If your diet or weight fluctuates, counting calories will help you to know when you may be growing too fat or too thin, and why. In order to maintain your weight, you’ll need to set a daily calorie target for your body type and activity level. Then you can plan menus by subtracting the calories in each meal from your target number. Use the nutrition facts on food labels and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutrient Database to calculate your daily calorie intake.
Track your diet for seven days. List the foods you eat and their exact calorie counts, if possible.
Keep a list of the number of calories in your favorite, frequently eaten foods.
Average your current seven-day calorie count. Add up your daily calorie totals, and then divide by seven.
Weigh yourself and measure your height.
Calculate your body mass index (BMI) value. Multiply your weight in pounds by 703. Divide this number by your height in inches, and then divide that amount by your height in inches.
Choose to maintain your current calorie count if your BMI value is under 25.
Choose to decrease your current calorie count if your BMI value is 25 or more.
Set your target calories from fat at 35 percent of your total daily intake, for a heart healthy diet.
Try low-calorie and low-fat foods that you don’t normally eat to see if you’ll enjoy them in your diet. Add the new calorie data to your Favorites list.
Create menus within your target range by combining foods from your Favorites list with other healthy, low-calorie foods.
Count daily calories backwards, by subtracting the number in each meal from your daily target number.
Track your diet again for seven days when you feel you are approaching your goal. Write down the foods you eat now and their calorie data.
Average your new seven-day calorie totals to see if they have changed or stayed the same. Weigh yourself and measure your height; then calculate your BMI value again to see if it has changed or stayed the same.
Low-calorie healthy food sources are fruits, vegetables and whole grains. High-calorie healthy food sources are full-fat dairy products and organ meats.
Check the nutrition facts on restaurant websites when counting calories for fast food items.
Counting calories doesn’t guarantee a balanced diet with the essential nutrients your body needs. Consult the USDA Food Pyramid for information on how get complete nutrition from a low-calorie diet.