Can a Low Calorie Diet Be Unhealthy?

With obesity at an all-time high, all around the world, people are increasingly looking for ways to lose a few pounds.

I know that you have heard over and over that the key to weight loss is to cut calories and exercise more, but there is really so much more to it than that. I am going to show you how counting calories alone can be harmful to your health and will not help you lose much if any weight.

So how can I show you this?

Let’s take a look at what a typical low calorie diet for a day may look like and examine more than those calories. Are you ready?

First of all though, I want to make something clear. When I speak of “low calorie” food, I am talking about packaged food that is readily available in your local grocery store.

This food has labels with big letters that may say “low calorie” or “reduced calorie” on the box. But don’t worry, because later on I will also talk about low calorie foods that will truly help you lose weight and keep it off, for life.

So let’s take a look at a typical day of eating a low calorie diet and see what is going on here.


  • 1 cup Special K cereal = 117 calories
  • 1 cup skim milk = 86 calories
  • 1 glass Pure Premium orange juice = 130 calories

This is generally regarded by most experts to be a very healthy and low calorie breakfast. At just 203 calories, this is obviously a better choice than any fast food breakfast or high fat foods you can eat, right?

We will see about this later on.


  • Lean Pocket spinach artichoke chicken = 240 calories
  • Baked Lays sour cream and onion chips = 130 calories
  • Odwalla superfood micronutrient fruit juice drink = 130 calories

Everything about this lunch looks really healthy at a glance, but is there any part of it that may not be the best for your health? Let’s keep looking.


  • Lean Cuisine chicken with basil cream sauce = 230 calories
  • Snapple Lemon Tea = 100 calories

This is a small dinner that you may eat on a day your are particularly busy with work or running the kids around. It’s great to know you can have a quick and healthy meal that is low in calories, right?

Is any day in the life of a typical American complete without dessert? We know that desert is typically high in calories or fat so it’s usually off limits. But these days there are a lot of low calorie options so that we can have something sweet too, so let’s go ahead and have some dessert.


  • Nabisco 100 Cal Cookies = 100 calories

If we add up all of these calories for the day eating like this, we get a grand total of 1,263 calories! The daily recommendation from the U.S. government is around 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for an adult woman and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for an adult man.

So eating all of this great low calorie food puts you well in range of the recommended amount of calories that you should eat in a given day for weight control.

But there is a much bigger part of this picture. By focusing only on calories and ignoring all other data, you would be setting yourself up for a lot of negative health effects by eating this way as part of your daily diet.


Added sugar. Sugar is in almost all of our food supply. Of course you already know that ice cream and cookies have sugar, but you may not be aware that sugar is in so much more of your food than that. Here are some surprising places that you will find added sugar, sometimes in massive quantities.

  • Ketchup – 4g (0.15oz) per tablespoon
  • Peanut butter – 3g (0.1oz) per 2 tablespoons
  • Whole wheat bread – 1.6g (0.05oz) per slice
  • Fruit juice – 37.6g (1.32oz) per cup
  • Frozen yogurt – 17.3g (0.6oz) per 1/2 cup
  • Diced peaches in light syrup – 18g (0.63oz)per 1 cup
  • Apple sauce – 11.1g (0.4oz) per cup
  • Tomato sauce – 2g (0.07oz) per 1/4 cup
  • Instant oatmeal – 9g (0.31oz) per packet
  • Nonfat Greek Yogurt – 6.7g (0.23oz) per container

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that for a normal body mass index you should consume no more than 25 grams (0.9oz) of sugar per day. You have likely heard that avoiding sugar is beneficial to your health, but to what degree?

A study in 2013 looked at rates of diabetes type 2 in 175 countries and found that increased sugar intake had a direct link to more cases of the deadly disease. Consuming large amounts of sugar is very simply not healthy to do, and can be a disaster for your health and your weight.

So why am I telling you all of this?

I want to get to the most important part of this low calorie diet and what it means for your health. And simply put, it is related to sugar.

So let’s now take a look at how much sugar you would consume if you followed a “low calorie” diet.

  • Special K = 4 grams (0.15oz)
  • Skim milk = 12.5 grams (0.44oz)
  • Orange juice = 26 grams (0.9oz)
  • Lean Pocket = 3.1 grams (0.1oz)
  • Sour cream and onion chips = 3 grams (0.1oz)
  • Odwalla juice = 25 grams (0.88oz)
  • Lean Cuisine = 6 grams (0.2oz)
  • Snapple = 23 grams (0.81oz)
  • 100 cal cookie = 8 grams (0.28oz)
  • Total sugar consumption = 113.6 grams (4 oz) of sugar.

4 grams (0.15oz) of sugar is equal to about 1 teaspoon, so figuring that in we have 28.4 teaspoons of sugar in one day, only by eating a low calorie diet!

But maybe this is not fair. Maybe you would not drink a Snapple or an Odwalla juice. And since they are the biggest offenders, let’s delete them from this daily diet. Now we have 65.6 grams (2.31oz) of sugar which is equal to about 16.4 teaspoons.

Keeping in mind that the recommended daily intake of sugar per the World Health Organization is no more than 25 grams (0.88oz) of sugar, or 6.25 teaspoons daily, does this seem healthy to you?

Even the lower sugar option is more than twice the recommended amount of sugar, and the more typical low calorie diet is almost 5 times the amount.

Counting calories

The truth is that counting calories alone is not a healthy way to lose any weight. Consuming all of this sugar can lead to diabetes and a huge list of other deadly diseases that are affecting the world we live in right now. Hidden sugar is everywhere in the food you eat.

If you want to count calories, there is an alternative. Eating “whole foods” that grow in the ground and are not processed in a factory is the only way to eat low calorie foods that are good for weight loss and for your health.

If you focus your energy on natural foods, you do not need to ever count another calorie again, because the work will already be done for you.

It is up to you to read the labels on the food you eat. If you leave your health in the hands of a savvy marketing team you can end up consuming more sugar than you ever imagined. And it is important that you don’t get fooled by all of the other names for sugar.

  • Agave
  • Beet sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • “Organic” sugar

There are over 50 different names for sugar at this time, and every single one of them is unhealthy to consume in large amounts, such as a low calorie diet.

Sugar is sweet and delicious and human beings love it. But it does not provide you or anyone else with the necessary nutrients that you need for a healthy life.

The more you can keep your daily sugar intake close to 0 – 25 grams (0 – 0.88oz) per day as recommended, the better you will feel and the more weight you can lose.

It is entirely possible to lose weight simply by limiting the amount of sugar you eat on a daily basis, regardless of calories.

Author Bio:
Wally Brown writes for The Weight Loss Lie as a public service. After struggling with my weight for most of my life and trying many fads and quick tips, I finally discovered that weight loss is extremely easy. The key is having great information, and my goal is to share that information so I can help others who may be struggling with weight and health issues like I did for so long.



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