While it may appear easy to begin a calorie counting diet, it’s far from one-size fits all. If you’re counting calories to reach a healthy weight, you need to set an appropriate calorie goal based on your weight, height, gender, age, and activity level.

I am 121 pounds, 62 inches, female, 21 years old, and remain active for more than 1 hour a day. Therefore, my BMI is 22.1 and I need approximately 2,611 calories per day to maintain my current weight.

Find out your BMI and calorie target using Baylor College of Medicine’s Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator.

Although you can technically meet your calorie target by consuming fatty and processed foods, it won’t necessarily improve your health. Too much saturated and trans fat increases your risk for heart disease and high cholesterol, even if you’re dropping the weight. Not to mention, the foods and beverages that you consume impact your energy level and ability to maintain your calorie target. Foods high in sugar and fat will eat up your calorie budget and still leave you with additional cravings.

According to the American Heart Association and Live Strong, you should consume nine servings (1/2 cup = 1 serving) of fruits and vegetables daily, three ounces of whole grains daily (1 ounce = 1 slice of whole wheat bread), and limit your sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day. Additionally, you should limit beverage calories to 450 per week and processed meat to two weekly servings. Instead, eat fish twice a week and consume four servings of nuts, legumes, and seeds a week.

While this is a standard diet, it still varies depending upon your lifestyle and activity level. If you’re a marathon runner, you’re going to need a different diet than the once a week exerciser. And same goes if you’re pregnant and eating for two. Always consult your doctor before embarking on a calorie counting diet, there may be additional health concerns that you need to factor into your plan.

Have you ever embarked on a calorie counting diet? Share your experience!

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  • anon25

    I definitely think calorie counting has been the best “diet” that I’ve been on. For me, it was the only thing that actually worked. I especially loved that I didn’t have to cut out any food groups! You know those ads that are like “eat whatever you and still lose weight!”, that’s what calorie counting was at first to me. Then I realized that I was eating food that was awful for me at the expense of vitamins and nutrients from other healthier foods. In a way calorie counting really reformed the way I ate in general. Now I eat vegetables and fruit all the time for the sake of the nutrients and I’ve lost the desire to put calorie-rich, nutrient-deficient foods into my body. For the longest time I was under the impression that as long as I cooked the food myself, it was healthy (LOL I know), I’m pretty sure that’s how I packed on the pounds to begin with.

    But yeah, if anyone is looking to try that I say go for it! I also used myfitnesspal.com to keep track of calories. It’s great tool.

  • anon, I’ll be honest. I have an app that does it for me and I slipped up once I started making paninis every day but I will say that I did miss it once I stopped doing it.

  • Culturally Aware

    Being conscious of the calories you consume is key to losing and maintaing weight loss…I did it and it worked. The hardest part about losing weight/maintaining and staying healthy is being consistent…that has been a challenge for me.

    In addition to counting calories…you have to workout and set a target calorie burn …those 2 efforts combined equals results (I’ve seen results!). For example, if you consume 400 calories for breakfast , 200 snack , 700 lunch, 200 snack …you have 1500 calories consumed….workout after work with a target goal to lose 600 calories (split b/t cardio & weights)…you drop that stagnant 1500 to 900 calories b/c u burned 600 /…then you eat dinner 400-500….and you get back up to 1300-1400 calories piled up for the day. You stay within your range (if its in the 1500-2000 calorie consumption daily range)…and you lose weight. It worked for me :) you have to count calories consumed and burned to be effective with weight loss.

    Food/Drink advice: Drink water (ditch or cut back on soda & fruit juices)..and that helps u cut out alot of calories. Incorporate fruits and veggies. Stay away from processed deli meat. You can eat fast food..make it treat for the weekend…but if u do…make sure you eat it at it only one meal…and not breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. Watch your sugar intake.