The low-calorie diet is an eating plan used to help people lose weight. It involves limiting the overall number of calories you eat or drink in a day. A dietitian can work with you on figuring out the right number of calories for you per day, structuring your meals, and finding the right portions for your food choices.
Another name for the low-calorie diet is the weight-loss diet.
Some cancer treatments can cause people to gain weight over time. In particular, corticosteroid and hormone therapies can cause weight gain. The low-calorie diet helps people prevent weight gain during treatment or lose weight after treatment.
If you were overweight at the time of your cancer diagnosis, you may want to talk to your doctor about going on a low-calorie diet. You might also consider a weight-loss plan that includes diet and exercise. Obesity has been linked to a poorer prognosis for several cancers, including breast cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer, and tongue cancer. It can also contribute to a higher risk of prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer. Learn more about the link between obesity and cancer risk.
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The three basic principles of the low-calorie diet are:
- Avoid high-calorie foods.
- Monitor portion sizes to prevent overeating.
- Avoid sugary drinks.
You can eat any food you want as long as you do so in moderation. One thing to keep an eye on is energy-dense foods. These foods provide more calories per bite. Not all energy-dense foods are bad for you. Two examples of good energy-dense foods are nuts and avocados. However, you should eat less of these foods to minimize the overall number of calories you take in.Back to top
|FOOD GROUPS||FOODS TO INCLUDE|
|Milk and Dairy Products||Low-fat milk
Low-fat lactose-free milk
Low-fat plain yogurt (Greek or traditional)
Low-fat cottage cheese
Milk alternatives (soy, almond, coconut, cashew, and hemp milks)
|Vegetables||All fresh vegetables
All frozen vegetables
Low-sodium canned vegetables (should be drained and rinsed)
|Fruit and Juices||All fresh fruit
All frozen fruit
Juice with no sugar added
|Breads and Grains||Whole-wheat products, including bread, pasta, crackers, and cereals
Plain air-popped popcorn
|Meats and Meat Substitutes||Skinless, boneless chicken or turkey
Loin or round cuts of meat (beef, pork, and lamb)
Eggs and egg whites
Dried beans and peas
Low-sodium canned beans (should be drained and rinsed)
Nuts (limit to 1 ounce per serving)
Nut butters (limit to 2 tablespoons per serving)
|Fat||Olive oil (limit to 1 tablespoon per serving)
Canola oil (limit to 1 tablespoon per serving)
Nut or seed oils (limit to 1 tablespoon per serving)
Avocados (limit to ½ avocado per serving)
Low-fat mayonnaise (limit to 2 tablespoons per serving)
Whipped butter (limit to 1 tablespoon per serving)
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|FOOD GROUPS||FOODS TO LIMIT|
|Milk and Dairy Products||Full-fat milk or yogurt
Full-fat natural cheeses (mozzarella, Swiss, Muenster, Cheddar, provolone, and Gouda)
Processed or packaged cheeses (American and most cheese spreads)
Heavy cream, light cream, and half-and-half
|Vegetables||Fried vegetables, such as French fries|
|Fruit and Juices||Canned fruit in syrup
Sweetened fruit juice
Jams and jellies
|Breads and Grains||Sugar-sweetened cereals
Baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, pies, and pastries
|Meat and Meat Substitutes||Fatty or marbled meat
Poultry with skin
Breaded and fried meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish
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No. If you are unsure, ask your doctor or dietitian.
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What are some of the common complaints from people on the low-calorie diet, and how do you solve them?
|It’s too much work.||Set aside time to plan and prepare your meals and snacks.|
|I’m hungry all the time.||Drink water or other calorie-free beverages before you reach for food. Oftentimes we think we are hungry when we are actually thirsty.
Include a protein-rich food in all your meals.
Fill up on foods with a high fiber and water content.
Include small snacks between your meals.
Go for a walk. Many times we reach for food because of boredom rather than true hunger.
|I don’t like whole grains.||Use just half of the whole grains in recipes, like brown rice mixed with white rice, to help improve the taste.|
|I don’t like vegetables.||Sneak vegetables into omelets, pasta sauces, or casseroles.
Include legumes, whole grains, and fruits to help get more vitamins and minerals.
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- Space meals and snacks evenly throughout the day. This will prevent you from overeating at the next meal and will keep your body fueled all day long.
- Use healthier cooking methods, like baking, roasting, broiling, stewing, or grilling instead of frying. Cooking foods in broth or water instead of oil can also help reduce your calorie intake.
- Use measuring cups and spoons to measure appropriate portion sizes.
- Track what you are eating throughout the day to help stick to your eating plan. You can use a pen and paper, keep notes on your phone, or try an app or website, such as MyFitnessPal or LoseIt.