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Tweak of the Week: Your Calorie Needs

Posted Jan 07 2010 6:59am
By Shawn McKee
Staff Writer

It's difficult to say, with any accuracy, the average number of calories an American consumes on a daily basis. The most recent CDC report is from nearly 10 years ago and that number is 1,877 for women and 2,618 for men. The American Heart Association puts the average of both at 2,146, which is pretty close to the CDC.

The problem is that most people don't keep very accurate records of what they eat, nor do they realize the amount of calories in most of their foods. Do you know how many calories you should consume each day?

The International Food Information Council Foundation sponsored a recent survey that found nearly 90 percent of the respondents didn't know their daily calorie needs. The Food and Drug Administration has the recommended daily allowance for women as 1800-2400 calories, depending on activity levels. Add 400-600 calories for men, and if you're trying to lose weight, you'll need a slight caloric deficit so the number would be lower.

So do you know how many calories you need?

eDiets Director of Nutrition Services Pamela Ofstein took the time to crunch the numbers and help you find the right calorie range for you.

Round Numbers
"The FDA adopts the Recommended Daily Allowances of 2000 calories per day to meet the requirements of nearly all -- roughly 98 percent -- of healthy individuals," says Pam.

"However, it may not meet everyone's needs. Many women, for instance, consume fewer calories based on various factors -- weight, height, activity level or age -- and whether they want to lose, maintain or gain weight. The average intake for women losing weight can be 1200-1400 calories per day -- significantly lower than 2000."

To find the specific number of calories you need daily, there is a rather complicated equation that includes several variables, but because this is Tweak of the Week and not Math of the Week, Pam gives us a simple equation that that anyone can do.

Use Your Math
"To get a rough estimate of what your calories needs are, you can use a non-scientific calculation of 12 calories x your weight in pounds (or 25 calories x weight in kilograms). This is approximate only and does not include other factors such as activity level, age, sex or height," says Pam.

My equation example: 175 pounds x 12 calories = 2100 calories per day.

This is a good starting point if you're trying to figure out where you need to be and you have no idea where to start. Pam recommends that you not go below 1200 calories per day.

To get the exact number of calories you need based on your activity levels, sex, age and weight-loss goals, join eDiets and let our nutrition experts do all the complicated calculations.

"As your weight varies or activity levels change, your needs will change as well," Pam says. "It is important to continue to evaluate this number as you make any lifestyle changes. This is where our Nutrition Support Experts here at eDiets fit in perfectly. We can help you assess your needs and be sure you are meeting your nutritional requirements and getting enough calories."

A Numbers Game
Once you get your number, Pam recommends breaking it down into five or six small meals and snacks throughout the day. Her basic recommendation is a combination of 45-65 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 20-30 percent from protein and less than 30 percent from fat. These numbers are general guidelines and will need to be tweaked for your individual needs, but they are a good starting point.

"Remember, the real key of it all is to be sure you are consuming the right amount of calories for your needs, whether your goal is maintenance, weight loss or gain," says Pam. "If 1200 calories is what you should consume daily, then you can split that up into smaller meals, like a 200-calorie breakfast, 100-calorie snack, 300-calorie lunch, 100-calorie snack, 400-calorie dinner and another 100-calorie snack. The main thing is to keep your metabolism going and blood sugars level."

Play with the numbers to find what works best for you. Maybe you like a bigger breakfast and a smaller dinner, or a little breakfast and a big lunch. As long as you stay in your calorie range, you should see progress toward your weight-loss goals.

Let eDiets help you find the exact number of calories you need, set up a workout program specifically for you and get you to your goal weight. Join eDiets now and get 25 % off the regular price!
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