When trying to lose weight, creating a calorie deficit either by eating less or increasing physical activity is necessary.

Many people choose to follow a 1,500-calorie diet plan to jumpstart weight loss and control their food intake.

This article explains how to follow a 1,500-calorie diet, including foods to eat, foods to avoid and tips for healthy, long-term weight loss.

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While 1,500 calories may be a good guideline for many people, be sure to calculate your exact needs to optimize your weight loss journey

The number of calories you need depends on many factors, including physical activity, gender, age, weight loss goals and overall health.

It’s important to estimate how many calories your body requires to both maintain and lose weight when determining your needs.

To calculate your overall calories needs, it’s necessary to calculate the total number of calories you typically burn in a day, which is known as your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) ().

The easiest way to determine your TDEE is by using an online calculator or the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation, a formula in which you plug in your height, weight and age.

Here is the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation for both men and women:

  • Men: Calories per day = 10x(weight in kg) + 6.25x(height in cm) – 5x(age) + 5
  • Women: Calories per day = 10x(weight in kg) + 6.25x(height in cm) – 5x(age) – 161

To calculate your TDEE, the answer from the Mifflin. St. Jeor equation is then multiplied by a number corresponding to your level of activity, known as an activity factor (2).

There are five different levels of activity:

  • Sedentary: x 1.2 (sedentary individuals who perform little to no exercise)
  • Lightly active: x 1.375 (light exercise fewer than 3 days per week)
  • Moderately active: x 1.55 (moderate exercise most days of the week)
  • Very active: x 1.725 (hard exercise every day)
  • Extra active: x 1.9 (strenuous exercise 2 or more times per day)

After determining your TDEE by multiplying the answer from the Mifflin. St-Jeor equation with the correct activity factor, calories can be adjusted depending on your weight loss goals.

Creating a Calorie Deficit for Weight Loss

While weight loss is much more complex than the “calories in, calories out” way of thinking, generally speaking, a calorie deficit needs to be created to lose body fat.

Typically, a reduction of 500 calories per day is suggested to lose 1 pound (450 grams) per week.

Though this would equate to a 52-pound (23.5-kg) weight loss in one year, research shows that the average rate of weight loss is much slower.

Behavioral and biological factors, such as dietary adherence and differences in gut bacteria and metabolic rates, lead people to lose weight at different rates (, ).

For example, a review of 35 studies observed weight loss of 0.004–2.5 pounds (0.002–1.13 kg) per week when calories were restricted by 240–1,000 calories per day ().

Rather than setting an unrealistic goal, aim for slow, consistent weight loss of 1–2 pounds (0.5–1 kg) per week.

However, since weight loss differs drastically from person to person, it’s important to not get discouraged if you aren’t losing weight as quickly as expected.

Bumping up physical activity, spending less time sitting, cutting out added sugars and focusing on whole foods should help expedite weight loss and help you stay on track.

Summary Determine your calorie needs, then create a calorie deficit by subtracting 500 calories from your TDEE. Aim for a slow weight loss of 1–2 pounds (0.5–1 kg) per week.

When attempting to lose weight and adopt better eating habits, it’s important to choose unprocessed, whole foods.

Though it’s perfectly healthy to have a treat now and then, the majority of your diet should be made up of the following foods:

  • Non-starchy vegetables: Kale, arugula, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes, etc.
  • Fruits: Berries, apples, pears, citrus fruits, melon, grapes, bananas, etc.
  • Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes, plantains, butternut squash, etc.
  • Fish and shellfish: Sea Bass, salmon, cod, clams, shrimp, sardines, trout, oysters, etc.
  • Eggs: Whole eggs are more nutrient dense than egg whites.
  • Poultry and meat: Chicken, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, etc.
  • Plant-based protein sources: Tofu, tempeh, plant-based protein powders.
  • Whole grains: Oats, brown rice, farro, quinoa, bulgur, barley, millet, etc.
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, black beans and more.
  • Healthy fats: Avocados, olive oil, unsweetened coconut, avocado oil, coconut oil, etc.
  • Dairy products: Full-fat or reduced-fat plain yogurt, kefir and full-fat cheeses.
  • Seeds, nuts and nut butters: Almonds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, natural peanut butter, almond butter and tahini.
  • Unsweetened plant-based milks: Coconut, almond, cashew and hemp milk.
  • Seasonings: Turmeric, garlic, oregano, rosemary, chili pepper, black pepper, salt, etc.
  • Condiments: Apple cider vinegar, salsa, lemon juice, garlic powder, etc.
  • Non-calorie beverages: Water, sparkling water, coffee, green tea, etc.

Be sure to eat plenty of fiber-rich foods and quality sources of protein at each meal.

