How to Determine Your Daily Calorie Needs

counting caloriesI have to say as a dietitian, I don’t like focusing on “how many calories do I need?” with my clients. I think there’s a certain value in knowing what you need for daily activities and exercise and determining how many calories you should cut to lose weight safely.

However, my clients have been very successful with losing weight with behavioral changes that don’t involve counting calories. In this post, I’ll give you a few tips for calculating your calorie needs (because I know you want to know) and I will give you a few suggestions that have really helped my clients drop a few pounds without needing a calculator and a math degree.

Grams Per Kilogram
A rough estimate is to figure out your weight in kilograms (body weight in pounds / 2.2) and then multiply it by a range (25 – 35). So a 175-pound (79.5 kg) person needs about 2,000 – 2,800 calories per day, plus calories for daily activity.

Simple Equation
Weight in pounds X 10 + (50% of the sum). So a 175 pound person needs:
175 X 10 = 1700 + (1700/2) = about 2,600 calories, plus calories for daily activity.

There are several other ways of “calculating” calorie needs. But as you can tell from these examples, there are variations and it can make anyone confused, especially if you are trying to find “perfection”. Dietitians can help get an accurate estimate in a nutrition assessment after screening for your current lifestyle and exercise activities.

One free resource is the Health Calculator here at It calculates daily calorie needs as well as ideal body weight and BMI. Another tool I can recommend is from MyPyramid.Gov. You can use the website to maintain and lose weight, and also to plan and track meals very easily. I think you can learn a lot about your eating habits, including how much added sugars you are getting in your eating plan by recording your behaviors on this website for a week.

Not into numbers? No problem. My clients have found the most weight loss success with some of these important changes.

•    Eating during the day, and starting the “diet” late afternoon.
•    Mindful eating
•    Having meals off of smaller plates
•    Making half of all meals veggies
•    Eating one meal a week outside the home
•    Increasing exercise and calories (yep, many people cut too low and the body refuses to lose weight)

I will blog about these in the future because there’s a lot more to explore than what I can do in just one post.

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