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Weight Loss by Limiting Calories

Overview

How do you make healthy food choices when trying to lose weight?

There are many ways to make changes to your eating habits to help with weight loss. Here are some tips to help you choose fat, carbohydrate, and protein sources.

  • Reduce calories from saturated fats to less than 10% of your total calories. You can do this by replacing them with unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
  • Choose high-fiber carbohydrates, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, poultry, tofu, and legumes. Pinto beans, lentils, and split peas are examples of legumes.
  • Get enough fiber each day.
    • Men ages 19 to 50: Aim for 38 grams a day.
    • Women ages 19 to 50: Aim for 25 grams a day.
    • People over age 50: Aim for 30 grams a day for men and 21 grams a day for women.
  • Use the nutrition facts label to find out the fat, carbohydrate, and protein in packaged foods.
  • Have no more than 1 alcohol drink a day for women and 2 alcohol drinks a day for men.

If you'd like some help planning meals, a dietitian can help you create a plan that fits your lifestyle.

How many daily calories do females need?

Your body needs a certain number of calories every day. The table below shows how many you need based on your age and how active you are.footnote 1

  • Sedentary. Your activity is limited to normal movement in everyday life.
  • Moderately active. You do activity that is equal to walking 1.5 to 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles an hour.
  • Active. You do activity that is more strenuous than walking 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles an hour.
Females*: Estimated daily calorie needs by age and activity level

Age (years)

Sedentary

Moderately active

Active

4–8

1,200–1,400

1,400–1,600

1,400–1,800

9–13

1,400–1,600

1,600–2,000

1,800–2,200

14–18

1,800

2,000

2,400

19–30

1,800–2,000

2,000–2,200

2,400

31–50

1,800

2,000

2,200

51+

1,600

1,800

2,000–2,200

* Your calorie needs will be different if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

How many daily calories do males need?

Your body needs a certain number of calories every day. The table below shows how many you need based on your age and how active you are.footnote 1

  • Sedentary. Your activity is limited to normal movement in everyday life.
  • Moderately active. You do activity that is equal to walking 1.5 to 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles an hour.
  • Active. You do activity that is more strenuous than walking 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles an hour.
Males: Estimated daily calorie needs by age and activity level

Age (years)

Sedentary

Moderately active

Active

4–8

1,200–1,400

1,400–1,600

1,600–2,000

9–13

1,600–2,000

1,800–2,200

2,000–2,600

14–18

2,000–2,400

2,400–2,800

2,800–3,200

19–30

2,400–2,600

2,600–2,800

3,000

31–50

2,200–2,400

2,400–2,600

2,800–3,000

51+

2,000–2,200

2,200–2,400

2,400–2,800

References

Citations

  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2020). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025, 9th ed. December 2020. Available: DietaryGuidelines.gov.

Credits

Current as of: May 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator

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