Protein is the most filling of the three macronutrients and combining a protein with filling fiber sources, such as non-starchy vegetables, beans or berries, can help prevent overeating.

Research shows that both high-fiber and high-protein diets are effective at promoting fat loss (, ).

Summary Whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish and nuts, should make up the majority of any healthy diet.

Processed foods and added sugar should be kept to a minimum in any healthy weight loss plan.

Cutting out or limiting the following foods can help you lose weight and improve your overall health.

  • Fast food: Chicken nuggets, fries, pizza, hot dogs etc.
  • Refined carbs: White bread, sugary cereals, white pasta, bagels, crackers, corn chips, tortillas, etc.
  • Added sugars: Sugary snack bars, candy, baked goods, candy, table sugar, agave, etc.
  • Processed foods: Packaged foods, processed meats (deli meats, bacon), boxed pasta dishes, cereal bars, etc.
  • Fried foods: Potato chips, deep-fried foods, doughnuts, mozzarella sticks, etc.
  • Diet and low-fat foods: Diet bars, low-fat ice cream, low-fat chips, diet frozen meals, low-calorie candies, etc.
  • Sweetened beverages: Soda, fruit juice, energy drinks, flavored milks, sweetened coffee drinks, etc.

Although enjoying a favorite food or beverage every now and then won’t hurt your weight loss goals, indulging regularly will.

For example, if you have a habit of eating ice cream every night after dinner, reduce your intake to one serving of ice cream once or twice a week.

Cutting back on habits that are hindering weight loss may take time, but it’s necessary in order to reach your wellness goals.

Summary Fast food, refined carbs and added sugars should be limited when following a nutritious diet for weight loss.

Here is a nutritious, one-week 1,500-calorie sample menu.

The meals can be adapted to fit any dietary preference, including vegetarians and those eating gluten-free.

The following meals are around 500 calories each ():

Monday

Breakfast — Egg and Avocado Toast

Lunch — Salad With Grilled Chicken

  • 2 cups (40 grams) of spinach
  • 4 ounces (112 grams) of grilled chicken
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) of chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup (25 grams) of shredded carrots
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) of goat cheese
  • Balsamic vinaigrette

Dinner — Cod With Quinoa and Broccoli

  • 5 ounces (140 grams) of baked cod
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup (138 grams) of quinoa
  • 2 cups (176 grams) of roasted broccoli

Tuesday

Breakfast — Healthy Yogurt Bowl

  • 1 cup (245 grams) of full-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 cup (123 grams) of raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of unsweetened coconut

Lunch — Mozzarella Wrap

  • 2 ounces (46 grams) of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 cup (140 grams) of sweet red peppers
  • 2 slices of tomato
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of pesto
  • 1 small, whole-grain wrap

Dinner — Salmon With Veggies

  • 1 small sweet potato (60 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of butter
  • 4 ounces (112 grams) of wild-caught salmon
  • 1 cup (88 grams) of roasted Brussels sprouts

Wednesday

Breakfast — Oatmeal

  • 1 cup (81 grams) of oatmeal cooked in 1 cup (240 ml) of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup (62 grams) of sliced apple
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of natural peanut butter

Lunch — Veggie and Hummus Wrap

  • 1 small whole-grain wrap
  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of hummus
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 slices of tomato
  • 1 cup (20 grams) of fresh arugula
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) of muenster cheese

Dinner — Chili

  • 3 ounces (84 grams) of ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) of black beans
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) of kidney beans
  • 1 cup (224 grams) of crushed tomatoes

Thursday

Breakfast — Peanut Butter and Banana Toast With Eggs

  • 2 fried eggs
  • 1 slice of Ezekiel toast
  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 sliced banana

Lunch — On-the-Go Sushi

  • 1 cucumber and avocado sushi roll made with brown rice
  • 1 vegetable roll with brown rice
  • 2 pieces of salmon sashimi and a green salad

Dinner — Black Bean Burger

  • 1 cup (240 grams) of black beans
  • 1 egg
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups (20 grams) of mixed greens
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) of feta cheese

Friday

Breakfast — Breakfast smoothie

  • 1 scoop of pea protein powder
  • 1 cup (151 grams) of frozen blackberries
  • 1 cup (240 ml) of coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of cashew butter
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of hemp seeds

Lunch — Kale Salad With Grilled Chicken

  • 2 cups (40 grams) of kale
  • 4 ounces (112 grams) of grilled chicken
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) of lentils
  • 1/2 cup (25 grams) of shredded carrots
  • 1 cup (139 grams) of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) of goat cheese
  • Balsamic vinaigrette

Dinner — Shrimp Fajitas

  • 4 ounces (112 grams) of grilled shrimp
  • 2 cups (278 grams) of onions and peppers sauteed in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil
  • 2 small corn tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon of full-fat sour cream
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) of shredded cheese

