There is no magic number when it comes to the amount of calories that you should be eating to either lose or maintain weight. Most people can lose weight by eating around 1,500 calories per day but you can calculate the amount of calories that you need to consume in order to maintain your weight. A simple formula will help you to find out your basal metabolic rate (BMR). The BMR is how much energy your body needs to function. About 60 percent of the calories that we consume daily, for example, are used for basic bodily functions.
Women can use the following formula to find out their BMR:
655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
Men use the following formula:
66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)
You then need to calculate your level of activity. A sedentary person would use their BMR x 20 percent. A lightly active person would use their BMR x 30 percent. A moderately active person would use their BMR x 40 percent and a very active person would use their BMR x 50 percent. Add this number to your BMR and the result is the number of calories you can eat every day and maintain your weight. To lose weight, you simply need to eat fewer calories than this number. However, never cut back to fewer than 1200 calories per day without medical supervision.
To see how you are using calories, you can use one of the many calorie counters on the internet. These will tell you the calorie content of most foods.
Remember that not all calories are created equal. Carbohydrates and proteins have about four calories per gram while all fats, including “good” fats, have more than twice that amount at nine calories per gram. Keep your intake of bad fats such as saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol as low as possible as they raise the bad cholesterol in your body, increasing your risk for coronary heart disease. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation as alcoholic drinks provide calories but few nutrients. Limit food and drinks that are high in added sugars, as these are higher in calories and lower in nutrients. Foods high in added sugars have sugar as the first or second ingredient on the ingredient list.
You do not have to cut out the foods that you enjoy altogether. Simply limit your portion sizes and use a food pyramid to help you put together a healthy variety of foods. Your diet should include plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables, grains, low fat dairy products, legumes, and wholegrains. The high fibre in many of these foods means that you will feel fuller while consuming fewer calories.
It is vital that you read the nutrition labels when you are selecting foods. As well as looking for the amount of calories that the food contains, you really need to look at the serving size. What you might think is a single serving may actually be two servings or more, thus throwing out your calorie calculations. A good example is a 600ml bottle of soft drink. Most people treat it as a single serving when it actually has around three. Even a 50g bag of chips may be labeled as containing two servings. Check the label and you may save yourself a lot of sneaky calories.