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How to Calculate Calories in a Recipe

Calories are a measurement of how much energy is in one serving of food. Gaining an understanding of the total number of calories eaten can assist in helping to manage weight, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The amount of calories consumed in a recipe is based upon the total serving. Recipes may or may not have the total number of calories listed, but a few steps can assist in identifying the number of calories per serving.

Divide a piece of paper into two columns and label them packaged foods and non-packaged foods. Separate the foods in your recipe into the two categories. On the left side of the paper, list packaged foods or foods with a nutrition facts label. On the right side of the paper, list non-packaged foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that are in the recipe.

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Write down the number of calories that are in each serving of packaged ingredient in your recipe on the left side of the paper. For example, if 1 cup of sugar is 774 calories and 2 cups of sugar are needed, then multiply two times 774 calories to get 1,548 calories from sugar in the recipe. The number of calories can be found on the back or side of the product on the nutrition facts label.

Access an on-line food tool such as the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database to find the total number of calories in non-packaged foods 1. Enter the name of the food and the quantity listed in the recipe into the tool. The total number of calories in the nutrient table is called energy. Write down the total energy number for the food on the right side of the page. Complete this process for each additional non-packaged food in the recipe. If all foods are in packaged items, this step can be skipped.

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Add the total number of calories in the recipe from both packaged and non-packaged foods. Write this number down.

Identify the total number of servings in the recipe. Write this number down.

Divide the total number of calories in the recipe by the total number of servings. For example, if the recipe has a total of 2,800 calories and serves eight people, 2,800 calories divided by eight servings is 350 calories per serving.


Eat and prepare recipes that are low to moderate in calories. According to the Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000 calorie diet, low calorie foods have 40 calories, moderate calorie foods 100 calories, and high calorie foods 400 calories.