of solutes.
  5. Micronutrients: Low-calorie diets with intake below 1,500 kcal/day may present a lack of iron, manganese and vitamins 8D, E, B1, B2, B3 and B6. For this reason, such diets should be supplemented by vitamin preparations.
Diet design should take into account certain recommendations concerning the different food groups:
  1. Milk and dairy products: Recommendations are as for the general population. This ensures that calcium intake covers requirements. However, skim or low-fat dairy products should be chosen. The recommended intake is 2-3 servings per day.
  2. Cereals, legumes and tubers: This food group is our main source of complex carbohydrates and is also an important source of vegetable protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Many people when dieting limit their intake of these products due to the misconception that they are high in caloric content. Around 6 servings per day is the recommended intake of these foods.
Cómo llevar una dieta baja en calorías
  1. Vegetables: Most vegetables can be consumed without limit, as they have very low caloric density. It is essential to encourage eating vegetables from childhood. 3-4 servings of vegetables should be eaten per day, and at least one portion should be raw.
  2. Fruit: Intake should be 2-3 pieces per day, particularly of fleshy fruit, whilst consumption of bananas, grapes, avocado and packaged juices should be limited.
  3. Meat, fish and eggs: On the one hand, intake of meat and fat-rich meat products (cold meat, sausages, etc.) should be reduced. On the other, the consumption of lean meat (such as chicken, turkey and rabbit) is recommended. White fish contains less fat than oily fish. However, oily fish should not be eliminated from the diet, because they are an important source of omega-3 fatty acids. To meet daily protein recommendations, one serving of protein at lunch and one at dinner are advised.
  4. Fats and oils: Given its high caloric density, consumption of this food group should be limited. Use cooking methods that require little fat (papillote, grille and oven) and cut out sauces and fried and battered foods. Maximum consumption of 2-3 tablespoons of oil a day is generally recommended, preferably olive or extra virgin olive oil.
  1. Sociedad Española para el Estudio de la Obesidad (SEEDO). Consenso SEEDO’2000 para la evaluación del sobrepeso y la obesidad y el establecimiento de criterios de intervención terapéutica. Med Clin (Barc) 2000; 115: 587-597.