How to Control Your Calorie Intake for a Healthy Weight
Calories are units of energy that measure how much food you eat and how much energy you use. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance your calorie intake with your calorie expenditure. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
But how do you know how many calories you need per day? And how do you reduce your calorie intake without feeling hungry or deprived? In this article, we will answer these questions and provide some tips and strategies to help you control your calorie intake for a healthy weight.
How Many Calories Do You Need Per Day?
The number of calories you need per day depends on several factors, such as your age, height, weight, sex, and activity level. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult needs about 2,000 calories per day to maintain their weight. However, this number can vary widely depending on your individual characteristics and goals.
To estimate your daily calorie needs, you can use a calorie calculator that takes into account your personal information and activity level. For example, the Mayo Clinic offers a free online calorie calculator that you can use to get an approximate number of calories you need per day.
Depending on your health and lifestyle, try to stick with around 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for adult men. To help reduce the amount of calories you consume, try:
• Around 1800 calories for women and 2000 calories for men is a good baseline.
• Eating slowly and chewing well to help your brain register when you are full.
• Drinking water before and during meals to help you feel fuller.
• Avoiding distractions like TV or phone while eating to focus on your food and hunger cues.
• Planning your meals and snacks ahead of time to avoid impulse eating.
• Reading nutrition labels and measuring your food portions to keep track of your calorie intake.
• Choosing lean meats, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables as your main sources of calories.
• Limiting processed foods, fast foods, fried foods, sweets, pastries, candies, sodas, juices, alcohol, and other high calorie foods and drinks.
• Cooking at home more often and using healthier methods like baking, steaming, grilling, or roasting instead of frying or deep-frying.
• Making smart food swaps like using low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream, salsa instead of cheese dip, whole wheat bread instead of white bread, or fruit instead of cake for dessert.
How to Reduce Your Calorie Intake Without Feeling Hungry or Deprived?
Reducing your calorie intake does not mean starving yourself or giving up your favorite foods. It means making some changes in your eating habits and choices that can help you cut calories without compromising your nutrition or satisfaction.
There are several ways to reduce your calorie intake without feeling hungry or deprived. Here are some of them:
• Reduce your portion sizes. One easy way to monitor your calories is by controlling the portion sizes of the foods you eat. Pay attention to recommended serving sizes and stick to those when serving yourself food at mealtimes. You can also use smaller plates and bowls to trick your eyes into thinking that you are eating more than you actually are. Another tip is to fill half of your plate with vegetables or salad, a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with whole grains or starches. This way, you can get a balanced meal that is lower in calories but higher in fiber and nutrients.
• Limit high calorie beverages. Drinks like sodas, juices, sports drinks, alcohol, and specialty coffees can add a lot of calories to your daily intake without filling you up or providing any nutritional value. Instead of drinking these beverages, opt for water, unsweetened tea, coffee, or low-fat milk. You can also flavor your water with lemon, lime, cucumber, mint, or berries for a refreshing taste. If you do drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and choose lighter options like wine, beer, or spirits mixed with water or club soda.
• Make food swaps. Another way to reduce your calorie intake is by making food swaps that can lower the calorie density of your meals and snacks. Calorie density is the number of calories per gram of food. Foods that are high in calorie density tend to be high in fat, sugar, or both, while foods that are low in calorie density tend to be high in water, fiber, or both. By choosing foods that are lower in calorie density, you can eat more volume for fewer calories and feel fuller longer. For example, you can swap:
- Sour cream for low-fat yogurt • Cheese dip for salsa
- White bread for whole wheat bread
- Cake for fruit
- Potato chips for popcorn
- Ice cream for frozen yogurt
- Creamy soup for broth-based soup
- Fried chicken for grilled chicken
- Pasta for zucchini noodles
- Chocolate bar for dark chocolate
• Eat more protein. Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps build and maintain muscle mass, regulate hormones, and support immune function. It also helps keep you full and satisfied by slowing down digestion and increasing satiety hormones. Studies have shown that increasing protein intake can reduce appetite, calorie intake, and body weight in overweight and obese individuals. To increase your protein intake, aim for at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or about 0.36 grams per pound. You can get protein from animal sources like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products, or from plant sources like beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
• Exercise regularly. Exercise is not only good for your physical health but also for your mental health and weight management. Exercise can help you burn calories, build muscle mass, improve metabolism, reduce stress, and enhance mood. It can also help you control your appetite by regulating hunger hormones and increasing dopamine levels in the brain. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week for adults. You can also add some strength training exercises at least twice a week to increase your muscle mass and metabolism. Some examples of aerobic exercises are walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, and aerobics classes. Some examples of strength training exercises are lifting weights, doing push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and resistance bands exercises.