Saturday

Breakfast — Oatmeal

  • 1 cup (81 grams) of oatmeal cooked in 1 cup (240 ml) unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup (123 grams) of blueberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of natural almond butter

Lunch — Tuna Salad

  • 5 ounces (140 grams) of canned tuna
  • 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of mayo
  • Chopped celery
  • 2 cups (40 grams) of mixed greens
  • 1/4 sliced avocado
  • 1/2 cup (31 grams) of sliced green apple

Dinner — Chicken With Veggies

  • 5 ounces (120 grams) of baked chicken
  • 1 cup (205 grams) of roasted butternut squash cooked in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil
  • 2 cups (176 grams) roasted broccoli

Sunday

Breakfast — Omelet

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) of cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (20 grams) of spinach cooked in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of coconut oil
  • 1 cup (205 grams) of sautéed sweet potatoes

Lunch — On-the-Go Chipotle

  • 1 Chipotle burrito bowl made with romaine lettuce, Barbacoa chicken, brown rice, 1/2 serving of guacamole and fresh salsa

Dinner — Pasta With Pesto and Beans

  • 1 cup (140 grams) of brown-rice pasta or whole-wheat pasta
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of pesto
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) of cannellini beans
  • 1 cup (20 grams) of spinach
  • 1 cup (139 grams) of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon (5 grams) of grated parmesan cheese

As you can see, eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring.

What’s more, though cooking and packing meals from home should be prioritized, there are plenty of healthy choices for on-the-go meals.

If you know you will be eating at a restaurant, look at the menu beforehand and pick out an option that is both appetizing and nutritious.

This way, you will be less inclined to make a last-minute unhealthy meal choice.

Summary A 1,500-calorie diet should be rich in fresh produce, protein and fiber. Though preparing meals at home is best, it’s possible to make healthy choices when eating out by reviewing the menu beforehand.

While sticking to a 1,500-calorie diet may certainly spark weight loss, there are several other ways to ensure that you meet your weight loss goals in a healthy, sustainable way.

Be Aware of Your Calorie Intake

Though you may think that you’re eating less, it’s common to underestimate the amount of food that you are consuming ().

An easy way to make sure you are staying under your calorie needs is to use a food journal or calorie tracking app.

Logging meals, snacks and drinks along with the calories they contain can help you stay on track and reduces the chances of underestimating your calorie consumption.

Although tracking foods is a helpful tool when first starting a meal plan, it can create an unhealthy relationship with food in some people.

Focusing on portion control, eating whole foods, practicing mindful eating and getting enough exercise are better ways to keep weight off in the long term (, ).

Eat Whole Foods

Any healthy meal plan should revolve around whole, natural foods.

Processed foods and beverages, such as fast food, candy, baked goods, white bread and soda, aren’t good for your health and major contributors to the obesity epidemic ().

Although processed diet and low-fat snacks and meals may seem like a wise choice when trying to lose weight, these foods often contain ingredients like added sugars that can contribute to inflammation and weight gain ().

Whole foods like vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs, poultry, nuts and seeds are packed with nutrients and tend to be more filling than processed foods.

Basing your meals around whole, single-ingredient foods is one of the best ways to promote lasting weight loss or to maintain a healthy body weight.

Be More Active

Even though it’s possible to lose weight by just cutting calories, adding exercise into your routine not only promotes weight loss but improves overall health.

While starting a new fitness program may seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be.

If you have never exercised, simply going on half-hour walks three times a week is an excellent way to boost activity.

Once you’re in better physical shape, add in different types of workouts or activities like biking, swimming, hiking or jogging.

Increasing exercise can boost your mood and decrease your risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers ().

Don’t Obsess Over Your Weight

While people generally state that they want to lose weight, they often mean that they want to lose fat.

When you adopt a healthy, sustainable weight loss plan that includes plenty of exercise, you should be gaining muscle mass.

Though this leads to slower weight loss, increased muscle mass helps your body burn fat ().

Rely less on the scale and try out different methods to track fat loss, such as taking measurements of your thighs, hips, belly, chest and upper arms.

This can show you that even though the scale shows slow weight loss, you’re still losing fat and gaining muscle.

Summary Being aware of calorie intake, eating whole foods, increasing physical activity and not obsessing over your body weight are simple ways to reach your weight loss goals.

No matter how much weight you need to lose, cutting out excess calories and increasing physical activity is key.

A 1,500-calorie diet fits the needs of many people who want to lose fat and improve health. Like any healthy diet it should include mostly whole, unprocessed foods.

Reducing excess calories and using some of the simple tips in this article can help you succeed in your weight loss journey.