Eating 500 calories a day refers to a dietary practice where you strictly limit your daily caloric intake to 500 calories. This is significantly lower than the recommended daily caloric intake by National Health Service (NHS) which is around 2,000-2,500 calories for women and 2,500-3,000 calories for men depending on lifestyle and physiological factors.
Feeling satisfied while consuming only 500 calories a day refers to a specific dietary plan where a person’s daily caloric intake is limited to 500 calories but is structured in a way that maintains a feeling of fullness. This typically requires the inclusion of low-calorie, high-fiber foods that help to satiate hunger whilst keeping the caloric count to a minimum.
The main concern about eating 500 calories a day is that it is considered a Very Low-Calorie Diet that can potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies, muscle mass loss, a decrease in basal metabolic rate, gallstones, and other health issues. It also can’t provide all the essential nutrients that the body needs. Thus, such a diet should only be administered under medical supervision.
When inquiring about the safety of a 500-calorie diet, it’s beneficial to refer to the 1990 study by Gary D. Foster.
This research revealed that a very low-calorie diet (VLCD), such as a 500-calorie diet, can temporarily reduce resting energy expenditure (REE). Eventually, REE starts to recover in the refeeding phase. Both VLCD and balanced-deficit diet (BDD) participants saw similar reductions in weight and fat-free mass.
The findings suggest significant weight loss with a VLCD. However, the study also highlighted that a more moderately restricted diet could provide a potentially superior metabolic advantage.
The impact of consuming a 500-calorie diet can vary widely among different demographics, such as men, women, younger individuals, seniors, and athletes. Even a slightly higher intake, for example, a 1000 calorie a day diet, can have significantly different outcomes depending on these factors.
This list shows you how to eat 500 calories a day and feel full.
- Drink Plenty of Water
- Eat Protein-Rich Foods
- Load Up on Fiber
- Choose Low-Calorie, High-Volume Foods
- Divide Your Day’s Food Intake
- Watch Your Portion Sizes
- Avoid Empty-Calorie Foods
- Add Healthy Fats
1. Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking plenty of water means consuming a sufficient volume of water intermittently throughout the day to help maintain a sensation of fullness. Water can aid in achieving a sense of satiety despite a 500-calorie intake.
Plenty of water, based on a study done by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine could be defined as a daily intake of around 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women. These findings were a result of their research entitled “Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate.”
Drinking plenty of water helps in avoiding overeating when following a 500-calorie diet and it promotes a feeling of fullness due to its volume.
This fact is backed up by a 2016 study by Simon N. Thornton from Université de Lorraine which hypothesized that increased hydration could assist in losing body weight, principally through a decrease in feeding, and shed fat through improved lipolysis.
2. Eat Protein-Rich Foods
Eating protein-rich foods refers to the dietary practice of consuming foods that have a high protein content. Protein-rich foods, as defined by the 2017 study by Kathryn E. Bradbury from the University of Oxford, refer to foods that are high in amino acids, including both animal and plant sources.
For meat-eaters, these foods are primarily meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. For low and non-meat eaters, protein-rich foods include dairy and plant milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, legumes, nuts, and vegetarian protein alternatives.
Eating more proteins helps with feeling full on a 500-calorie-a-day diet due to protein’s high satiety value. Proteins tend to slow down the digestion process, resulting in a prolonged feeling of fullness. They also induce the production of several satiety hormones.
Additionally, proteins have a high Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) which refers to the increase in metabolic rate after ingestion of a meal. A high TEF means that more energy is used in the process of digesting, absorbing, and assimilating the nutrients, which can also contribute to feelings of fullness.
Furthermore, consuming higher protein may help to preserve muscle mass during a 500-calorie diet, which can in turn support metabolic rate and satiety.
3. Load Up on Fiber
Loading up on fiber means to include a substantial amount of fiber-rich foods in your diet. High-fiber foods have generally fewer calories and can keep you feeling full for longer, which makes them good for weight management.
Fiber, as defined in the 2012 study by Devinder Dhingra from the Central Institute of Post Harvest Engineering and Technology, is a type of plant-based nutrient that is resistant to enzymatic digestion in the human body.