• Stay hydrated. Water is essential for life and health. It helps transport nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, flush out toxins, lubricate joints, regulate body temperature, and maintain skin health. It also helps control your calorie intake by filling up your stomach, preventing dehydration, and reducing thirst that can be mistaken for hunger. Studies have shown that drinking water before meals can reduce appetite and calorie intake in overweight and obese individuals. To stay hydrated, drink at least eight glasses of water per day, or more if you exercise or live in a hot or dry climate. You can also get water from fruits and vegetables that have high water content, such as cucumbers, watermelon, grapefruit, lettuce, and tomatoes.
• Limit intake of refined carbs and sugary beverages. Refined carbs are carbohydrates that have been processed to remove their natural fiber and nutrients, such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, pastries, cereals, crackers, and cookies. Sugary beverages are drinks that contain added sugar, such as sodas, juices, sports drinks, energy drinks, and specialty coffees. These foods and drinks are high in calories but low in fiber and nutrients. They can spike your blood sugar levels and insulin levels, leading to increased hunger, cravings, fat storage, and inflammation. They can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. To limit your intake of refined carbs and sugary beverages, choose whole grains instead of refined grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, bulgur, and whole wheat bread. You can also replace sugary beverages with water, unsweetened tea, coffee, or low-fat milk. Or if you want something sweet, have a piece of fruit instead of candy or cake. What Are the Benefits of Controlling Your Calorie Intake? Controlling your calorie intake is not only beneficial for your weight management but also for your overall health and well-being. By following these tips and strategies, you can enjoy a balanced and satisfying diet that meets your nutritional needs and helps you achieve your health goals. Some of the benefits of controlling your calorie intake are:
• You will lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. By creating a calorie deficit, you will force your body to use its stored fat as energy source, resulting in weight loss. Or if you are already at a healthy weight.
• You will improve your health and prevent diseases. By controlling your calorie intake, you will lower your risk of developing obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and some cancers. You will also improve your immune system, digestion, sleep quality, and mental health.
• You will feel more energetic and productive. By controlling your calorie intake, you will avoid overeating or undereating, which can cause fatigue, mood swings, brain fog, and poor concentration. You will also provide your body with the right amount and quality of calories to fuel your daily activities and performance.
• You will have more confidence and self-esteem. By controlling your calorie intake, you will achieve your weight goals and improve your body image and appearance. You will also feel more proud of yourself for taking care of your health and well-being.
Controlling your calorie intake is one of the key factors for a healthy weight and a healthy life. By following the tips and strategies in this article, you can reduce your calorie intake without feeling hungry or deprived. You can also enjoy a balanced and satisfying diet that meets your nutritional needs and helps you achieve your health goals. Remember that controlling your calorie intake is not a temporary fix but a lifelong habit that can benefit you in many ways.
• The CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/calories/index.html offers tips on balancing food and activity for healthy weight, such as limiting portion size, being physically active, swapping out unhealthy foods, and staying hydrated.
• The NIA website https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/maintaining-healthy-weight provides guidance on maintaining a healthy weight as you age, such as choosing nutrient-dense foods, avoiding empty calories, and finding enjoyable ways to exercise.
• The NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/managing-your-weight/ gives advice on managing your weight, such as calculating your BMI, setting realistic goals, eating a balanced diet, and getting support.