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How to Count Calories
Updated on September 13, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
How to Count Calories

Counting your calorie intake can be a valuable help whether you’re aiming to lose some extra pounds or just trying to maintain your current weight.

Many studies show that tracking your calories is an effective tool for weight loss. Calorie counting helps you stick to a dietary plan, which increases your chances of losing weight.1,2,3

In this article, we'll guide you through the basics of calorie counting. This includes knowing your daily calorie limit, tracking your food intake, and other helpful tips to count your calorie intake effectively.

How to Count Calories 2

What Are Calories

A calorie or dietary calorie is a unit of measurement for the energy a specific food can provide your body. 

Calories can be derived from the following:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Proteins
  • Fibers
  • Ethanol
  • Polyols

About 60 to 70 percent of the calories you consume are used for involuntary functions, such as breathing and heartbeat.4

The remaining calories give you the energy for other activities. It includes everything you do daily, from walking to working to sleeping.


A calorie is a unit of measurement for the energy the body can get from a specific food. The body uses calories to perform different functions, including voluntary and involuntary actions.

How Many Calories Should You Consume In A Day To Lose Weight?

One of the simplest ways to lose weight is to reduce your calorie intake and increase your physical activities. This way, your body will burn more calories than it consumes.

This can lead to a calorie deficit, which also happens when you eat fewer calories than your body requires.

Generally, it’s safe to cut down 500 calories from your typical daily consumption to lose weight.5

The average daily calorie limit for weight loss is:

  • 1,200 to 1,500 calories for women
  • 1,500 to 1,800 calories for men

This caloric deficit may lead to a weight loss of about 0.5 to 1 pound a week. The results, however, still depend on your body and activity level.5

Some online calculators can help determine your daily calories. They can calculate it for you using your information, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Activity Level

However, regardless of the result you get, only consume 1,200 calories in a day unless under the supervision of your doctor

When you eat too few calories, your body may experience deprivation of essential nutrients it needs to function properly.6


Factors such as gender, age, height, weight, and body composition help determine how many calories a person needs daily. To achieve a calorie deficit, it’s generally safe to cut down 500 calories from your regular calorie consumption.

What Are The Benefits of Calorie Counting?

Counting your calories can have several benefits, including the following.

Promotes mindful eating

Calorie counting helps you to make healthier food choices and control your portion sizes. By doing so, you become mindful of what you’re eating.

Helps with weight loss

Calorie counting involves tracking the number of calories you consume and burn daily. Eating fewer calories can lead to a calorie deficit.  

A calorie deficit forces your body to burn fat stores as fuel for energy.7 Over time, a consistent calorie deficit leads to weight loss.

Encourages meal planning

Counting calories encourages meal planning. By planning your meals, you'll know which foods to choose to get the most out of your daily calorie limit.


Aside from weight loss, calorie counting promotes awareness and mindfulness in your eating habits. It also encourages you to plan your meals.

Tips On Counting Your Calories

If you haven’t done calorie counting before, here are some tips on how to do it effectively.

Determine your daily calorie needs 

Your age, sex, activity level, weight, and height help determine your daily calorie needs. Some people use online calculators to assess their caloric intake per day.

You can also seek help from a dietitian to help determine your daily calorie allowance.

Use a health app to track your calories 

Various apps can help you count your calories, including

Check food labels 

Check food labels to see how many calories are in each serving, especially when eating packaged foods. This will help you avoid eating more calories than your daily calorie limit.

Measure your portions 

Measure your portions accurately with tools like measuring cups, spoons, or a food scale.  

Using grams or ounces in measuring your food is a more precise way to track your calories than estimating the portion sizes of your food.

Plan your meals and snacks ahead

Planning your meals can help you determine exactly how many calories you’ll consume in a day. 

It helps you stay on track with your weight loss goal by avoiding avoid impulsive food decisions, such as snacking on high-calorie-dense food.

Tip: Calorie counting works best when paired with the best weight-loss apps

Be as consistent and patient as you can 

Consistency is vital when it comes to counting calories. Tracking your calorie intake consistently can help you get an accurate picture of your overall calorie consumption.

Sustainable weight loss takes time, so be patient and consistent with your calorie counting. Continue building healthy habits and a good relationship with food.

Be honest with yourself 

Remember to count the little snacks and drinks you consume throughout the day.

Don't skip meals

Skipping meals may lead to overeating later in the day. Not only that, it can also hurt your metabolism, getting in the way of your weight loss journey.

Keep a food diary

Writing down what you eat can help you stay accountable and mindful of your eating habits.


The most common ways to count calories include using a calorie-counting app, keeping a food diary, and checking food labels. Consistency and patience are essential when counting calories for weight loss.

Other Tips For Weight Loss

In addition to counting your calories, here are some other weight loss tips to help you reach your goals.

  • Pair your calorie-counting apps with the best weight-loss diets to lose weight faster.
  • Certain foods like vegetables are low-calorie-dense foods. They can help extend your satiety for periods while eating fewer calories.
  • Eliminate processed foods in your home. Instead, keep healthy snacks on hand to avoid consuming high-calorie foods.
  • Stay away from fast food chains that serve large food portions. You should also avoid restaurants as they tend to serve foods with empty calories.
  • Slow and steady weight loss is more sustainable than a sudden drop in weight through drastic measures. 
  • Physical activity is another essential step to losing weight. Studies show 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity can benefit your body in several ways.8 Dedicate time for exercising for at least three to five days per week.
Updated on September 13, 2023
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8 sources cited
Updated on September 13, 2023
  1. The Effect Of Adherence To Dietary Tracking On Weight Loss: Using Hlm To Model Weight Loss Over Time.” Journal Of Diabetes Research. 
  2. What Matters In Weight Loss? An In-Depth Analysis Of Self-Monitoring.” Journal Of Medical Internet Research.
  3. Dietary Self-Monitoring And Long-Term Success With Weight Management.” National Center For Biotechnology Information.
  4. What Is Nutrition & Metabolism?” International Journal Of Behavioral Nutrition And Physical Activity.
  5. Counting Calories: Get Back To Weight-Loss Basics.” Mayo Clinic.
  6. Calorie Counting Made Easy.” Harvard Health Publishing.
  7. Physiological Process Of Fat Loss.” Bulletin Of The National Research Centre.
  8. Health Benefits Of Physical Activity: The Evidence.” Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Dr. Dhingra
Dr. Harshi Dhingra
Medical Reviewer
Dr Harshi Dhingra is a licensed medical doctor with a specialization in Pathology. Dr. Dhingra has of over a decade in diagnostic, clinical, research and teaching work, including managing all sections of Pathology laboratory including histopathology, cytology, hematology and clinical Pathology.
Kelly Jamrozy
Kelly Jamrozy
Content Contributor
Kelly has experience working with clients in a variety of industries, including legal, medical, marketing, and travel. Her goal is to share important information that people can use to make decisions about their health and the health of their loved ones. From choosing the best treatment programs to improving dental and vision health to finding the best method for helping anyone who is struggling with health issues, she hopes to share what she learns through informative content.
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