It includes cellulose, noncellulosic polysaccharides, such as hemicellulose, pectic substances, gums, and mucilages, as well as a non-carbohydrate component called lignin.
Foods rich in fiber like cereals, nuts, fruits, and vegetables are known to have several health benefits, including a decrease in body weight and the incidence of several diseases.
Fiber contributes to a feeling of fullness by adding bulk to your 500-calorie diet without adding extra calories.
This bulk helps to fill your stomach, giving you a feeling of fullness. Furthermore, certain types of fiber, such as soluble fiber, can absorb water in your stomach and form a viscous gel, which slows down the emptying of the stomach and increases the time it takes to digest and absorb nutrients.
This results in a prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite. Fiber’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels also helps with feeling satiated.
By slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, fiber prevents sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar, helping to maintain a steady, sustained sense of energy and fullness.
4. Choose Low-Calorie, High-Volume Foods
Choosing low-calorie, high-volume foods refers to the dietary strategy of selecting foods that are low in calories but high in volume.
As suggested in a 2006 study conducted by the University of Liverpool titled “Volume and variety: relative effects on food intake,” such dietary strategies are often advocated for weight management. This is due to their ability to promote satiety, enabling a person to feel more fulfilled while consuming fewer calories overall.
Low-calorie, high-volume foods are foods that provide a larger portion size with a fewer number of calories. These foods usually have high water and fiber content. Examples include leafy greens, berries, soup broths, cucumbers, tomatoes, and mushrooms among others.
Choosing low-calorie and high-volume foods helps with feeling full on a 500-calorie-a-day diet by maximizing the volume of food you can consume for a given number of calories.
High-volume foods, especially those high in fiber and water content, take up more room in your stomach, which can help you feel more satiated. This causes stretching in the stomach which signals the brain that you’re full.
Essentially, you can eat a larger amount of food for the same amount of calories, making it easier to stick to a low-calorie diet without feeling hungry.
5. Divide Your Day’s Food Intake
Divide your day’s food intake implies a personal diet plan wherein the consumption of meals and snacks are strategically spread throughout the day, ensuring that even though only 500 calories are being consumed, hunger is kept in check.
Eating small and often, according to a 2017 study by Hassan S Dashti from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, refers to the dietary regimen known as Small, Frequent Meals (SFMs).
SFMs are characterized by multiple small eating episodes throughout the day and is often recommended to patients experiencing symptoms like early satiety or gastrointestinal disturbances.
However, eating small and often could potentially lead to unwarranted weight gain, suboptimal nutrition, and disordered eating, therefore, it is critical to couple this dietary approach with guidance on meal size, frequency, timing, and a focus on healthy meal quality.
The mechanism for how dividing your daily food intake helps with feeling full on a 500-calorie diet lies in the concept of satiety.
Eating more frequently can help control hunger and curb cravings, preventing overeating or binging.
Consuming smaller, balanced meals throughout the day can provide a steady release of energy, keeping blood sugar levels stable and reducing feelings of hunger.
Moreover, eating a small meal or snack every few hours can give a psychological feeling of satisfaction, which can be greatly helpful when adjusting to a lower daily calorie intake.
6. Watch Your Portion Sizes
Watch your portion sizes refers to being mindful of the amount of food you consume per meal. It’s an approach used to manage food intake and ensure a balanced diet.
For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests a portion of meat should be 3 ounces (85 grams), a serving of grains should be 1 ounce (28 grams), and a portion of vegetables should be 1 cup (237 milliliters).
On a 500-calorie-a-day diet, watching your portion sizes helps to balance nutrients while staying within your calorie limit. It is imperative to select the right types of food – ones with high nutritional value and low calories.
Small frequent meals instead of one or two large ones can help increase satiety. For instance, divide your meals into 5 portions of 100 calories each.
Including foods high in fiber and protein can further enhance feelings of fullness. Proteins take longer to digest and therefore stay in your stomach longer, making you feel full.
