Calories count. You eat them, drink them and burn them every day. Understanding how many calories you should eat each day is one important part of developing healthy eating habits. And that’s true no matter if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a balanced lifestyle.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all calorie count everyone should stick to. On average, adults should eat around 2,000 calories per day — but that can vary. To help you figure out your ideal daily calorie intake, check out this quick guide.
What are calories?
Calories measure the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of a liter of water by a single degree. So, what does that mean? Calories are measurement of energy. The number of calories in a food or drink determines the amount of energy stored in that food item.
Your body gets energy from those calories when you eat them. You’re constantly burning calories while your body does normal functions like breathing and thinking. You also burn calories doing physical activities.
Calories and healthy living
Every time you eat more calories than your body burns, you could gain weight. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your weight. Eating around 500 fewer calories than you need every day can help you drop the pounds. But first, you need to know how many calories your body needs on a daily basis.
Your calorie needs
Your age, gender and activity level are three major factors that go into figuring out how many calories you should eat every day. The more active you are, the more calories you need to eat every day to maintain your weight. Men typically need more calories than women. Also, as we age, our metabolisms slow down. That means our bodies don’t burn as many calories as fast. So, older people need fewer calories than younger ones.
Want to see how these factors work out? Consider the following examples of daily calorie intakes:
- Active women between ages 19 and 30: Up to 2,400 calories
- Moderately active women between ages 19 and 30: 2,200 calories
- Sedentary women between ages 19 and 30: 2,000 calories
- Active women between ages 31 and 50: Up to 2,200 calories
- Moderately active women between ages 31 and 50: 2,000 calories
- Sedentary women between ages 31 and 50: 1,800 calories
- Active men between ages 19 and 30: Up to 3,000 calories
- Moderately active men between ages 19 and 30: 2,600 to 2,800 calories
- Sedentary men between ages 19 and 30: 2,400 calories
- Active men between ages 31 and 50: Up to 3,000 calories
- Moderately active men between ages 31 and 50: 2,400 to 2,600 calories
- Sedentary men between ages 31 and 50: 2,000 calories
Are you over age 51? The average number of calories you need to maintain your weight decreases by 200 calories for every activity level.
How to decrease your calorie intake
Losing weight doesn’t mean you have to go hungry. You can create a calorie deficit by increasing your physical activity to burn more calories. You can also make small changes in what you eat to help you feel satisfied while taking in fewer calories.
Three eating tips include:
- Limiting soda, fruit juice and other sugary drinks, which contain empty calories
- Eating more protein, which helps reduce your appetite while boosting your metabolism
- Drinking more water, which helps you burn more calories naturally while also helping you feel less hungry
Ready to start living a balanced lifestyle but unsure of where to start? We’re here to help you meet your goals and discover the power of a balanced, healthy diet. Check out the clinical nutrition services we offer here at Mercy Health.
Note: it is important to first consult with your doctor before making any major changes to your eating habits.