How to Count Calories 

  1. Obtain the proper materials and calorie counting tools:

o        Food measuring scale (electronic/digital preferred)

o        Measuring cups and spoons

o        Food log book/diary

o        Food counts book

  1. Determine daily calorie allotment/budget:

In order to lose fat you must consume fewer calories each day than your body uses, thereby creating a deficit between total calories used by the body and total calories consumed. Ideally the deficit created should be between 500 - 750 calories below your total daily calorie expenditure or the calorie level that maintains your current fat/body weight.

Generally speaking, most women maintain at approximately 2000 - 2200 calories per day, and most men maintain at approximately 2700 - 3000 calories per day. However, maintenance calorie levels vary depending upon many factors such as age, gender, body weight, lean body weight, height, fitness level, activity level, and genetic differences, etc. If you are bigger and taller than average, or shorter and smaller than average you may need to consume more or less calories respectively than the levels listed above. In any case, be conservative and choose a calorie intake that is on the high end of the scale. You can always lower your intake later if necessary, but if you start too low you may immediately cause undesirable side effects such as nutritional deficiencies, muscle loss, and a depressed metabolism. Also, providing for your bodyís nutritional needs, deriving satisfaction from your daily food intake, and long-term adherence will all be improved at higher calorie intake levels.

Therefore, we recommend that the average woman start by consuming 1700 calories per day and not lower than 1500. The average man should start by consuming 2500 calories per day and not less than 2200. To the uninitiated these figures may seem high. However, we have seen very consistent fat loss results by individuals who have accurately adhered to these calorie levels.

* It is best to alternate calorie intake by having 4 - 5 days each week be at the suggested deficit level and 2 - 3 days each week be at your maintenance level. This helps prevent the body from adapting to a lower calorie intake and also gives you psychological boost. However, you must still count calories on the maintenance days to prevent an over-consumption that would trigger re-gain of the fat lost on the deficit days.

  1. Determine the number of meals and snacks you intend to have each day and plan the approximate number of calories you can spend on each meal/snack:

Ideally try to have 3 main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), and at least 1 snack, preferably 2 snacks, each day. Donít go long periods of time without eating. Try to eat something every 3 hours or so.

In terms of calorie level, eat moderate sized meals and relatively smaller sized snacks. Ultimately, your total daily calorie allotment will determine the size and number of meals/snacks you can have each day.

Some suggestions are:

o        Women have (3) - 400 calorie meals and (2) - 250 calorie snacks

o        Men have (3) - 500-600 calorie meals and (2) - 300-400 calorie snacks.

Do not deprive yourself all day only to save up for a feast at night. This type of eating can actually contribute to fat GAIN and muscle LOSS, the exact opposite of what is desired!

  1. At mealtime choose what you want to eat.
  1. By reading the nutritional label on the package or by looking up the food in a food counts book, determine the calories per serving of the foods you plan to eat.
  1. Based upon the total calorie amount available for the meal, decide how many servings or partial servings of each food item you can have.
  1. Weigh or measure the desired food portion for each food item and calculate its calorie value:

Note: All solid foods should be weighed and liquid foods should be measured in a measuring cup.

If you are going eat the same size portion of a food item as the portion size listed on the nutrition label, simply measure out that portion amount and record the corresponding calorie value.

If you plan to eat a portion amount that is different than the portion amount on the nutrition label, then an additional step is necessary Ė you must first calculate the calories contained in each unit (grams or ounces). This is done by dividing the calorie value of the portion size listed on the nutrition label by the portion size listed on the nutrition label.

Example: the nutrition label on the cereal you plan to eat says that the cereal has 210 calories in each 55-gram serving and you want to have 80 grams of the cereal.

First, divide 210 by 55 and this will tell you how many calories are in each gram, in this case 3.8 calories per gram. Then, multiply 3.8 times 80 to determine the amount of calories in your 80-gram portion, in this case 304 calories.

You can determine the calorie value of any size portion of any food you eat by using this same method. If you are eating an entree that contains many different food items such as a casserole or lasagna, a pie, or cake etc., you must first calculate the calorie values of each food contained in the recipe, then add the calorie value of all the food items together to obtain the total calories in the entire recipe. When serving, divide the entree into equal portions. For example, cut a pie into 8 equal size pieces. Then divide the total calories in the entire pie by 8 to find out how many calories are in each piece of pie.

  1. Write food, portion size, and calorie value in food diary.
  1. Repeat steps 7 and 8 for each food item.
  1. Total calorie value of all food items in meal and write in food log.
  1. Write time of meal in food log next to meal total.
  1. Approximately 3 hours later eat next meal or snack - repeat steps 4 - 11.
  1. As day progresses be aware of your running total of calories consumed. Be careful not to over-consume and thereby run out of calories allotted.
  1. Near the end of the day, at the time of your last meal/snack, determine how many calories you have remaining and this is the amount allowed for your last meal of the day. Make sure your daily total of calories consumed is within Ī 50 calories of your daily allowance. If under, eat something else to bring the total up. If over, make corrections and do better tomorrow.
  1. After the day is completed, write down your total intake for the day in the food diary and circle the number for easy reference.

 Miscellaneous Tips