How Many Daily Calories

Caloric Intake Based on Your Activity Level

The perfect balance of calories will complement both your metabolic rate as well as your physical activity level.

  • Very Active: For those who are very active, a.k.a exercising vigorously for an hour or more per day, or who work in a highly physical job, the calorie needs for women range from 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day, whereas a very active man would need closer to 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day.
  • Moderately Active: For a moderately active individual who exercises for about 30 to 60 minutes a day, a woman, on average, would need 1,900 calories per day, while a male would require 2,500 calories.
  • Slightly Active: An individual who is slightly active, averaging between 5,000 to 8,000 steps per day, would require 1,800 calories for women and 2,200 calories for men.
  • Sedentary: For someone who is mostly sedentary, taking less than 5,000 steps per day, calorie needs fall as low as 1,600 for a woman and 1,800 for a man.

What to Eat to Reach Your Recommended Daily Calorie Count

What does a typical daily meal plan look like within these calorie ranges? Let’s take a look.

2,500 Calories Per Day

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, 2 slices of 100% whole-grain toast, 2 tablespoons peanut or almond butter, 16-ounce latte with non-fat milk, 1 cup berries
  • Snack: 1 ounce of nuts (pistachios, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • Lunch: 2 slices 100% whole-grain bread, 3 ounces of chicken breast, 1 ounce cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 2 cups tossed salad topped with ¼ avocado and 3 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack: 1 apple, 1 ounce part-skim cheese, 1 tablespoon nut butter, ½ cup unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • Dinner: 6 ounce salmon filet, 2 cups broccoli sautéed in one tablespoon oil and garlic, ½ baked (sweet or regular) potato, 5 ounce glass of wine

2,200 Calories Per Day

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, 2 slices of 100% whole-grain toast, 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter, 12-ounce latte with non-fat milk, 1 cup berries
  • Snack: 1 ounce of nuts (pistachios, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • Lunch: 2 slices of 100% whole-grain toast, 3 ounces of chicken or turkey breast, 1 ounce cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 2 cups tossed salad topped with ¼ avocado and 2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack: 1 apple, 1 ounce part-skim cheese
  • Dinner: 5 ounce salmon filet, 2 cups broccoli sautéed in ½ tablespoon oil, ½ baked (sweet or regular) potato

1,800 Calories Per Day

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, 1 slice of 100% whole-grain toast, 1 tablespoon peanut butter or almond butter, latte or café au lait with 8 ounces of non-fat milk, 1 cup berries
  • Snack: 1 ounce of nuts (pistachios, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • Lunch: 2 slices of 100% whole-grain toast, 3 ounces of turkey breast, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 2 cups tossed salad topped with ¼ avocado, chopped walnuts and 1 ½ tablespoons vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack: 1 medium apple
  • Dinner: 4 ounce salmon filet, 2 cups steamed broccoli, ½ baked sweet potato

1,600 Calories Per Day

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, 1 slice of 100% whole-grain toast, 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter, latte or café au lait with 8 ounces non-fat milk
  • Snack: 1 ounce of nuts (pistachios, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • Lunch: 2 slices of 100% whole-grain toast, 3 ounces of turkey breast, ¼ avocado, 2 cups tossed salad topped with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack: 1 medium apple
  • Dinner: 4 ounce salmon filet, 2 cups steamed broccoli, ½ baked sweet potato

Be Mindful, But Don’t Start Counting Calories

Although watching your calorie intake is important if you’re trying to maintain or lose body weight, it’s not the only factor to focus on to ensure a healthy diet and lifestyle.

“Instead of counting calories, focus on eating a diet rich in plant-based foods and whole grains,” Stoler says. “Filling half your plate with vegetables at meals can help improve portion control,” points out Gans.

Fixating on calorie counts can lead to deprivation and overeating if you aren’t careful. Instead, focus on what you can eat in abundance, such as whole fruits and vegetables, and the rest will fall into place.

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