7. Avoid Empty-Calorie Foods
Avoiding empty-calorie foods refers to the nutritional advice of minimizing the intake of foods that are high in calories but low in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other health-promoting nutrients.
Empty-calorie foods such as sugary drinks, snacks, candies, baked goods, and processed foods constitute over 25% of U.S. children’s total energy intake, increasing obesity risk, as per a 2020 study by Edwina Wambogo from the National Cancer Institute.
Added sugars and solid fats are usually abundant in processed and fast foods, desserts, and sugary drinks, contributing to calorie intake but offering little to no nutritional value.
When asking about how avoiding empty calories helps with feeling full on a 500-calorie-a-day diet, the mechanism relies on nutrient density — the amount of nutrients compared with the energy a food provides.
If you’re only consuming 500 calories a day, it’s crucial that those calories come from nutrient-dense foods to ensure you’re getting adequate
8. Add Healthy Fats
Adding healthy fats means incorporating fats that are beneficial to health in the diet. It is widely endorsed in nutrition advice as fats are an essential part of the diet, providing energy, supporting cell growth, and playing a crucial role in several body functions.
Based on a 2017 study by Ann G. Liu, healthy fats are primarily polyunsaturated fats (found in plant and marine sources) which, in substitution for saturated fat or carbohydrates, have been found to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
The mechanism of how adding healthy fats can aid in feeling full on a 500-calorie-a-day diet primarily relies on how fats act in the digestion and absorption process.
Healthy fats (like those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and olive oil) take longer to digest compared to carbohydrates and proteins, and consequently, they help keep you satiated longer, reducing the overall hunger sensation.
The phrase doing more exercise typically refers to increasing physical activity or exercise frequency, intensity, or duration to improve physical health, promote weight loss, or enhance athletic performance.
According to a 2018 study by Gregory N Ruegsegger from the University of Missouri, overwhelming evidence linking exercise to longevity, delayed onset of chronic conditions, and improved quality of life via various molecular mechanisms.
Exercise helps promote feelings of fullness on a low-calorie diet becasue it regulates hunger hormones and boosts mood.
Regular exercise can influence hormones such as ghrelin and leptin that control hunger and satiety. Additionally, engaging in physical activity can distract from food cues and cravings, and improve mood, reducing emotional eating.
Exercise also increases the metabolic rate, burning more calories, and creating a larger deficit that can help support weight loss even on a low-calorie diet.
However, a diet as low as 500 calories, combined with increased exercise might not provide enough energy for bodily functions and must be supervised by a healthcare professional.
What Happens If I Only Eat 500 Calories A Day For A Month?
If you adopt a diet of only 500 calories a day for a month, the primary benefits you might observe include rapid weight loss due to the severe calorie deficit, a potential reduction in blood sugar levels which could be beneficial for individuals with high blood sugar or type 2 diabetes, and possible decrease in blood pressure, thereby assisting individuals with diagnosed hypertension.
However, this diet carries significant drawbacks as well. Your body will likely not receive an adequate amount of nutrients, leading to deficiencies in crucial vitamins and minerals.
This can result in various health issues. Additionally, the restriction in calorie intake might cause your body to break down muscle tissue for energy, leading to a loss of muscle mass.
Lastly, adopting a long-term low-calorie diet could lead to a slowed metabolic rate as your body begins to conserve energy. This could complicate future weight loss attempts or the maintenance of any weight loss achieved, often referred to as your body enters a “starvation mode”.
What Is a 500 Calories a Day Diet Meal Plan?
A 500 calories a day meal plan refers to an eating schedule where the total caloric intake throughout the day adds up to 500 calories. It can be divided into 3-4 small meals throughout the day or a single meal, depending on your preference and hunger cues.
If divided into several meals, each portion typically consists of lean protein, such as chicken or fish, and a variety of non-starchy vegetables, aiming to provide essential nutrients while keeping the calorie count low.
On the other hand, in a “one meal a day” approach (also known as the OMAD diet), all 500 calories are consumed in a single meal.
This method might suit those who find it simpler to abstain from eating throughout the day and enjoys larger, more satisfying meals, rather than having lighter, smaller meals.
This table shows a sample meal plan for a 500-calorie-a-day diet.
|2 Boiled eggs
|Spinach (raw, 1 cup)
|Grilled chicken breast
|Cauliflower (1 cup)
|Steamed broccoli (1 cup)
|Tofu (1 ounce)
This sample diet includes protein in each meal for satiety, as well as a variety of vegetables for vitamins and minerals. However, it severely restricts nutritional content and thus, is not recommended for long-term or self-supervised weight loss.
How Does The 500 Calories a Day Meal Plan Look Like?
Two pieces of steak alone could potentially consume the entirety of a 500-calorie daily allowance, depending on their size and how they are prepared, as shown in this photo.
Steak is a high-protein food but it can also be high in fat, especially if it’s a fattier cut or prepared with oil or butter.
For example, a 3-ounce portion of lean beef filet steak contains about 170-180 calories.
This means that under strict portion control, you might be able to have two small 3-ounce portions of lean steak in a day, equating to roughly 340-360 calories.
This would leave you with 140-160 calories remaining for the rest of your food for the day – a very small amount.
However, it’s essential to note that a diet of only 500 calories a day is dangerously low and should not be attempted without strict medical supervision.
Such an extremely low-calorie diet could lead to nutrient deficiencies, loss of muscle mass, and other serious health problems.
For me, 500 calories are usually meat and some veggies. Yes, most of my meals include plenty of proteins.
Is Eating 500 Calories A Day To Lose Weight A Good Idea?
No, eating 500 calories a day to lose weight is not a good idea. Although it can lead to significant weight loss, as evidenced in Dr. Foster’s study, it’s important to note that this manner of dieting should only be conducted under strict medical supervision because of its potential health risks.
Is 500 calories a day enough?
No, 500 calories a day is not considered enough for the vast majority of adults. The daily caloric intake recommendations vary depending on factors like age, gender, physical activity level, and overall health, but generally, they range from 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day for women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day for men.
What Are The Potential Risks of Following a 500 Calories a Day Diet For Extended Periods?
According to a study conducted in 2018 by Chrysi Koliaki from the National Kapodistrian University of Athens, a very low-calorie diet (VLCD), such as a 500 calorie a day diet, can have potential adverse effects, especially when followed for an extended period, as shown in this graph.
- Nutritional deficiencies: On a 500-calorie diet, it’s challenging to meet the necessary intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, which can lead to deficiencies and associated health problems.
- Gallstones: Rapid weight loss can contribute to the development of gallstones, hard pieces that form in the gallbladder that can cause severe abdominal pain.
- Bone loss: Insufficient intake of calcium and Vitamin D can lead to bone loss or osteoporosis over time.
- Metabolic changes: The body often responds to such low-calorie intakes by reducing its metabolic rate to conserve energy, which can hinder weight loss over the long term.
- Psychological effects: The strict nature of the diet can lead to a preoccupation with food and trigger symptoms of disordered eating.
Is 1000 calories a day enough?
Yes, eating 1000 calories a day can be sufficient for some individuals, but not all, according to a 2018 study conducted by Lisa M. Nackers from the University of Florida. Although a significant number of participants consuming 1000 calories a day have attained meaningful weight loss at 12 months, some individuals, particularly those with a higher baseline caloric intake (≥2000 kcal/day), may not see long-term benefits.
What To Do When I’m Eating 500 Calories a Day And Not Losing Weight?
If you are only eating 500 calories a day and not losing weight, it is imperative that you seek advice from a healthcare professional urgently. This intake level is a very low-calorie diet and could have serious health impacts. It may be helpful to ensure your calorie count is accurate, reconsider your physical activity, track your fluid intake, and observe your muscle mass.
Is Eating 500 Calories a Day For Everyone?
No, consuming 500 calories per day isn’t suited for everyone and even if you are thinking about trying it, bear in mind that it’s not an easy task.
University of Toronto’s Professor Peter C. Herman, Ph.D., notes that such a diet could have varying effects on different people; while some might experience positive psychological and behavioral effects, others could face overeating and eating disorders.